Vermont Family Photography

7 Family Photography Session Tips to Keep Kids Engaged

family photography tips for your next session


I'm Ali!

I am a chocolate lover, dog mom, avid fiction reader, exercise junkie, get-me-outside girl, and heart-driven photographer.

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If you’re planning a photography session and you’re a little worried about how your kiddos will show up, you’re not alone. “We’ll see how the kids do!” is one of the things I hear most from parents, and I get it; I’m a parent, too! These six family photography session tips will help!

Kids are unpredictable, and when you invest in photography, you want images you can look back on forever that are a real representation of your little one’s personality during that season of your life.

Even though I can definitely grab you a few “smile at the camera” photos during your family photography session (lookin’ at you, next year’s holiday card!), my storytelling style shines (and you get photos with true connection and emotion) when we let your kids be kids and think about our time together less like a “session” and more like an experience.

shelburne farms family photography session

So how can we do it?

Family Photography Session Tips

Here are a few kiddo-specific family photography session tips that will help us create images you love during your session:

1. Pick a kid-friendly focal point and let them take the lead

Whether we’re baking in your kitchen, heading to your favorite walking spot to play in the river, picking flowers, or hunting dinosaurs outside, choosing something to do together gives your kids something to focus on and have fun with. Think: what kinds of activities do your kids love and what locations are they most comfortable in?

I’ll still direct as needed or have you slow down or repeat movements if necessary, but a session focal point keeps the attention off of me and my camera and allows me to capture raw, real moments.

The Shaw family and I chose Shelburne Farms because it is one of their little guy’s favorite places to look at animals and provides plenty of room to run around and explore. Then, we let him tell us what he wanted to look at, and we followed his lead.

2. Introduce me as a friend (with a cool clicky toy)

The less of a big deal you make of me being there, the better! Introduce me as “my friend Ali” (it isn’t even a lie… Most of my clients become friends!), and depending on your kiddos’ ages, we can tell them about my toy that goes click click click!

The less of a big deal it is that I’m there, the better and more natural things will feel for your kiddos (and for you!).

3. Keep it fun!

This goes hand-in-hand with tip #1. The more fun we can make it, the better! Natural smiles come from real enjoyment and having fun together. This is another reason why picking the “right” location is key.

Throughout the booking process, I work closely with my family to help you identify what is most important for you to capture and remember from this season of life. Then, we choose a location that best helps us tell that story.

4. Get Interested in What They’re Doing

Connection in images only happens when there is connection in real life. Instead of trying to get your kids to look at the camera, get on their level. Get interested in what they’re doing, whether you’re lookin’ at the pigs (below!), picking flowers, or running as fast as you can through a field.

Plus, connecting with you makes your kids feel more at ease which translates to photos (and builds trust with you and me so when you do want them to smile at the camera, they’re more likely to listen!).

5. Plan for breaks

My storytelling sessions are anywhere from 1-3+ hours long. Some of this depends on our location and the session we’ve planned together, but a lot of that is because I want to leave space for the unpredictability of kids.

Whether we’re taking a break for a snack (see tip #5!), walking or driving to a new location, or we can tell we need a breather, I don’t want that to make us feel rushed or like we’re crunched for photo time.

And if you’re thinking, “Ali, how can you expect my kids to stay engaged for 3+ hours.” I totally get it. But remember that this is more like me coming to a family outing or documenting your home life. Your kids won’t stay engaged for a three-hour photo session (I wouldn’t either!).

But they will probably stay engaged for three hours of making breakfast together, playing outside, reading a book, and getting ready for a nap, right?

6. Bring a comfort toy (and snacks) to your family photography session

Comfort items are helpful during family sessions if needed. Even if you’re worried it clashes with photos (trust me, my son’s bright blue dinosaur blanket isn’t the most photogenic), you’ll want to remember the things they loved most and found comfort in when they were this age!

Snacks speak for themselves;) Hungry kids are sad, frustrated, or angry kids, so snacks are always a good idea!

7. Lots of cuddles and snuggling

At the end of the day, kids are happiest when they’re with you! Snuggling up is always sure to get us the kind of photos you’ll cherish as your little ones get bigger and slowly outgrow being held, sitting in laps, and holding hands.

Learn more about scheduling your storytelling family session here!

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Love stories? Here's mine!

I wasn't born with a camera in my hand and I haven't "wanted to be a photographer ever since I can remember." My passion for photography developed (a bit) later in my life and since then, I would consider it quite the obsession...

I wasn't born with a camera in my hand and I haven't "wanted to be a photographer ever since I can remember." My passion for photography developed (a bit) later in my life and since then, I would consider it quite the obsession...

a Vermont family and wedding photographer drawn to imperfect, intimate moments that tell the real story of you

Hi, I'm Ali.


As you explore, ask yourself "can I see myself in these images?"

I like to describe my style as, "a little grain, a little pop of color, a lot of wild love."


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