How To Prepare Your Kids For A Photo Session

Session Planning

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While this may seem like a guide on how to prepare your kids for a photo session, the first thing I have to mention isn’t even for the kids, it’s for you mom and dad! My number one tip for parents is to show up ready to have fun and enjoy themselves no matter the chaos around them. It is so important to always stay smiling and interact with your kids no matter how they are acting!

Children feed off their parents’ energy and are very aware what mood mom and dad are in. The best sessions are when parents set the tone by staying extra patient while keeping a smile on their faces! Many times the best photos are born out of the chaos anyway, and truthfully as a photographer those are my favorite moments to capture!

Think about it, don’t you look so much more amazing in photos when you’re happy? Kids are adorable, even when they are shy or sad or being a little mischievous. That’s not necessarily the case for us as adults. But when you’re committed to at least looking like you’re happy and rolling with whatever energy your littles give, I will get absolutely everything I need, seriously!

So to sum it all up – smile and laugh through the chaos and let your littles be little. Now moving on to a few quick tips on how to prepare your kids for a photo session!

How To Prepare Before The Session

Don’t Come With Expectations

Seriously! And what I mean by this is don’t force anything. While we all dream of our kids behaving throughout the entire session, chances are they just won’t and that is more than okay (and to be expected)! No matter how many times you tell your children to “be sure to listen to Mrs. Courtney”, they most likely won’t. Tying this back to my tip for parents above, smile and laugh through their crazy and silly instead of constantly redirecting them to behave.

Hype Up The Session

This is a big one! Talk about the session a lot with your kids before it happens. Ask them questions about it so they feel like it is about them and not something that mom is making them do. Tell them how it is going to be fun and they aren’t expected to stare at the camera and smile the entire time. Ask them if there are any games they want to play.

As a parent myself, I try not to tell my kids that we are going to be taking pictures and they are doing it because mom wants them to and they need to listen. I talk about our photographer to them, tell them we are going to play and be silly and have fun!

Feed Them

This one goes for dad, too! Fill up everyones’ bellies before the session. Hangry is a real thing, especially for kids. While I am all for snack breaks and we will more than likely take one (or two), it’s best if it doesn’t happen within the first five minutes of our time together! If you are traveling for your session, plan to get there a little early and have a snack beforehand.

Get Dressed In The Parking Lot

I know this requires being there a little bit early, but you know that spill (or blowout) in the car is going to happen the day of photos. So save yourself the trouble and don’t dress anyone until you show up, this way your clothes stay clean and wrinkle free!

Don’t Plan a Busy Day Right Before Photos

Life is busy, I get it. But it is really helpful to not have a full-packed day of or day before photos that depletes kids of their energy or throws off their typical routine. Try to stick to a normal routine day of, as well. I know that photo sessions can run into nap schedules or cause dinner/bedtime to be later than usual, but remember it is only one day and your little one most likely won’t even notice!

How To Prepare for During the Session

Have Fun

I probably should have put this tip right at the beginning because it is the most important. As mentioned above, really hype up the session to get your kids excited. Go into it with the expectation that fun will be had because I promise there will be! We will be doing all the things like snuggling your loved ones, playing games with your children, and being who you are together naturally.

Before each session, I send out a questionnaire to get to know your family. This way when it is time for us to be together I will get to know your family before our session to be sure I capture what is most important to you.


If your kids are anything like mine, you hear the phrase “mama can I have a snack” at least 418 times a day. So of course I’m going to suggest bringing snacks as a tip on how to prepare your kids for a photo session! However, not all snacks are created equal, especially while dressed up.

I typically suggest small pieces that can easily be hidden and quickly consumed. My go-to photo snacks include mini marshmallows, Smarties, and other similar snacks. Please refrain from anything chocolate or colored! Consider what sweaty palms that are hiding M&Ms inside look like. Chocolate usually ends up around the mouth and not in, and all over the clothes. Suckers take way too long to finish and aren’t usually the most photogenic. Plus, have you ever tried to take an unfinished sucker from a kid? Not going to happen, ha!


Bribery is one that is easy to want to go to, but I always suggest using this as a last resort. Often times for my own family photos we have bribed the kids with a “prize” at the end of the session – this could be anything from going out for ice cream after to a toy they have been wanting.

If you do choose to go the bribery route, I highly suggest using phrases like “smile if you can’t wait for ice cream” instead of saying “you won’t get ice cream if you don’t smile.” No one likes to be reminded over and over that they aren’t performing well and this is especially true with kids. And let’s be honest, how often does it actually work?

And one last thing, it’s best not to bring up the “prize” until it’s your final trick and closer to the end of the session. If you start the session with brining up the bribe, it’s all your kids will think about and that usually dosen’t bring out their true, authentic personality!

Leave The Props At Home

I know your kids usually belly laugh at bubbles or can’t go anywhere without their bright orange dinosaur, but ask yourself if you want bubbles or that stuffed animal in every single photo. I’m totally okay with a sweet neutral lovey that your little one can’t get enough of, or a wooden toy that isn’t too distracting, but as with bribery, it’s best to not pull these things out unless necessary! This goes for pacifiers, too.

How To Prepare Your Kids For A Photo Session

I hope these tips on how to prepare your kids for a photo session have helped you feel more at ease for your next family session. At the end of the day the most important thing is to have fun!


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