by Laura Priestley Photography | Morgantown, WV Family Photographer

I get it... I'm in the little years too...

These fleeting years when our babies are small are so precious-- we want to fill our homes up with a million pictures of every detail about them, and freeze all the little things that make this stage so special. But if you've ever tried to schedule a family photoshoot with your little ones, you probably know that the experience can be, well, anything from exhausting to a complete nightmare.

There seems to be some universal law that whatever can possibly go wrong, will go wrong on photoshoot day. Your toddler is *going* to decide that this is the perfect day to start cutting molars-- all four of them-- and wake up snotty, miserable and cranky. Then your slightly-clumsy princess will catch her toe on the stairs and face plant... she's okay, thank goodness, but now she has a fabulous shiner. Now, any experienced photographer will be unfazed by these mishaps-- we know how life goes with littles! I remember shooting with one of my dear client families last fall, whose little girl woke up teething AND skipped her nap on the day of the photoshoot, and arrived absolutely, 100% not having it. (It turned out afterward that the sweet girl ALSO was coming down with Covid at the time, and no one knew yet... poor little thing!) But we managed to get beautiful pictures of her and her family regardless... cranky kiddos are my specialty!

But teething and Covid aside, the good news is that, while you may not be able to reverse all of Murphy's Law of Picture Day, there are a whole list of things you *can* do to prepare your kiddos for the best possible session experience. Let's dive in.

1) Photoshoot day is not the day for grand adventures.

You do not want your photo session scheduled at the end of a packed day. Leave the dentist appointments, trips to the zoo, and hours of errands for another day, and as much as you can, plan your photoshoot day so that your session is the only extra thing on your schedule.

2) Stick to a normal nap schedule.

As much as possible, try to keep your little ones on their normal napping schedule. A rested kiddo makes for a much happier experience for the whole family than a sleepy, cranky one!

3) Bring your children to your session with full bellies.

It's very common for families to arrive at an evening shoot without having eaten dinner, planning to go out and eat after the shoot. While this makes sense logistically, it's very difficult for most children (and husbands!) to listen, follow directions, and enjoy themselves when their bellies are growling. Make sure no one is arriving at the shoot hungry!

4) Plan outfits according to the weather; and bring contingency clothing with you as well.

Being cold is miserable, and freezing children do not make for happy, relaxed pictures. It's important when coordinating everyone's adorable photoshoot outfits to make sure that you're taking the season and the weather into account. Even a balmy June day may get chilly in the evening-- make sure to have a plan for an extra layer or two that will work in pictures, in case one of your children starts to shiver in their cute outfit.

5) Prep your kiddos for a fun time.

The way we prep our little ones for the photo session can have a real impact on how things go. "We're going to go meet Laura at the park, and she's going to take our pictures so we can have pretty pictures of you to hang on our walls! You'll like Laura; she's really nice and she's excited to meet you. And after we're done, if you do a good job listening, we'll go get ice cream!" will get you a LOT more mileage than "we're going to get our pictures taken, and you better behave and smile OR ELSE."

6) And most importantly... breathe, relax, and go with whatever happens!

It's so important for you to be able to relax during your session. As parents, it's easy to get nervous about what others think about how our kids are behaving, or to feel stressed and anxious if your little ones don't seem to be cooperating the way you'd hoped-- I get that! But you'll be shocked at the beautiful images that you'll get back from a session that may not have seemed to you like it was working in the moment. The most important thing for you to do is simply relax... laugh at your little ones' craziness, keep on smiling, and just follow my lead. Your family relationship is precious and beautiful, in all of its realness. (And one of the reasons my clients come to me is for the way I work with their children-- yours will not be the exception! ;) )