How to prepare your kids for your photography session

toddler boy refuses to eat his healthy dinner. he gives the camera the evil eye, with his meal in the foreground on the table.

Documentary sessions are incredibly low stress… no need to clean the house, wear special clothes, or worry about having to behave a certain way. You just have to be yourselves and go about your daily routine. KIDS LOVE THIS. There is no pressure on them to cheese at the camera!

Still I’ve come up with a foolproof plan to get your kids on board, to help them know what to expect. The key is to keep everything low-key and therefore low-pressure.

Before the session:

  1. Friend me on facebook.
  2. A couple of days before your session, casually tell your kids that a family friend will be hanging out for the day and taking some pictures. This is not a lie- By the end of the session, we’ll be good friends. (Please do not bribe your children!)
  3. Either the day of your session or the night before, remind them that your friend (ahem, me) will be coming over. Show them my facebook page and talk about my four kids, so they have a picture in their head of one of your mommy friends.
  4. Plan a fun activity or two for your photo session, but ALSO plan one for after your session, too. This is not a bribe for good behavior! By having multiple things that day, the pressure for the session is naturally lower.
  5. Make sure you all get lots of sleep the night before the session.

black and white photo of man playing piano with his grandson sitting on his lap

Day of the session:

  1. If you typically let your kids choose their own clothes, let them do so on the day of the session, too.
  2. Trust in the process. If you are nervous about their behavior, your kids will sense it. THEY KNOW EVERYTHING.
  3. Do not clean up before I arrive, any more than you normally would. Seriously. I really mean this. It won’t matter for the photos but adds SO much pressure on the kids.

During the session*:

  1. When I arrive, I don’t whip out my cameras and start blazing away. I ease in! Typically I spend at least 5-10 minutes chatting with and getting to know your kids. Visiting. Allowing them to become comfortable with my presence.
  2. I will only bring one camera in with me (backup equipment is in the car), and start using it sparingly until the kids get used to it.
  3. It’s okay if your kids cheese for the camera a bit. Totally normal! If I find it is happening a bit too often, then I will put the camera down when they do it, and bring it back up when they are distracted. Likely I won’t have to say anything at all- they’ll respond to the lack of encouragement and stop cheesin’!
  4. With small children there will be meltdowns at some point. Tantrums are a part of the story, too! If I don’t think it will disturb your child, I will photograph those as well.

*If you decide to do family portraits while I am there, then we can chat ahead of time about when those will fit in best, based on the flow of events and the lighting at those times. I might change some of my recommendations above if you head this route! Let’s chat about this in person.

boy bundled up for winter weather, eyes hidden by his coat hood, standing in front of and looking at three snowmen.

Obviously with older kids you can be a bit more open about why I’m there, but with younger ones I find these strategies work really well. And if you also have suggestions, I’m all ears!

So that’s it! You’re welcome! HA!

(Seriously, feel free to friend me on FB anyway. I like people.)

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Pamela Anticole

Serving PA OH & Beyond

Pamela Anticole is a Pittsburgh based newborn and family photographer. Her award winning style is thoughtful and emotional, and your client experience is both relaxed and fun!


Pamela will photograph your baptism, birthday party, anniversary, bar/bat mitzvah, or wedding in a documentary style learned as a newspaper photojournalist. It is her focus on real, natural relationships and ability to anticipate emotional candid moments that bring sensitivity to her work as a documentary photographer. Pamela is located in the Wexford area of Pittsburgh, PA and available for family photography within 45 miles of downtown Pittsburgh. She also offers photography education for parents both online and on location in person in the Pittsburgh area.