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How to prepare kids before your session

Throughout our time together, I want to make sure that you feel as comfortable and free to be yourselves as possible. I’ll have you running around, whispering funny things, playing games, and trying to get those authentic smiles going.

As a mother myself, I understand how some kids are shy in front of the camera, dread having the focus on them, or only know how to flaunt their "cheese" smile when the camera is pointed towards them. Sometimes it's hard to get everyone excited to get family photos done. I've put together a few tips to help you plan ahead, suggestions on how to talk to the kids, and a bit more of what to expect during your time with me!


Talk to your kids

Start talking to your kids a couple weeks before the session. Tell them that you're all going to take some photos with a girl named Sarah. You can tell them that I like to play games, will ask them to do silly things, and that I may say "poop" a few times :) 

For older children, you can talk to them about what the photos mean to you. Tell them how important it is to you to have these photos as memories. If you have photos from your own childhood, maybe share them with your kids!

Fill their bellies

Here's a hot tip – give everyone a snack before your session! Hungry kids are often cranky, and no one wants that to show in your photos! 

Ensure everyone has a full belly (avoiding foods like spaghetti sauce that can stain faces), and also pack some mess-free snacks for during or immediately after your session. You'll want to ensure these are quick to eat though, and won't get stuck in their teeth. Stick to goldfish, mini marshmallows, or something along those lines. 


Say cheese! Actually, don't.

I know it's a default setting for everyone to tell kids to say "cheese", however please don't. Often times, the end result is a forced smile that doesn't reflect their real personality. 

Instead of saying cheese, I encourage lots of hugs and snuggles. I may even ask everyone to roar like a dinosaur – silly things like this really encourage authentic smiles! Since my style is more candid than traditional, I also encourage you not to tell kids to look at the camera. I'll direct everyone when to look and when to not. But please leave it to me during the session to try to get them to smile. Yes, I'll act a fool, but I'll also try my best to get them giggling away! 

Lower your expectations

I encourage you to trust the process. Let the kids be kids. Let them explore and be themselves. Come into the session with an open mind and know I'm there to guide you through.

Family in a field snuggling

All aboard!

Hey dad – I'm looking at you! Trust me, my husband is guilty of this! If your kids see one member of the family being a weak link, it's very likely they will follow. So encourage everyone ahead of your session – dads and older siblings especially – to embrace the chaos. The snuggles, the running, the little games and all. Go with the flow and everyone might be surprised at how much fun they have!

If you have any questions at all, please don't hesitate to connect before your session –

Sarah Willoughby

Family, Children & Brand  Photographer

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© 2022  |  Sarah Willoughby

Sarah is a portrait photographer based in Kitchener. She specializes in family, children and brand photography with a candid and inspiring style.

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