As a mum of energetic kids I totally get that Mum’s are nervous about how their kids are going to behave during their families portrait session. I too have faced this anxiety on the other side of the camera. My advice – leave it to me. I have been photographing families for 10 years (& I have been a Mum for 15!) and I know that keeping kids engaged, having fun and not “sitting still and smiling at the camera” are the key to capturing your family in a unique and authentic way.

What if my kids won't sit still family photos with Bree Hulme Photography

The key for me is play. I use play throughout my sessions to engage kids and capture the natural connections and love that are your family. We usually start all sitting together, snuggled up close and play whispering games, family guessing games or animal noise games to capture some sweet close ups and lots of laughs. Then we move onto more active games -running games, jumping games, hugging games or playing with bubbles.

What if my kids won't sit still family photos with Bree Hulme Photography

I came to family photography through photographing my own children, and I never got an authentic, beautiful smile by asking my kids to “smile at the camera”. And I will not get it from your kids that way either.

Even Dads often need “something to do” in order to relax and feel comfortable in front of the camera.

What if my kids won't sit still family photos with Bree Hulme Photography

Here are my tips as a mum, and photographer, about the best way to prepare you family for the photo session:a

1. Talk to your kids about the session.

Before the session, make sure you explain to your kids that you are going to have family photos. And explain why – maybe it is someones birthday, a special milestone, coming up to Christmas or just because everyone keeps growing so quickly. Maybe you already know that you want a new family photo for the wall, tell you kids this.

Then explain to them what’s going to actually happen during the session. Where are you going? Are you going to be in a studio or by the beach? How long is the session going to last? And is there a reward waiting for them when it is over (I am all for a little bribery).

What if my kids won't sit still family photos with Bree Hulme Photography

2. Preparation and expectations.

Arrive with everyone dressed and ready for the session. Trying to change kids into a different outfit when you arrive for the shoot can be the difference between a toddler who is excited to be part of the photos and one who refuses because their favourite t-shirt just got taken off them. If it is cold and we are shooting outdoors, make sure that kids have enough layers on so that they are warm and comfortable. Cold kids are unhappy kids.

When my clients arrive I start by telling my families that we are going to have some photos, but more importantly we are going to play some games together as a family. Depending on the age of the children, I am usually explaining this directly to them, rather than to the parents.

I explain that there are going to be some photos of everyone together as a family, some of everyone sitting together cuddling, some of everyone up and about playing, some of just the kids together and then some of the kids by themselves.

I explain to them that even though we are going to play some games, they need to listen to what the I ask them to do so that our games are the most fun and the photos the best they can be.

3. Keep it short and simple.

My sessions usually last between 45 – 60 minutes. And never longer. Young kids have short concentrations and I would never expect them to be cooperating and concentrating for that whole time. The exception to this is for an in studio newborn session which can last 2-3 hours. In which case older children can either be taken home or for a walk after their part of the session if over, or even taken to school or daycare.

Reassure them that it will be fun.

4. Reassure Dads

I find the most nervous person is quite often dad. Dad’s feel nervous about having to smile and be told what to do. He has often been dragged along as well. So giving him something physical to do during the shoot is important. Playing with his kids, tickling, chasing and cuddling are all great prompts for reluctant and nervous dads.

5. Relax.

An experienced photographer is used to dealing with kids that don’t sit still . I have lots of tricks that I know that will help the process go smoothly.

If you get stressed your kids know you’re stressed.

Relax and enjoy Your session.

Watch your kids interacting with each other, watch them interacting with the photographer.

Having a photo session is about creating memories of this age of your kids. Enjoy those moments of the session as they happen. Enjoy those little quirks that make your kids who they are. Let me engage with your kids and capture their individual personalities.

What if my kids won't sit still family photos with Bree Hulme Photography

6. Do Not Tell Your Kids to Smile.

Most importantly don’t tell them to smile. Kids often have that awful fake smile especially when aged between 5 and 10 years old. As a photographer I have lots of tricks to get them to laugh. And it will be far more natural than asking them to smile at the camera.