Letting go of your fears about family portrait sessions for young children

Photographing toddlers and preschoolers will always be my favorite. I am always excited when I know I am about to photograph a family session with 1.5 to four-year-olds. I love photographing families of all ages, but this age group will always be the one that brings me the most joy.

A lot of parents put off scheduling family portrait sessions because they don’t think their little ones will cooperate. I want to put that myth to rest because I promise you, the kids will do just fine. In fact, most of your fears are the exact reasons why I love photographing toddlers and preschoolers so much.

The only thing I expect from little ones at a family portrait session is that they be themselves. That’s easy for the under-five crowd because they don’t know how else to be. (It gets harder actually as they get older because then they try to pose for the camera and start to not be themselves). Little ones are nothing if not authentic and that’s the reason I love them.

Here are some fears parents have about how their little ones will behave at a portrait session and why these are not a concern to me:

Fear: The children won’t be still and pose.

Reality: Yeah, probably not. But I don’t really need them to be still. I take lots and lots of photos. In many of them, maybe your toddler is looking away or running in the opposite direction. But enough of the photos will be of her doing what I want. As far as posing goes, we move quickly and try different things. It’s more gentle guiding than posing really. There are lots of family hugs, tickle fights, etc. This isn’t the Sears portrait studio. No one has to stand on a dot. I adore how this age group is in awe of the world around them. Letting them explore makes for great photos.

Fear: My toddler wants to be held all the time and doesn’t want me to put her down.

Reality: That’s fine. I’ve shot entire sessions where the little one was in mom’s arms the entire time, including some close-up individual shots of the child. My youngest was a velcro baby and now that she’s 14, I miss that, so I got a velcro puppy.

Fear: My child doesn’t want to be held and wants to run around the entire time.

Reality: Kids are great at extremes, aren’t they? This is a little more difficult than the child who wants to be held, but it’s not unusual and we can make it work. Individual portraits are easy enough to capture. We just have to get creative about group shots. Sometimes letting the toddler “fly” back and forth from one parent to another allow for quick moments of the family all together. Tickle fights, and “hand mommy a flower”, etc are all things I try to do to get everyone in the frame.

Fear: My toddler will throw a tantrum.

Reality: First of all, they might surprise you. I try to keep sessions moving. If a child starts to get bored or lose interest, we walk to a different place and do something different. If they are tired of the more guided family shots, I’ll let them run around and play chase while I get candids.

But if they do throw a tantrum, that’s not a big deal at all. I raised two babies into teens myself and I can tell you that one of them was the queen of epic tantrums. Eventually, those fierce little girls turn into fierce young women who make you very proud with their strength and willingness to speak their truth. I have no concerns about waiting out a tantrum. Or photographing it. Just know I’ve been there.

Fear: My toddler won’t listen and do what the photographer asks

Reality: I would never expect a child in this age group to consistently do what I ask. That’s why I’m flexible and try different things. The best thing for parents to do is just to relax and have fun. I might ask a child to hold their sister’s hand or sit down next to her. If that doesn’t happen, it is completely fine. I’ll try something else. Whatever happens, we will have fun and capture some beautiful memories.

So really, please let go of your fears about booking a family photo session for very young children. There are really only two things you need to do to have a great session.

First, let go of any very specific expectations. Maybe we won’t get a photo of everyone perfectly posed and looking directly at the camera. We usually do, but honestly, those aren’t my favorites anyway. I adore the connection in photos of families interacting with each other, and we always get plenty of those.

Second, and most importantly, just relax and have fun. The best sessions are ones like this one where mom and dad have let go of their fears and are having fun interacting with their little ones.

Looking for a photographer in Spring Hill, Franklin, and Columbia in Middle Tennessee? I photograph families at all stages, from newborns to seniors. See my website for more information or book a session from my online calendar. I would love it if you considered following me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

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