A lot of people ask me as a photographer for my best tips in regards to preparing kids for an upcoming photo session, without making it stressful for parents and children. This guest piece is written by Blakely Giordano and gives her honest account regarding her best tips for doing so, from a valuable and realistic parental perspective.
Family Photos Without The Stress: A Mom's Perspective
"How do you get your kids to stay put and SMILE?" another exasperated mom asks me.
Part of my job as a social media manager is snapping photos of motherhood and childhood that mothers will connect to. The most exciting prospect to me about connecting on Instagram and through my blog is building a community. Motherhood can be isolating, particularly (in my experience) during the "diaper years," so it makes all the difference in the world to have someone reach out and say, "I see you, mama." Even if that's on Instagram, of all places. If this gig never makes me rich (likely!), I'll have the satisfaction of knowing there were other women who were encouraged by the support they received online.
So, we take pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. We often work with photographers and sometimes wing it ourselves, which is always an adventure. While I'm not always successful in keeping them still or happy, here are some key tips to getting true, authentic photos of childhood and motherhood.
- Let Them Be Little: Small people have big feelings, don't they? Sometimes, we have to give up the idea of getting them to smile and let them be what they are in that moment: Curious. Cranky. Sleepy. Shy. Those moments are important for their childhood -- just as much as their smiles and laughs. Some of my favorite pictures of my children are of their more solemn and concerned moments, furrowed brows and all -- I like to joke that they look like my husband when he gets our credit card bill. If your kiddo isn't interested in laughing or smiling, don't fret. You'll want to remember this temper tantrum in 20 years, I swear. "You were crying because I gave you too many goldfish," you'll remember, and they'll love you extra for dealing with their toddler terrorism. That's how this works, right?
- Plan an Activity: Sometimes it's suggested to plan an activity, like grabbing ice cream, a run on the swings at the park, or finger painting. I can't suggest this enough! Kids don't WANT to "sit still and smile." They don't always think it's fun to sit for hours in a field of itchy wildflowers. They want to RUN and EXPLORE -- let them! Work off their favorite activities, and your photos will reward you.
- Take Advantage of Quiet Moments: Sometimes it's nice to plan a shoot around naps. When children are in their sleepy and delirious stage, they want to be held and snuggled, and nothing makes for more beautiful and real photos.
- Dress for Comfort: While it might be tempting to put your kiddos in squeaky new loafers and dress pants, this doesn’t always work out so well. Dress for style, but also take into account that they’ll be cranky and discouraged by uncomfortable clothing.
- Be Yourself: Believe it or not, when you “try and make a moment happen,” it usually shines through the photos as inauthentic. Have you ever seen cheesy engagement photos and been a little uncomfortable? (*Raises hand!*) The same inauthenticity can happen in family photos when parents try to force things that aren’t “in the moment.” If your husband isn’t a snuggler, don’t push. If your kiddo isn’t a fake smiler, don’t ask him to be. Reality makes for the best photos.
This season of life is so precious, and capturing moments is one way to preserve their childhood forever, so don’t dampen the experience by unrealistic expectations. Let your kids be themselves, you be their mama, and the love will shine through. Happy snapping!
About the Author: Blakely Giordano wears many (brightly colored!) hats. She's a mama to Finn and Holly, writer, and social media fairy for lifestyle brands. You'll find her with her camera in one hand, and a double shot latte in the other, because, toddlers. Her favorite part about her job is working with other #WomenWhoDo. Find her on Instagram, too!