The truth is there’s just no way of preparing your little one for a family photo session. Of course, you can do the obvious and make sure she naps, eats a snack, and cuddles her favorite toy on the car ride over, but the hard truth is that aside from choosing her outfit, it’s not possible to prepare your baby at all. I know toddlers often let you take pictures of them with your phone, and I know some are even capable of taking a selfie, but when it comes to sitting for formal family portraits, they’re not interested. But they are interested in the attention of both of their parents and the fact that a stranger keeps looking at them!
The only one that it is possible to prepare is yourself, which is much more beneficial! It’s all about knowing what’s coming and how to handle it. And it’s all about your mindset. I discuss a similar idea in the blog post, Preparing for Your Couple’s Portrait Session. So, let’s talk about preparing you for a photo with your baby.
Before we go on–I just want to clarify the age I’m talking about here. We’re talking about babies who can walk, but who are in the age range of 10 months-2 years old. Too developed in their motor skills to let you hold them all the time, but young enough to not understand when you want them to do or not do something. Okay, that could be debatable. Maybe they really do know, but let’s go with that they don’t.
Before booking a session with a professional, ask yourself this honest question–why do I want this family photo? Why not just get pictures of the baby? The truth is that this is a special time for both of you–one that is fleeting. Both of you will grow and change, not just her. And yes, you can wait to have a portrait done when she’s older and more manageable, but you’ll never get this chance again. Once you’ve accepted that, you might be able to look at the family photo session differently–with the perspective that you’ll just be happy to capture your family together at this special time.
Think about this: when your child is old enough to realize the significance of the family photo of when she was so little, what will she think of the photo? What will she think of how you all look together? Stressed? Worried? Stiff? Or are you happy? Easy-going? Playful? Does it look like you’ve been laughing? When your adult child looks back at the photo of her as a toddler and you twenty or more years younger, don’t you want her to know that she had parents who loved her and were happy at this phase of her life? Of theirs? So, this second step is about preparing yourself to smile and to be easy-going during this portrait session no matter if she’s fussy or happy, mad, sad or indifferent. Let the camera capture your smile and your joy so that she can see that later.
Step three is about preparing for the unexpected. When you get to your session, don’t expect your little one to cooperate. A toddler has no attention span. If the location of your session is any where other then your home, that toddler might stay with you for a brief second and then be on her way to explore something else–anything else. There doesn’t even have to be anything there to actually explore. But she’s gone! You’ll have to go after her. And, most likely, she won’t listen to you. You’ll probably be sweaty and maybe angry. Yet, no matter how annoyed you become on the outside, promise you won’t show it when the photographer is clicking away. If you know going in that all these things are possible, your session will go much smoother for you.
Step four is all about this: being happy with one good one. Realize now that you may not actually get a shot where all of you are looking at the camera and smiling. But as long as you are laughing and looking at your baby being her silly self, you’ll get at least one you’ll be happy with. And one is all you need.
So, preparing your little one for a family photo isn’t really a thing. There is no process. No steps to follow. This family photo is more about capturing a moment of joy or silliness with you and your baby. Yes, it’s okay to let her have a nap (you should have one too) and a snack (you too). And, like I mentioned earlier, bring that favorite toy along (and some calming essential oils for you to snag a whiff of). But, in the end what will make or break the family photo session with your little one is you. Your motto is must be “inner peace.” The Buddha, Yoda and Master Shifu from Kung Fu Panda don’t have anything you don’t have.