Say Cheese (without being cheesy!)

I love family pictures!  Actually, I love family pictures of my kids! –so much so that every year for my birthday I use my birthday money to pay for family pictures for our Party of Five (and, since its my birthday present to myself I tell my husband that means no grumbling!).

Here are some of my mom tips for family pictures worthy of hanging on your wall and a picture day that’s stress free!

1. Do not drive to the photographer’s studio in the clothes you want to wear in the picture!  You don’t want spilled juice or an extra juicy sneeze to ruin the outfit you’ve picked out for your littles. and on that note . . .

2. Bring a change of clothes or two (see #1).

3. Also, bring a hair brush, a favorite book, favorite toy, wipes, and a little snack.

4. Try to relax and have fun!  If  you’re stressed, chances are your family will be stressed.

5. Trust the photographer!

I also wanted to get a professional’s perspective on the whole photo-shoot thing, so I contacted Sarah Nebel of Sarah Nebel Photography (she’s responsible for about 85% of our family photos) to get her tips for a great family photo shoot.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Nebel Photography
Photo courtesy of Sarah Nebel Photography

Me: What tips do you have for successful photo sessions with very young children?

SNP: My first tip is to stay relaxed and go with the flow, when parents are stressed and worried about every little thing it doesn’t help the child relax and have fun.  With newborns its best to have them fed and sleepy.  With all aged children it’s best to be sure they are feeling their best, not tired or hungry.  Bringing snacks along is not a bad idea.  Snack breaks can turn around a session that isn’t going so great.

Me: Are there things parents should try to avoid during the photo session?

SNP: This isn’t straight across the board, because all children respond differently, but I suggest parents just hang back and let the photographer work with the child.  The photographer is used to doing what they’re doing and can generally get those laughter and smiles that you’re going to love.  The exception to that would be if a child just insists parents are close or the child is expressionless after a while and the parents know a favorite song or something silly that will make the child happy.

Me: What do you do to help along kids that might not be excited about having their picture taken?

SNP: I always encourage my clients to talk about coming to play with Sarah, rather than going to get photos taken.  We do a lot of play was we take photos and they don’t mind that I have a camera in my hand.  If they’ve been to my studio, they often enjoy coming back because they know its fairly quick and painless (sometimes the dad’s don’t even mind coming back!).  Often times a family outing of ice cream of something special after their session “if everyone is on their best behavior” is helpful too.

Mamas, do you have other tips for painless family photos?

Kate lives in Iowa City with her husband (Matt) and three kids, ages 7, 5, and 2. She works at the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development at the University of Iowa. She earned her PhD in Curriculum and Supervision in 2012. Prior to working at the University, she taught high school mathematics at many public schools in Iowa. Kate has also coached junior high and high school cheerleading squads for 10 years. Kate has a personal blog . . . stop by and relive your junior high and high school mathematics classes! (without the anxiety or the homework :) )


  1. I always send pictures to my photog of the outfits I’ve chosen. That way, especially for in studio photos, she is able to have a vision in mind for backgrounds, props, etc!


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