Let Them Be Little :: Realistic Expectations for Family Portraits

Family Portraits (fam-uh-lee  pohr-trits)
French origin: Began as drawings to ‘portray’ human life in the 1500’s
Modern terms: Has become an extremely popular seasonal trend, one in which mothers plan for months in advance, stress about wardrobe for weeks, drive husbands crazy, and where kids never seem to cooperate with how they “normally” act at home on the day of

As a mother and professional photographer myself, I am here to tell you that this is ALL indeed true. Having updated photos of our families each year has become the norm. After weeks of wardrobe preparation, parents have high expectations of the entire family cooperating for smiles throughout a full portrait session. I can assure you that this rarely happens. It’s too often that I witness disappointment on a mother’s face because of the meltdowns and children wanting to run away from the scene of the shoot. Let’s take a moment to get real & gather some reassurance for all mamas out there. You are not alone! 

What’s the most difficult age?

Photo sessions are just not what children want to do with their evenings. Typically, the most difficult range is the 1-3 (or the Terrible Twos, which we all know, doesn’t happen just at two). Most every time that I experience a session with a kiddo who would rather snuggle mama than smile for pictures, the parents will explain to me how this is completely unlike their normal behavior. It is so common in fact, that I have made it a topic of discussion with all parents prior to their session with me to assure them that this strange behavior is to be expected, and not to be alarmed if and when things start to go awry on the day of their shoot. 

Why can portrait sessions be so rough?

Little ones have early bed times, and April-October, photographers usually schedule sessions beyond those bedtimes for that Golden Hour light. Right off the bat, children are out of their routine. Toddlers don’t always love a stranger. They don’t recognize a big zoom camera in their face, in place of mom and dad’s iPhone. Babies never understand why we dress them so fancy, and place them bare foot in tall grass or force them to eat cake in a field. All the while, we are making silly sounds and are doing jumping jacks behind-the-scenes in hopes of getting a single smile. If you put yourself into their young and curious minds, you can understand why these little ones would be highly alarmed at such crazy behavior from their parents – and why they would much rather snuggle mama!

What can be done to capture those perfect images when meltdowns begin?

You got this, Mama! Relax. If they don’t want to smile, that’s okay. Cherish those somber little facial expressions of pure innocence. There is no reason to feel the need to force a “picture perfect” portrait. Allow your children to be the little adventurers they were meant to be. Roll with whatever it is they want to do. Snuggle. Run. Play hide & seek. Tickle. Tell jokes. Go for a walk. Pick flowers. Swing the littles. Kiss their cheeks. Throw them in the air. Play in the dirt. Pick up sticks. Forget about keeping the dresses pressed and the socks clean. Soak in every ounce of your beautiful life with these tiny fingers and toes.

Most importantly, enjoy every moment together at this stage in life & allow your photographer to capture THOSE moments. This is the beauty of Lifestyle Photography, so don’t stress.

Let them be little now, because they will never be this little again. 


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