How to Prepare Your Kids for Family Photos | Nashville Family Photographer Dolly DeLong Photography

How to Prepare Your Kids for Family Photos | Nashville Family Photographer Dolly DeLong Photography


As a family photographer here in Nashville, I’ve had the chance to work with so many incredible families. We’ve had sessions in some of my favorite spots and I always walk away grinning because we just have fun. While I was talking with other photographers (and some families) about why that is, I realized that the prep I do with my families beforehand means we have a great time. Everyone knows what to expect – even the kids – and so sessions become fun, instead of stressful. So today, I wanted to share my tips on how to prepare your kids for family photos. Whether you’re a family about to have a session or a family photographer looking to help your clients out, I hope these simple tips make a difference for you!

toddler in pink dress dances during backyard family photos

#1: Overcommunicate about your session.

A HUGE step in getting kids prepped for a family session is to communicate with them. But I’d say to take it a step further. Talk to them about your session a lot. Not just once or twice, and definitely not right before you get in the car for your photos. As soon as you book, start working with your younger kids. Ask them to smile for you, create fun poses for them to practice, and just continue to talk about family photos. It may seem like a lot of talking leading up to it but the more your kids hear about someone taking their picture, the easier it’s going to be.

toddler hugs little brother during mini session in Nashville TN

#2: Offer incentives

Hey, I’m a mom too. There’s NO shame in bribing them to cooperate, seriously. I’m not saying they need all the candy in the candy store, but tell them about getting to do something fun after the session – maybe picking up a dessert they love or an activity they’ve been wanting to do. Whatever it is, find what motivates your kids and use it. I’ve seen it time and time again where just the promise of something fun (and delicious) afterward can help them stay a bit happier through the photos. In our house, I’ve also noticed if I talk about it and let my son help me pick and pack whatever the treat is, he’s even more excited!

parents look at each other holding toddler during first birthday portraits

#3: Avoid blanket statements in the moment.

During family photos, it’s easy to get frustrated that kids aren’t cooperating. But first, let me tell you two things: I’ve seen it all and we’ll make it work no matter what. One thing that I know doesn’t work is to make blanket statements to your kids. Things like, “we’ll NEVER go to grandma’s again” or along those lines. While I get the point, it just starts to create a negative association with photos and it’s going to make things difficult the day of and on any future sessions too. Try to stick to something fun they can do afterwards! And seriously, remember: as a mom myself, no tantrum or upset kid phases me during a session.

East Nashville Greenhouse mini sessions with Dolly DeLong Photography

#4: Plan ahead and be flexible.

Honestly, the last tip is one that you need to coordinate with your photographer, but it’s still important. Plan ahead and plan accordingly for your family. If you know that your babies aren’t up for a full session, book a mini session instead! It’s way less time for them to have to stay on their best behavior. You can also work with your photographer for the timing of your session. Sometimes it’s possible to move your sessions around nap time and bedtime so everyone’s a little less grumpy. No matter what, kids will still be over the photos before long. It’s normal. Remember that if someone’s having a fit, it’s okay to take a short break and focus on the family members who are feeling okay. And, when it comes to kids, most photographers are willing to play music, make silly faces, or do whatever they can to help you out! We all want the session to be great!

mom lifts son upside down during TN family photos

The bottom line is that kids are going to be kids. They’re amazing, a little unpredictable, and a ton of fun. That’s honestly why I LOVE family photography so much! But the reality is that kids will do what they want and they have big emotions. There’s nothing wrong with either of those things. Personally, I never expect kids to be on their best behavior all session long. Just try to relax, enjoy the stage of life you’re in during your photo session, and trust that your experienced family photographer will help you capture beautiful timeless portraits, no matter what’s going on!

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Meet Your Friendly Nashville Family Photographer & Family Photography Educator

a dad mom and toddler son are all smiling at eachother at a lavender farm by Erin Fox photography in Nashville

Dolly DeLong is a Nashville-based family & personal branding photographer, and also serves as a business systems educator to new creative entrepreneurs (which is a fancy way of saying, she enjoys teaching how to best lay a good foundation for automating your new business).  Dolly loves serving families, and business owners with her timeless, radiant photography.  She loves capturing the joy and emotion in both digital and film photos.

She also has a heart for serving the larger business community. Dolly shares her knowledge of how to automate and set up systems of success for your small business through helpful blog posts, templates, and mini-courses. They’re all centered around the mission to show that even Muggles can become automating Wizards because creating systems IS where the magic happens!

Dolly’s faith and love for her family motivate her to help other business owners find the joy and freedom she’s found in running a successful small business.

Whenever she has a spare moment, she enjoys watching TV (i.e. Survivor), eating way too many sweets, and listening to podcasts while running or walking. To work with Dolly DeLong Photography, please email her at or fill out her contact form here.


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