6 Tips for a Painless Family Photo with Toddlers and Preschoolers

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As the last remnants of summer slip away and fall approaches, families are whipping out their cameras with high hopes of capturing that perfect family photo— you know, the one that’ll win the esteemed distinction of gracing this year’s Christmas card and perhaps ordered on canvas, too. But… if your kids are anything like mine, the perfect family photo isn’t always in the cards.

It isn’t always easy getting kids to cooperate for photos!

With three boys who are equally playful and stubborn, getting a usable photo can take some serious cajoling, and sometimes bribery. Mostly both, if I’m being brutally honest.

If you’ve got kids under the age of 5 and need to get this year’s perfect family photo, these tips apply to you!


Family Photo Tips

Make sure you and your kids are well rested

This does not mean letting them briefly nap in the car only to dive right into a photo session. Do that, and you’ll end up with a downright cantankerous little hellion, resulting in many more face-in-hands, flailing-on-the-floor, butt-in-the-air shots than you have the patience for.

Family photo tips

And don’t neglect yourself! You’ll be much happier during the session (and with the final result) if you don’t have to deal with puffy eyes and dark circles.

When the weather permits it, opt outside!

This gives your children a chance to run around, and it’ll make a good background, too. Natural, filtered sunlight is beautiful for family portraits! Just avoid high, hot sun unless you’re under the shade because otherwise, you’ll get harsh, unflattering shadows. For portraits, I like partly-cloudy days, and I absolutely LOVE the hour or so just before twilight.

Opt outside when taking family photos!

Opt outside when taking family photos! It’s a great way to engage your kids’ interest, and you’ve got great backgrounds all around you.

Bring along a bribe.

Yes, that’s right. I said bribe. You will be very, very sad that you didn’t heed my advice if you’ve got the perfect light, the perfect weather at the perfect time, and one of your kids would prefer to maybe not cooperate.

I would go with a favorite toy or another super portable novelty—  stickers, pennies for the piggy bank, or balloons. Offer it before your kid is so upset they’re hiccoughing.

Make sure bellies are full.

Or have a snack on hand. A hungry toddler does not a good model make.

Be free to be silly.

Don’t forget the funny faces shot! You know your kids love it! Even if that’s not exactly the photo you’ll be including on your Christmas photo card, to little kids funny faces always mean a good time.

When taking photos of your kids the "perfect" photo isn't always in the cards.

When taking photos of your kids the “perfect” photo isn’t always in the cards.

Let them take a few photos, too!

The toddler always gets a kick out of taking a few photos with my camera. He loves examining his work, giggling gleefully at his shots of people’s feet, the fence, unfocused faces, etc. Plus it totally distracts him from whatever was causing him to whine and fake-cry.

And finally, the most important tip for getting your best family photo: RELAX, and go with it!

Family Photo Tips

The most moving and memorable of family portraits are candid and exude genuine emotion. Don’t sweat it if the kids refuse to look at the camera, or if you can’t get a single shot of everyone looking at the same time. I urge you to think about your family photos in a way that might be different from how you currently think: your objective isn’t to get the perfect photo— your objective is to immortalize your very real memories of your very unique family.

Embrace the quirks, and click on!


What family photo tips and tricks have worked for you?

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@aspiretowanderblog for travel & lifestyle posts, and @cheskaq for my personal posts


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