Megan Kunkel Photography

Preparing a Child for a Photography Session

As you know, a lot goes in to booking a photography session. You have found the photographer that best matches your style. You have spent hours selecting clothes with colors that flatter everyone in the family but still coordinate. You have invested your hard earned money into documenting the love and joy you share. Or maybe you have helped style the perfect session to match this year’s birthday theme. Now you just need your children to smile and get along for one hour! Let’s talk about that... Keep reading.


Showcase their unique personality.

"A person’s a person no matter how small."

— Dr. Seuss


Trust me I know, you want beautiful photos of wide, authentic smiles. I want that for you too and will do my best to get them. I have tips for you to help us reach that as easily as possible.

Let’s review some “do’s and don’ts” of getting your child ready for their session.

DON’T: Do not threaten your child with discipline if they don’t smile “good enough.” This is especially confusing for young children, as they associate discipline with doing something wrong or dangerous. This results in them being scared of the photo session and of the camera. If parents get frustrated and threaten during the session, it normally ends up with a really upset child in tears, which we want to avoid. If the child is school aged, this may backfire even more and result in a sulky, rebellious, “over it” child. Remember, the goal is to smile because the session is FUN!

DO: Do offer rewards for great behavior and great listening. I’m not saying bribe your child (although I may have with my own haha). But remember, this is a fun day that you are spending together doing something special. The attention is on your children. Celebrate that! It may be a sticker for a job well done or even a family ice cream date after your session, but give your children something to be excited about and earn during their session.

DON’T: Don’t be stressed out the day of your session. And moms, I hope you never do, but do not speak negatively about your appearance when getting ready for or at the session. While this may not influence tiny ones as much, positive self talk is great to ingrain into our children no matter their age. If you have a school aged child (especially a girl) they are learning to be self conscious about their own appearance, and they often subconsciously compare themselves to what you are saying about your own being. Again, we are here to celebrate you and your family and I am here help you discover your own beauty!

DO: Do make specific, validating, age appropriate statements that boost the confidence of yourself and your family. “I love how this color showcases my eyes.” “You look so grown up and elegant in those clothes.” “Your glasses make you look so intelligent.”

Extra tip: If you have a toddler/preschool aged child, giving them a last minute focused compliment on something in their line of vision can make a big difference. Even better, if you whisper it to me, it can help us to connect and not feel like I’m such a stranger. For example: If Mom painted Cindy’s nails pink today to be special for her session and before they get out of the car Mom says, “Wow, Cindy, your nails look SO pretty! Can I see them again?” and then they get out and I say “Hi Cindy! I’m Megan. WOW look at those pink nails! They will be PERFECT in your photos. Can I see them?” It gives her a connection to me that feels safe because she just shared it with mom.

DON’T: Not eat before your session because you have been busy getting ready and want to go out to eat as a family afterwards. Empty bellies = cranky people, no matter how old you are.

DO: Make sure everyone has their bellies full enough to last through their session. 9 out of 10 little ones get hungry during sessions and ask their parents for snacks. Pack snacks for your children that aren’t messy and won’t dye their mouth/teeth. Snack ideas: marshmallows, teddy grahams, baby yogurt melts, etc. I hope every in studio client I’ve saved the day with marshmallows with is nodding their head and laughing right now.

DON’T: Dads I’m looking at you. I know that for a lot of dads, spending the evening having your picture taken is just not your jam. But, don’t complain, especially in front of your children. We want them to know how much FUN they are going to have, not dread it.

DO: Dads, for your children’s excitement and your wife’s sanity, fake your enthusiasm, and know I’ll make it as quick and easy for you as possible!

DON’T: When you are doing your group photos, and the goal is to have everyone looking at me and smiling, do remember to stop telling your child to look at me and smile so that YOU can look at me and smile. We want to make sure that the adults are looking and smiling when the child does.

DO: Shamelessly laugh and smile at me while I jump around and act like a crazy monkey ninja to get your adorable child to smile and look at me.

DON’T: Act like a silly crazy person 10 feet to my right to get your wee one to smile and laugh. You are their safe zone and know how to make them laugh and feel comfortable best when they are tiny, but you don’t want them looking sideways in every photograph.

DO: Act like a silly crazy person directly behind me/over my head to get your wee one to smile, laugh, and look in the direction of the lens.

DON’T: Be impatient or forget your child’s personality. It often takes a bit for a shy child to warm up and feel comfortable. For an outgoing child who just wants to make silly faces at the camera, don’t scold them. We will do one silly, then one real smile, then another silly!

DO: Embrace your child’s personality and creativity. You want to document your child as they wonderful person they are, whether that be super smiley, or a more serious disposition. If they are old enough, they likely have their own ideas of what they want for their photos. Let’s try to incorporate those too! My favorite photo of my daughter is her standing on the shoreline at the beach holding her stuffed puppy that she REFUSED to sit down for one second. Now that she isn’t a toddler anymore, I am so incredibly thankful that sweet puppy is in that picture!

Enjoy your session and enjoy spending time together, celebrating the people you love. We will have fun, I promise!

— Megan