Shichi go San 753

It’s almost autumn portrait session season! To be honest, autumn photo sessions are one of my favorite types of family & couples portrait sessions! The season is pretty lengthy compared to shorter spring and summer flower seasons and the temperature is just right!

I get quite a few inquires from parents hoping to have a session with their family for their holiday and new year nengajo cards. We’ll all sit together talking about where we’d do the photo session, with who, and how we can style everyone for our upcoming session. Then my ears perk when a parent warns me about their biggest concerns. “I’m worried about my child ruining the photo session.”

Last year, when I got this warning from a mother, it dawned on me how dedicated families are to creating picture-perfect images for others over capturing a family dynamic most familiar and authentic to them. A lot of my headshots and branding portrait clients always make a request to be photographed as authentic as possible. Why not the same for families?

Perhaps creating an environment where the child thrives the most? Knowing your child’s tics and how to mitigate them might be great ways to get everyone as close to camera-ready as possible. Here are 6 tips we can try to help our children put their best foot forward.

Choose the Right Time

Select a time for the photo session when you know your child is in their best mood and is well-rested. For infants and toddlers, we should avoid scheduling sessions around naptime or bedtime. For children, we may want to not schedule the session after club activities, school, or activities that are physically demanding. They may arrive at the session tired out and disinterested.


Bring Snacks and Drinks

One of the tips I have in my family and couples prep guide is to make sure children have eaten or have snacks during the session. Hungry and thirsty children I find can be a bit uncooperative and irritated once they have something they want on their minds. Best something that won’t stain their clothes. For some locations such as local shrines with food booths and popular streets like Takeshita Street in Harajuku, we can even incorporate some of the local snacks in our photo session…perhaps towards the end of the shoot.


Bring a Distraction

Fun fact: I always start with the full family camera-ready images first because we all know children sometimes have short attention spans. To keep them engaged or at least interested till the end of our photo session, a toy or fun area at the location we’re shooting in, can make for great distractions as we’re photographing other family members.


Family Cherry blossom portrait session

Be Patient and Positive

I’ve worked with a lot of children in my adult life and one thing I know for sure is that children can sense the moods of other people. If you’re frustrated, it can affect and perhaps even frustrate them during our photo session. While we photographers often share praises to children for a job well done, it has a more special meaning to them if the praises come from you!


Make sure your Photographer is Child-Friendly

Just as parents have to be patient towards the situation, so does the photographer. It’s so important to make sure children feel safe around their photographer. The photographer should be someone who is playful and can adapt to children’s feelings and nature within the given time frame. A photographer who can respect the boundaries of when a child wants to be left alone is progressive towards growing trust. Most times, a photographer is a stranger to your child and how they react to a stranger with a bunch of gear directing people to do a, b, and c, can be a bit concerning for a child.

I’ll also add, that make sure your child knows what’s going on before the photo session. Most children understand being photographed as, using their parent’s smartphone, not having a stranger follow them around a park with a massive camera and lens. I had an experience where a child assumed just this very thing and was quite surprised and shocked that his mother was not photographing him with her phone and that I, a non-Japanese person, was going to be following them around a local shrine. On top of that, he was hungry! Needless to say, it took some time to capture some amazing images of him and his family but there were definitely steps we all could have taken to make his special day a bit more fun!


Candid Moments are Just as Wonderful as Camera-Ready Moments

One of the things I enjoy telling parents is that whatever your child does during our photo session, they are perfect. Most times this means, the image we capture might not be camera-ready but a candid window inside a family’s dynamic and relationship. These are always great moments as this is often the best representation of your child or children from your perspective. Capturing this dynamic lends more to building a legacy than something that is posed and heavily structured.

My Thoughts

Children are one of the main reasons clients schedule family photo sessions. Capturing them at various times of their lives so that in time you can reflect and remember certain past times.

Remember that patience is key when including children in photo sessions. By planning ahead and creating a positive, relaxed and fun environment, we can increase the chances of having a successful and beautiful collection of images.


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