How To Get Family Pictures You’ll LOVE: Even When There’s a Toddler’s Involved

Last month we had our annual family photos taken with Rachel from Sisterlee Photography. I was a little nervous in the week leading up to the shoot because Lavinia is currently in quite the independent toddler “don’t make me do something I don’t want to do” phase. Not only did I want to come away from the shoot with beautiful family pictures that we would want to hang up all over our house, I wanted it to be a fun and positive family experience. Family pictures are very important to me and something I would like to do with our family every year. I could envision the hour becoming frustrating, with Henri and I trying to wrangle Lavinia and her just having melt down after melt down.  

I knew if that’s how it went it would be quite awhile before our next family photos so instead of letting this become our reality I took action to ensure that we had a successful morning. Our experience ended up being amazing and I want to print every single picture on large canvases so I thought that I would share what we did for any other mamas out there that are gearing up for a family photos session or are nervous to book one because they are nervous of how their kids will do during a session.

The first thing I did was hired a photographer that we trusted. We worked with Rachel for our maternity photos and Lavinia’s newborn photos so we’re building a good relationship with her and Henri and I both feel comfortable with her. She also works with young families often so we knew that she was experienced taking pictures of crazy kiddos.

Henri and I discussed our expectation/approach to the session ahead of time. We acknowledged that Lavinia may be uncooperative and decided that our approach would be to give up control to our photographer – our role was to follow her directions and keep Lavinia happy. We also noted that because of this approach we wouldn’t be able to get any specific poses, honestly I was totally fine with this because I like the most candid style of family photographer but if you are looking for certain, posed photos you may have to adjust your expectations when a little one is involved.

Of course it was really important to communicate our approach to our photographer. We had a little chat at the beginning of our session and I explained to her the stage Lavinia was in and that we were totally handing the reins over to her. She was very understanding and was great at working around Lavinia’s stubbornness.  

During the session Henri and I stayed very relaxed. We tried the different things our photographer suggested – we played, we threw leaves, we quaked at the ducks, we picked Liv up in the air to get a smile, and we let her roam around.  

I honestly think that our “go with the flow” attitude during our session was the most important thing that we did. I also recognize that it is the hardest thing to do. At nearly every moment during the session Liv had a rock, leaf or stick in her hand and while my normal type-A personality would have tried soooo hard to get her to drop them I held myself back, and you know what… you can’t even tell in any of the pics! 

It’s easy to leave a session like this feeling like you didn’t get many photos because you didn’t do much or any traditional posing. But I assure you, if you are working with an amazing photographer they will capture some amazing moments for you! In the below picture I was honestly just chatting with Lavinia and getting her ready to move to a new location, and it turned out to be one of my favorites of the whole shoot.  

I hope that these ideas help you if you are considering family photos or have a session approaching. I realize that this is just our experience and we only have one kid to wrangle into a photo but my hope is that you would be able to pull out at least one helpful nugget out of this post. 

I also hope that it serves as an encouragement that you CAN get amazing family photos even when you have an opinionated toddler involved in the shoot. 

I will treasure these pictures for the rest of my life and I love that we have some fun/funny stories to go along with them – like Lavinia holding a rock in almost every picture and our photographer doing the most realistic duck impression ever to get Liv to look at the camera. 

Those eyes! I just can’t handle them!