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There’s a conversation that I have over and over again. I mention to someone I’ve met that I’m a photographer, and they start to talk about how they really want to get some photos taken of their family, and then they say “…but our kids aren’t that well behaved.” The number one reason people give me for not getting family photos done, over and over again, is some variation on how bad their kids are. And I tell them “get the photos anyway.” Maybe you even want to take a look at our spring mini-sessions.

Here’s the thing – your kids are probably not that bad. I know that trotting your little family out in front of a stranger must feel like just shining a spotlight on every parenting fail you’ve ever made, but I’m totally not judging you. Even before I had my son, I was pretty familiar with how children operate – I have young kids in my family, I have friends with kids, I’ve been to Target. A lot of shoots end with parents apologizing for their children doing basic, expected kid stuff. It’s like how people will apologize for the mess in their house when it looks nicer than my house has ever looked, ever. Anyone photographing families knows that children are unpredictable, and easily distracted, and these are just challenges that you accept as a photographer that works with families. Unless junior is running down cats with a BB gun, we’re not gonna have a problem.

And you know you’re going to want those photos later. People are forever telling you to enjoy every moment, because it goes so fast, and I can just HEAR you rolling your eyes. But they do grow up fast, and your family changes over time, and it’s nice to have some photos with all of you in them. Having a camera on your phone makes it super easy to take a million photos of your little ones, but it’s harder to get you in with them. A few years down the road, you’ll be able to show those kids what their family used to look like. You’re recording history. Think about how you feel looking through old albums of your own family, that’s what you’re giving your kids and your grandkids.

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So how do you optimize your chances for having a lovely time getting family photos?

1. Manage your expectations.
Your kids might be rowdy. Someone might cry. Your teenager might be in a mood. These things happen, so just try to be flexible and roll with it. If you go into it thinking that your whole family will be ready to rock this photo shoot, exactly on time, and be perfect angels for an entire afternoon, you’re sort of asking to be disappointed. Families are messy, it’s cool.

2. Give yourself time.
I don’t know how I can still be surprised by how long it takes to get a baby out of the house but… good Lord does it take a long time to get a baby out of the house. And older kids treat being asked to put on shoes like a war crime. This is pretty much good advice across the board, but especially when you’re working with kids, pad that timeline. Not just for the getting ready and out the door portion of the day, but give yourself a few hours to do the shoot itself. If you don’t feel so rushed, it’ll be less stressful when your little one gets obsessed with a turtle at the park and can’t be bothered to sit in your lap right this second.

3. Get comfortable.
I’ve done family shoots in people’s homes, in parks, at museums, in Station Square downtown. Get your people somewhere that they’re comfortable and happy. If the great outdoors gives you hives, stick to the city. If everyone’s happier at home, where all their stuff is, you don’t have to live in a Martha Stewart style mansion to get beautiful photos. Oh, and if you don’t want your kids to make a beeline for the playground, don’t take them somewhere that they can see the playground BUT MOM IT’S RIGHT THERE JUST FOR A MINUTE.

4. Give them something to do.
This works great for kids, but is surprisingly effective for adults, too. You want natural looking photos of your family interacting together, give them something to do! I did a shoot at the Children’s Museum that was a lot of fun for everybody. And those playground shots can actually be adorable. Taking photos while you’re doing an activity (even if it’s just walking around the park) gives everybody something to think about aside from the camera in their face. Plus, you’ve got everybody together, why not make a nice day of it?

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