As a professional photographer I have worked with so many families over the years and have a few tips that I share with all of my clients.
TIp #1 - choose the right location
Everyone being comfortable is key! If there is a location that makes everyone (especially your kids) feel at home this is a great start! This is one of the reasons I often advocate for at-home sessions. A park that you like to visit, a beach near your house, or even your backyard can all be amazing options. If you want to capture a specific backdrop as a part of your family portraits then look for a place that your kids will find fun and exciting and hype it up as an adventure!
Tip #2 - Plan ahead
Eliminating stress and hurry the day of the shoot should be a priority! Make sure you have outfits set aside and ready to go, make sure you have a reminder set for the time you want to start getting ready and the time you want to leave. Make sure to communicate with the photographer ahead of time on the exact location of where you should meet them as well. Sometimes parks have multiple parking lots or entrances or even two separate parks with similar names! When possible, a dropped pin from the photographer showing exactly where to meet is ideal!
Tip #3 - Incorporate activities
This is something your photographer will most likely do for you, but it can be helpful to have a few ideas in your back pocket! Have a few ideas top of mind to keep your kids (or spouse) engaged. Depending on the age of your kiddos this could be anything from a game of tag, a tickle fight or a competition to see which brother can pick the most flowers for mom!
tip # 4 - Let kids be kids
No one expects your kids to sit still and look at the camera for 30 minutes! It's ok for them to run around or do their own thing here and there. This not only keeps your kids in a good mood, but also gives your photographer an opportunity to capture some of those candid moments. The photos that parents often love the most are those unplanned moments that are captured of your little ones being themselves when the pressure is off.
tip # 5 - take breaks
Schedule enough time for your little ones to take a snack break or a play break. When the kids are finished the session is finished, so be strategic about allowing a little bit of down-time. As a photographer I like to take queues from the kids on when they need a break and then switch to portraits of one or both parents. Having snacks can be a perfect way to give kids a break, allow them to enjoy a treat, and give you a few minutes alone with your spouse for some more intimate photos!
Yes this seems obvious, but it can be easy to be so focused on "getting the perfect photo" that you don't actually allow yourself to enjoy the experience. When you look back at the photos, you want to be reminded of what a genuinely good time you had, how it felt to spend that time with your family and the memories that were captured. Turn your focus on being present and trying to connect with your family. You will also notice that when you are laughing and having fun, your kids will do the same! Don't tell them what to do - SHOW THEM! It's ok to be a bit silly or even a little emotional if that comes naturally. Let the photographer worry about making sure everything looks right and focus on enjoying the experience. You will be glad you did!