You’ve decided to have a professional photographer shoot your family photos, you’ve found the perfect person with whom you’ve felt great chimestry and trust, booked the date and location. Awesome! Now what? Now you need to prepare your kids to make sure you have a fun experience and get the most beautiful images of your family out of your photo session. Here are my tips!
Submit all your questions to your photographer before your photo session
You probably have plenty of questions popping up in your head, and even if you’ve had photos taken in the past (senior, engagement, wedding, maternity or even another family photo session), no 2 photo sessions are the same. You should definitely submit those to your photographer before the big day. Even the questions you think are silly! As a photographer, it’s an essential part of my job to educate my “models for a day”. I want you to have the best experience possible and to bring home beautiful family photos but also fond memories of your photo session. This must be a fun activity for you all, not a stressful one, and being prepared takes 99% of the stress away.
Choose the right time and location for your family photo session
I always advise my clients to not schedule their photo session on the last day of their trip. Why? Because if we need to reschedule due to bad weather or any unexpected event, we can! I also advise you not to schedule it on Day 1 of your trip as you should allow time for your body and mind to get over the jetlag, especially for kids who are less used to travelling.
As a photographer, I tend to prefer shooting in the early morning or late afternoon/evening because of lighting. Especially in Summer, when the sun is high in the sky: its light is very strong which creates unpleasant shadows and makes you squint. It’s also less hot at those times. Another thing to take into account is your kids or babies schedule. If you know your little one gets cranky or needs a nap at specifics times of the day, avoid those times for your photo session.
You might think an hour is enough to get good shots and that your kids won’t have the patience for longer, but the shorter the photo session, the less time you’ll have to get comfortable and deal with various delays. Resulting in you being more stressed out. Going anywhere also takes longer when you’re with kids or a big family, so do make sure you allow extra time so you’re not rushed during your photo session and trust your photographer with planning as they probably know the locations better than you do. There’s always a cool background you’ll want to include or a kids only/parents only photo you’ll be happy to have in addition to what you had planned if you end up having a little extra time.
Since we’re talking locations: ask yourselves what you want the overall mood of your photos to be. Do you want it to be more intimate, and thus plan at least part of your photo session at your rental home or hotel, or do you want to them to showcase the amazing scenery of Provence, the iconic monuments of Paris or historical sites you’ve fallen in love with. Think about what activity you enjoy doing as a family and choose a location that represents you the best. If possible, go for a location that is versatile and allows you to show different backgrounds. I always have plenty of ideas for beautiful locations, but ultimately these photos are for your family to keep and I want those memories to feel personal to you.
If you’re looking for locations to shoot at in Provence, check my top 10 locations for a family photo session in Provence.
If you’re looking for locations to shoot at in Paris, check my top 10 locations for a family photo session in Paris.
We recently had photos by Marie done during a family vacation in France. Not only was she so accommodating and flexible with the booking time/location/length prior to the shoot, she was patient, creative and kind during our shoot. Despite our preschooler constantly dancing around, and our birthday boy refusing to be held during the photos, she somehow managed to capture so much goodness. I cannot not mention that for the time and cost that she spent with us, she had over 10 sneak peaks ready the next day, and less than a week later all of our images were. There were so many, I’m still going through them. Truly incredible. If you want to capture memories in Provence forever, Marie is your girl!
Give basic rules to your kids beforehand... but let them be themselves
I know these two may seem contradictory, but they're actually complementary. Do take time to explain to your kids what is going to happen, tell them about the photographer so they feel like it's a family friend and not a stranger (I love to "meet" the families I'm going to photograph on videochat before our photo session), let them know how long the photo session will be, where you'll be going and what you except of them. By being prepared, they are much more likely to behave and enjoy the photo session.
Some parents choose a reward to make sure their kids are even more cooperating: some candy, an activity they enjoy, a toy they'll be allowed to play with... It's up to you to use those if you see fit. I'm not going to judge! I also have some prompts that kids always like and sure will help us get a good photo, so that they don't get bored or cranky too quickly.
The best way to get the most beautiful photos with your kids is to allow them to also be themselves and enjoy the moment, instead of trying to get them to "smile and look at the camera" for what will seem to be forever. Trying too hard to rein them in might end in them throwing a tantrum... So let your kids be kids 🙂 I'm all for spontaneous photos and I love capturing the family interacting with each other. Sure, I do take some smiling into the camera posed-shots, but I mostly focus on natural poses.
Your kid loves to run around and climb on whatever they can? Let them. Join them! Be silly with them! 😀 Make funny faces, throw them in the air, put them on your shoulders, bring a ball or whatever activity you can include in your family photo session.
On the contrary, your kid is shy and doesn't let go of you especially around strangers? Hold them in your arms at the beginning of the photo session and show them that the person behind the camera is a friend. Don't get mad at them for being shy or unwilling to smile at first. After a few minutes of hugging photos, they're likely to loosen up and come out of their shell.
For very small children, having an extra person (family member, nanny...) might be very helpful. In addition to helping you take care of them during the photo session, they'll be able to stand by your photographer and call for the baby, sing a song or do a silly dance, show their favorite toy... to get the baby's attention and smile! As a photographer, I've noticed that when an extra person was there, it helped a lot, even though I'm used to making funny noises myself to get babies to look towards the camera!
How to choose outfits for your family photo session
I've written an entire article on that topic, so go read it after you finish reading this one 😉
It's essential that you think about what you'll be wearing on your photo session when packing for your trip. Remember those photos might end up on the walls of your home, in frames at your office or at the grandparents homes... choosing the right outfit for your family is as important as choosing the locations where you'll be photographed: it's what will create the mood of the photos. Make sure they all go together nicely following my advice, but are also comfortable to wear, so your kids don't complain every 2 seconds and pout on the photos. Have them help you choose what they want to wear, so they can have their say (but say no to graphic t-shirts and logos, please!). You wouldn't wear the same outfit in a city setting such as Paris or in a nature setting in Provence, so take the locations you'll be shooting at into account.
Depending on the length of your photo session, you might be able to change outfits. I like that idea as it creates a more varied collection of photos. Ask your photographer if that's possible and where you'll be able to change (public restrooms, at a café or in a car, schedule a stop at your hotel... I also have my own portable changing tent that can be used anywhere, even in a remote lavender field in Provence, very convenient!). If you plan 2 or more outfits, pack as lightly as possible and make sure you'll be able to change pretty quickly, so you don't waste precious shooting time.
Eventually, all you want is for everyone, adults and kids, to recall this photo session as a fun part of your family vacation and look at those photos with a grin later on, so make sure to have fun! 😀
Planning a family photo session on your France trip, whether in Provence or Paris? Tell me all about your project here.
My family had such a wonderful time with you and you captured such beautiful photos of us all! We are all so thrilled and can’t thank you enough for being such a special part of our amazing family vacation!
i’m so excited to print and frame so many of the images – they’re really perfect!
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
If you come to NYC any time soon, please let us know! and we’ll be sure to reach out the next time we’re in france!