How to Prepare Your Child for Their Session

How to Prepare Your Child for Their Session

You’ve booked a photo session for your child. You’re so excited to create heirloom images to cherish forever! You’ve picked out the perfect outfit, you’ve had your pre-session consultation, and you are ready to go!

But you’re scared your child won’t want to cooperate, won’t sit still, won’t pose… You’re scared you’ve wasted your time and money, and won’t get any good photos out of it.

So how can you prepare ahead of time to ensure the best use of your time (and money) for your upcoming session? Start by preparing your child.

Talk to Them

If your child has never done a photo shoot before, they might get nervous and scared. Reassure them that it’s going to be fun! You’re going to go have some fun together, and there just so happens to be someone there to take some pictures. Let them know the photographer may ask them to do something specific (jump in a puddle, sit on a stump, look at mommy), and might ask them to hold a pose for a couple of seconds.

Bribe Them – Just a LITTLE!

Now, we aren’t talking about big bribes like a new toy or a trip to Disney World! No! A lot of times, a mini marshmallow or a Cheerio will be all that’s necessary to coax a great, authentic smile out.

Many child photographers will have a small bag of bribes on them, just in case. And while I always ask before giving any food to a child, be sure to communicate with your photographer if you have any food allergies or preferences BEFORE the session, so if the photographer plans to bring bribes, they have an opportunity to choose something appropriate.

If you are going to bring your own little bag of bribes to a session, remember to choose something small enough that it won’t be noticeable on camera that the child has something in their mouth. Also, nothing with artificial colors! You don’t want to ruin a photo shoot with a purple tongue or blue teeth!

Know My Tricks

Children have shorter attention spans than adults do, particularly if it involves something they’re not interested in doing. Because of this, I have my own set of tricks that I use to help keep the photo shoot on task and as productive as possible. By being aware of what some of my tricks are, you can help prepare your child ahead of time, and help encourage them to cooperate during the session.

Some tricks I may use to keep your child on task or posing will be:

  • Ask them to look at you, a rock, a tree, my hand, etc. We don’t want the child looking directly at the camera 100% of the time, and we also don’t want them looking at the ground 100% of the time. A nice mix of directions makes for a more interesting set of photos.
  • Ask them to try something fun, like climb a tree (for older kids!), stand on a tree stump, smell a flower, etc. By asking them to do new, novel things every minute or two, rather than taking 20 variations of the same pose, we help stimulate the part of their brain that gets bored easily.
  • If I need them to hold a particular pose so I can frame the shot correctly, I will ask them to freeze for 3 seconds and count slowly. If your child (toddler age) doesn’t “freeze” well, try making this into a game to play before the session so they know what to expect when the time comes.
  • Set them free. Occasionally, some children just aren’t interested. They are too focused on something else to participate in the photo session. When this happens, I like to set them free to explore a little, and stay close to the action to make sure I still get those magic shots when they happen. I wrote an entire article on just this tip, if you want to read more about the how and why.


You are probably going to be way more emotionally invested in this photo shoot than your child is. That’s just the way it is. So during the session, I don’t want you to stress about posing or getting your child to smile just right.

Your job during the photo session is to help encourage your child, and let them know what a great job they are doing! Enjoy watching your kid pose and strut their stuff for the camera. With your enthusiastic praise, your child will open up and be their true authentic selves for the camera.

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