5 Foolproof Steps For Surviving A Family Photo Shoot

You know those impeccable images that arrive in your mailbox each holiday season? The ones where everyone in the family is looking out from the card smiling, laughing, hugging? They must be perfect families with clean kitchens, fancy jobs, and 2.5 consistently well-behaved, well-groomed children, right?

Wrong. So very, very wrong.

A family photo shoot with young children finds itself on my Stress-inducing Short List (of 1st world problems, that is). The time of day, the meal situation, whether the baby has pooped, whether your shirt is stained, if the weather will hold out, if your toddler will behave, if you will have the time and energy to get everyone dressed up… the list of needs and planning involved goes on and on.

Perhaps I’m a glutton for punishment, because despite the teeth-gritting stress involved in having a professional take photos of our family, doing so remains a priority for me. It’s one of those commitments I make every couple of years.


Because it has always been worth it. Somehow, some way, the photographer has been able to capture many– not just one!— photos of our family in a particular stage of life, whether we are documenting a new baby coming home, a toddler chasing after her big brother, or our whole family just playing around our yard.I’ve learned a few tricks to improve our chances of a good shoot.

Feel like taking the plunge? Here are my hard-earned survival tips:

1. Provide snacks with real, actual sugar in them for you and the children. Eat them before and during the shoot whenever the kids need a quick breather.

2. Pick out clothing in advance. Talk to your kids about the clothes, let them help choose, etc. so that everyone is well aware and on board ahead of time.

3. Pick a photographer you feel comfortable with *(if you live in Minnesota, we love Michele at mQn!). If your kids are like mine (or really, like any other children in history), you’ll need someone who understands active, sensitive, inquisitive, persistent, impulsive, competitive, silly children… in other words, someone who can roll with the punches and laugh if your kid throws a stick at the camera (I’m looking at you, Michele!).

4.  Bribes Rewards. You may feel guilty promising a new Hot Wheel if your son will cooperate for the next 20 minutes, or enticing your toddler with ice cream if she’ll take her finger out of her nose and smile, but again, the photos are worth a bribe or two. You’re paying good money, so do whatever needs to be done to get your kids smiling!

5. Have the photos are taken at your house and yard, or somewhere your kids are used to. This has been a huge help for our family. Plus, we like preserving our life as it is right now, and our environment plays a big part of that.

This post was originally featured on Julia’s blog, Frantic Mama. Photo via