3 tips for creating natural and joyful family photos

tips for joyful family photos

Let me set the scene: you research photographers and book family photos. You spend time and energy coordinating the date, planning/buying outfits, and scheduling hair and makeup.

The day of the shoot arrives. You rally the fam, schedule nap times around the session time, prep for the shoot, get everyone dressed and ready, arrive at the location and…. expect your children to behave like perfect angels 100% of the time.

Let’s change the expectation! Not only is it not realistic, but “perfect” smiles at the camera won’t achieve the real smiles and laughter, the authentic connection, and the joyful chaos that will lead to photos you want to hang on your walls and cherish the rest of your life.

I’m here to share 3 realistic tips to create beautiful, authentic, joyful photos for your family.

  1. Set realistic expectations.
    It’s ok if your kids don’t listen 100% of the time! Expect them to want to run a little, pick flowers, etc. I will get them back to where they need to be and will play games and give fun prompts to get them engaged. Remember that they are in a new place, with new things to see, and sometimes are up past bedtime. New experience all around! If you go in with that expectation, it will be more enjoyable for you and thus for them, too.
  2. Don’t look at the camera.
    Alright, I know that it’s instinct to look at the camera and smile, but I tell all of my clients at the beginning of the session that I will tell you when I need you to look my way. Otherwise, just look at & interact with one another! I always prompt my families to love on the kids – give kisses, hugs, tickles, etc. I direct you into a pose and then will prompt you to interact in certain ways. We will always get several “looking and smiling” photos for holiday cards, etc, but lightly posed candids are my jam and I will help you get those natural, beautiful shots.
  3. Embrace the chaos.
    I know it feels like photos with toddlers specifically are chaotic. It’s totally normal! But no matter how chaotic it is, I will always get the shots we need. Kids can play and be silly – parents are directed to just smile at them as though they are being sweet as ever! When parents yell at or scold the kids, you can see it in the photos. Shots of the kids that would be precious are no longer keepers because a parent is visibly unhappy. I swear it seems insane to just smile through the (possible) chaos, but trust me and go with the flow! Smile and love on those kiddos, no matter how crazy you feel they are being.

The main takeaway is to relax and not allow the kids’ behavior or potential behavior to stress you out! Kids will be kids, and that is what makes the photos so joyful and natural. We will get the shots we need – just trust me and go with the flow.

BONUS TIP: I’m not above bribing 😉 Don’t feel awkward if that’s something you choose to do during our session. Many parents take the kiddos for ice cream after, or having a special treat picked out that the kids will get following the session. It’s nice to have a little something planned just in case. You may not need to use it!


Melanie Soltz is a Kansas City Newborn Photographer and specializes in maternity, baby, and family photography. Areas served (but not limited to) include Overland Park, Leawood, Lenexa, Olathe, Lee’s Summit, Kansas City, Prairie Village, Johnson County, and surrounding areas. Natural light photography studio located in Overland Park, serving the entire Kansas City area.

If you are interested in booking your own maternity, newborn or family portrait session in the Kansas City area, please don’t hesitate to reach out. See more examples of maternity, baby, family and newborn photography by clicking over here.