As a seasoned Family and children’s photographer based in Chattanooga, I have many tips on how to prepare kids for successful photo sessions - whether that’s for a family session, a mini session, or a milestone session. However, the magic we’re able to create together lies not just in my skill behind the lens but also in the ability to create an environment where children can be themselves! This blog post delves into the essential step of preparation – a powerful tool that helps to guarantee the success of your photo sessions. In this post, we'll explore 7 essential tips to help families in Chattanooga and everywhere prepare their kids for photo sessions to ensure beautiful and authentic captures every time.

Dad holds baby boy upside downn for big brother to tickle while mom interacts with 2 daughters

Essential Tip #1 - Get the kids excited about the upcoming session by talking about it!

When you share your enthusiasm for the photo session, your kids will join in! Prepare the kids by letting them know what to expect at the photo session and also what you expect of them. You can let them know how long the session will take (ask your photographer if you’re not sure) and what they can expect afterward if you’ve planned a special reward. Tell your kids how much you love their real smiles and that it’s okay to laugh or be a little silly at the session! If you’re excited, they will be too. 

Dad crouches with his 2 young sons as the eldest throws rocks into the river at the base of Raccoon Mountain
family of 6 walks in 2 groups across rocks with a mountain ridge view behind them on a sunny day

Essential Tip #2 - Choose the Right Time and Location

Selecting the right time and location for a photo session plays a crucial role in determining the mood and atmosphere of the photographs. Chattanooga offers a variety of picturesque locations, from local parks and gardens to urban streets with stunning architecture. What fits your family best? When planning a session, consider your child's schedule and natural energy levels. Opt for a time when they are well-rested and content, which will make it easier to capture their genuine expressions and interactions. 

Sunset and sunrise offer the best light in general but can sometimes be too late or too early for young kids depending on the time of year. If you really want that coveted golden hour light, consider scheduling your session at the time of year when the hour after sunrise or before sunset is at a time that works best with your schedule. If your session falls at a time of year when sunrise or sunset isn’t an option for your family, I can recommend Chattanooga locations that offer shady spots and beautiful light at other times of the day

7 essential tips for preparing kids for successful photo sessions - Tip 3 Let Kids Be Themselves

Essential Tip #3 - Let Kids Be Themselves

One of the most appealing aspects of child photography is the authenticity it captures. Encourage your child to be themselves during the session. If they have a favorite toy or lovey, bring it along as it can help them feel secure and relaxed. I like to bring my own stuffed animals or wooden toys that look good in photos if little hands need something to keep them busy or entertained during the session. Instead of forcing unnatural poses, I like to let your child's natural curiosity and expressions shine through and follow their lead if they need to take time to warm up or explore the location a little. Candid shots are some of my favorites and often result in the most charming and memorable photographs.

little girl shows her baby sister some shells the found while exploring at their family photo session in Chattanooga
big sister holds out tiny shells the found for baby sister to look at during raccoon mountain photo session
big sister bends over and kisses the top of little sister's head for family photos

Essential Tip #4 - Plan Age-Appropriate Activities As Part of Your Session

Incorporating age-appropriate activities can keep children engaged and excited throughout the session. For younger kids, consider games like peek-a-boo or blowing bubbles. Older children might enjoy playing with a prop or participating in a themed activity that brings out their interests and hobbies. As your photographer, I can also suggest creative ideas to make your session unique and fun!


Check out this related blog post!


Are you looking for something different to make your session fun and unique? Do you love candid photos and want a fool-proof way to make sure your gallery is full of them? Then this blog post is for you! Check out these 10 session ideas for fun family photos!

Essential Tip #5 - Include Your Kids in the Planning of the Session

Let them help choose their outfits (when appropriate) or ask them what type of reward they might like for after the photo session! Ask your child if there is a special photo they want to take during your session and communicate with your photographer so that your kids feel included and special.

Essential Tip #6 - Bring Snacks and Refreshments

Hunger and thirst can quickly lead to crankiness, especially in young children (and dads). I encourage my families to bring along their kids' favorite snacks and drinks to their session. (Pro Tip: try to stick with clear liquids and treats that be eaten quickly and in one bite that don’t stain.) Not only will this help keep their energy levels up, but it can also serve as a brief break during the session. Sometimes I even capture candid moments of the kids enjoying their snack!

little boy in blue shirt holds out a chocolate chip cookie with one bite taken out of it
little boy takes a giant bite out of a chocolate chip cookie as his reward and break at family photos

Essential Tip #7 - Be Patient and Flexible

Children are full of surprises and they might not always follow the script. As a seasoned photographer, I know that patience is key. It’s important for everyone at the session to be flexible and go with the flow. It’s often that the most unplanned moments result in the most endearing photographs. Sometimes kids just need to take a break or explore a bit to satisfy their natural curiosity before settling down for some family photos.

family of 6 all play peekaboo together at family photo session. all have hands covering eyes.
Family of 6 plays peekaboo on the edge of a dock for a fun family photo. they have just removed hands from eyes

In Conclusion

Preparing kids for a successful photo session involves a combination of thoughtful planning, creativity, and flexibility. By following these tips and creating a relaxed and enjoyable environment, families can ensure that their photo sessions result in beautiful memories and a gallery full of photographs that will be cherished for years to come.

How do you prepare your kids for photos?

I'd love to hear how you prepare for your photo sessions, especially if you've got any tips I missed! Or even if you just want to say hey or connect. Fill out this contact form and let's start a conversation!

Check out some more photos from this fun-filled Family session with four kids under 6!

family photo of mom and dad with 4 kids under age 6 at Raccoon Mountain, TN for photo session
Dad holds his youngest boy while oldest boy stands beside him at overlook of a river by Raccoon Mountain, TN
close up of little boy holding his father's hand near the edge of a drop off overlook a river at the base of Raccoon Mnt
two young brothers dressed in blue bend down to pick up rocks at family photo session
blonde mom holds her baby girl while spinning her oldest daughter around her finger with a river and mountain backdrop
close up of mom holding up her baby girl in front of her while baby touches mama's face with mountain lake view behind
mom and dad kiss on a rocky overlook while holding a kid each and 2 more kids play at their feet.
Dad holds son upside down while mom interacts with daughter for Chattanooga family photo session
close up portrait of a young boy with redish blonde hair and a blue romper and blue eys turning towards camera
family of 6 sits on a rocky outcrop in Chattanooga, TN and plays together for family photos
2 year hold boy holds wooden boat toy sitting in father's lap. 7 essential tips for preparing your kids for photos
7 essential tips for preparing kids for successful photo sessions - Tip 3 Let kids be themselves
7 essential tips for preparing kids for successful photo sessions - Tip 4 plan age-appropriate activities
2 year old boy laughs as his mom holds him up at family photo session in Chattanooga, TN
mom and 2yo son share a sweet moment at their family photos session while vacationing in Chattanooga
family of 6 plays together as part of their family photo session in Chattanooga
7 essential tips for preparing kids for successful photo sessions - Tip 7 Be Patient and Flexible
7 essential tips for preparing kids for successful photo sessions - Tip 3 Let kids be themselves
young boy plays with a wooden airplane during family photo session on Raccoon Mountain, TN
four kids under 6 play together as part of their photo session