We are so excited to have a guest post for you all today on a topic we often don’t consider: Tips for Creating a Memorable Portrait Session for Families with Young Children. Whether you are a photographer or a parent of a young child considering a family portrait session this season, this is a post you MUST read! All of this great information comes from a valued directory member – Marisa McDonald of Marisa McDonald Photography.

xo, Lisa and Rachel 

Creating a Memorable and Enjoyable Portrait Session for Families with Young Children

Imagine a mom who loves her family. She knows the days are long but the years are short. She is tired and maybe a little frazzled but so Portrait Session for Families with Young Childrenfulfilled in those little moments when she sees her child belly laughing, the times when she gets a really big spontaneous hug or an “I love you”, and the times she sees her kids actually playing together like they love each other! Those are the moments that sustain her!

Now I want you to image her biggest fear about photography. What do you think it is? Sure she has to choose outfits, coordinate schedules, save money….but you want to know her biggest fear? She sees all those happy smiling, laughing, joyful families in your portfolio and she knows her family is all of those things at times but she also knows she has young (read: sometimes rowdy, stubborn, moody) children and she fears that they will not cooperate when the photographer says “CHEEESE”. She is afraid her family is different. She is afraid her family portraits will not look like all of the other family portraits she sees in your portfolio.

Every photographer who has been doing family portraits with young children for even a little while knows that her family is not different. Sure every family is unique and some kids are easier than others but I don’t think I’ve ever met a kid under 4 or 5 who will obediently take direction from a photographer for 30-60 minutes. I’ve met a few elementary age kids who will but even that is usually a little spotty!

How can you reassure this mom that she too can have those joyful family pictures and how can you deliver those joyful family portraits she so desires?

Set Expectations
There are moms out in your community right now who may be looking at your photography and thinking these fearful thoughts. You can Portrait Session for Families with Young Childrenstart addressing their fears to open the door for them to contact you and also to set a really positive and relaxed tone for your future session. One of the best ways to do this is to start talking about it when you post pictures on your social media! When you post a beautiful portrait of a laughing family, think about sharing that this was a playful experience. Without calling out the family in the portrait too much, you could talk about how its totally normal for toddlers to want to roam around and explore and discuss some of the ways that you motivate little ones to participate playfully! Once sessions are booked, continue this conversation, encouraging parents to make sessions a low pressure situation so young children will be open to viewing it as a play experience. Putting out messages like this regularly helps ease fears and ensure that parents will arrive at their session stress free.

Show Your Messy Side

If you have kids or know kids or even if you were once a kid, don’t be afraid to tell funny stories about the kids in your life that show you Portrait Session for Families with Young Childrenget it. If you aren’t comfortable putting these stories out on social media, share them with booked clients over email, phone, or in person meetings before your session. Anytime a client expresses concern about their children’s anticipated behavior at a photo session, I immediately tell them that I have two very high energy boys and that I gave my last family photographer the same warning! I want them to know that their kids do not need to “behave for Ms. Marisa.” Yes, we will need to get them together with their family for some great portraits but we will find playful ways to accomplish our goals and no child behavior could ever shock me! No one ever needs to worry that I will be offended!

Be Relaxed and Flexible
When families arrive to their session I like to remind parents (especially with kids about 15 mo – 4) not to stress. I remind them that an Portrait Session for Families with Young Childrenhour is a long time and that we will get the shots even if it feels like the kids aren’t cooperating. I do a whole lot of clicking to ensure that I will capture even the briefest moment of laughter or the most fleeting smile! Then I remind myself that an hour is a long time and I try to remain flexible. If a little one starts getting antsy and wants to get up, I will sometimes ask her if she would like to go somewhere else or what she would like to do. Sometimes that’s a great opportunity to get some individual portraits. Sometimes she just wants to find a really cool stick and return happily to her family or sometimes we just need a little break before regrouping. All of the above is OK! Remember…an hour is a long time!

Play
Play can start from the moment your clients arrive at your session. I always greet little ones with an excited voice and ask if they are ready to have fun! I might show them my prize box and chat with them between shots about their favorite shows or hobbies. If they seem calm Portrait Session for Families with Young Childrenand ready to cooperate I may sneak in a few quick posed family shots but if they show any signs of resistance I will immediately switch to playful mode. Toddlers love movement so I often encourage parents to “fly” them in the air. Of course everyone loves a great toddler flying shot but I’ve noticed that the smile that comes with flying usually hangs out for at least a few seconds, giving me a great chance to get a beautiful “non-flying” portrait too! Depending on ages and energy levels and number of kids I have lots of “fun cues” I can use to bring out playful, natural interactions. I might do blanket rides, family jumping, running, swinging kids by the arms, bubbles, sing favorite songs, family tickle fights, reading books, wrestling with dad, shoulder rides, joke telling….I also encourage parents to think about the things they are doing for fun in their own home and to share those with me so I can use those as additional “fun cues”. The beauty of this is that its FUN! Your clients will have an enjoyable experience and their portraits will reflect real moments rather than staged poses that they will actually want to remember!

Portrait Session for Families with Young ChildrenFor me family photography is about capturing the best of a family just as they are. When capturing real moments and authentic connections you can’t totally direct what that will look like but I think that is where the beauty lies! When you fully embrace the beauty of those imperfectly beautiful moments, your clients will show them to you every time! And that mom and her fears? You will give her the greatest gift of all. You can show her that her family is beautifully unique but no different from all those other smiling, joyful families in your portfolio! And you can give her an always-present reminder of those beautiful family moments that keep her going through the long days with little ones!

Meet Marisa McDonald

Marisa McDonald is a Twentynine Palms, CA Professional Photographer for couples, families, and newborns. Marisa specializes in mcdonaldheadshotsprintcapturing real moments and authentic connections. When you want the very best in professional photography, come to Marisa to capture all of your most treasured memories. Marisa is a published photographer, licensed to conduct business, and a member of the Professional Photographers of America.

Marisa’s first career was as a securities litigation attorney and she knows the meaning of professional work and high level customer service. From the moment you book your session with Marisa, she will work with you to ensure a memorable photography experience that truly captures you and your loved ones. Together you will create and experience beautiful photographic memories that you will treasure for a lifetime!

 Where to Find Marisa McDonald

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