"What if my kids don't behave?": Every mothers' biggest fear when booking a photo session

"How will my kids behave?" Is often the resounding question going through a mama's head when she is debating booking her family a photo shoot. Either, we hold off even booking the session for fear of not knowing how our kids will react, or the entire time leading up to the session we stress out about it. Even as a family photographer, I caught myself getting nervous about how my toddler would respond to someone other than me taking his picture when I hired a photographer to come to our home after my second baby was born.

I feel like this is maybe the most stressful aspect of deciding to book a family session, I completely get it and I also want to encourage you that it does NOT have to be that way!

I've worked with children for years and I have two kids of my own - Kids being kids doesn't intimidate me!

I genuinely enjoy children! I grew up with five younger siblings and have worked with kids since my first babysitting job when I was ten years old. From babysitting, to nannying, to living as a volunteer in an orphanage overseas, to teaching a Sunday school class of Kindergarten and 1st graders, and more.

Becoming a family photographer has been a very natural role for me to move into, I love the unique dynamic that every family brings to a session and it is such an honor to come alongside you as parents and lead your session with games and fun as we work together to keep your children engaged and to capture this time of life.

This doesn't have to be stressful

Children often can act out during a photo session for a number of reasons, a few examples would be: Perhaps they are tired (especially in summer, sessions are often late in the evening) they may be hungry, or they may be uncomfortable with being in a new place with a new person taking their picture and telling them what to do, or maybe their socks aren't on just right and their shoes are pinching their toes...

Does reading that cause your anxiety to spike a little?

When we are investing in something as special and important to us as photos, it can feel like a risky gamble to hope that our kids are "in a good mood" when it comes time for photos.

Let's talk about some practical ways that we can prepare and help our unpredictable little people (and ourselves) during a family session so that everyone has the best possible time!

Talk to your children about the session ahead of time and excitedly share how much fun you'll have together

You know your child best, but for most children, pulling up to a new location and announcing "now we are going to take pictures" will be a recipe for disaster.

Instead, tell your children about your photographer ahead of time. Show them pictures of your photographer from their website or client welcome material, and talk cheerfully and positively about your session.

Avoid threatening or pressuring them to, "make sure you smile at the camera" - Instead, tell them about the fun new place you are going to, show them pictures from your photographer's location guide or look it up online. Let your kids get excited about exploring! Share with them how your photographer will be coming up with games that you will all play together as a family during the pictures, etc., Let it be a stress-free experience for your kids so that they show up ready to have fun instead of it already being negatively tainted in their minds because of threats and stressed parents.

DON'T bribe your child during your photoshoot

Bribery can seem like the easy and most logical guarantee for good behavior during family photos, doesn't it?

I'm here to tell you that it can produce the OPPOSITE result, making the session less enjoyable for your children, more stressful for yourself, and harder for your photographer to capture those candid moments that your mama-heart is desiring!

These are some big issues that can be caused by bribing smiles:

-Children can fixate easily upon the prize and tune out to engaging in the session

Think about it:

If little Susie knows that she gets an M&M if she smiles for a photo, she will cheese at the camera and then turn to you expectantly and ask, "Can I have my M&M now"

Meanwhile, your photographer is trying to get her attention and asking her to interact with you playfully - But Susie is not thinking about listening to the photographer, or having fun or playing with you, she wants the M&M that she was promised and she is zoned in on that prize.

Often, if you say, "not yet" and try to redirect your child back to photos at this point, photos are now the enemy and there is either sulking or tantrums.

-Bribe induced smiles are often forced and fake

Photos with your children is about capturing their sweet personalities and having fun, not getting them to grimace and then turn to you with their hand outstretched for their marshmallow or M&M.

-Connection can be missed

Because kids can be so fixated on the bribe, they are not interested in engaging with their parents and siblings and having fun together, they are goal oriented on receiving their candy. This makes for so many important and meaningful moments to be absent.

mom and daughter take a moment together in a field during family pictures

DO feed your child before the session (and bring mess-free snacks)

Making sure to eat a meal before coming to your session is super important for kids, if they are hungry, they aren't going to want to be playing and having fun, they will just want their supper. Even if it means eating earlier than usual, make sure to feed those kiddos and avoid the hangries.

Packing cheese sticks, fruit snacks, crackers, banana chips, or other non-staining snacks is a great choice in case a snack break is needed part way through the session. (Just avoid telling your children about this snack so that they don't fixate on it.)

If kiddos need a snack break, I like to use that time to take some pictures of just mom and dad together. Usually, the kids will want to join back in once their tummies are freshly filled and they see mom and dad getting all the photo attention!

When you arrive for your session, let your kids explore

I actually have this built into my sessions - As we meet each other and walk to where we'll be photographing, I like to get to chat with you and your family as kids are running ahead or finding sticks and moss. I love this time! Maybe it is pointing out a really awesome pile of rocks that they can climb on, or a fallen log that I know is up ahead, or maybe it is showing them the eagle's nest, or just talking about the flowers they are finding - These early moments in the session are so fun for me to get to know your family and help your kids get comfortable with their new environment and me as a photographer.

I intentionally choose locations to suggest to families that are safe for children to explore, I avoid locations that are near busy roads or have steep drop offs.

Make sure that you are being intentional to engage with your kids during the session, focus on them (not on making them act a certain way) have fun with them!

This is HUGE! Oh, my goodness - I really can't emphasize this enough. Embrace the fact that your son has his hands full of moss and look at it with him. Wrap your arm around his shoulders and smile at him as he tells you about the bugs that he found. Or, hold your daughter's hand and let her lead you through a patch of wildflowers to catch a butterfly, or play with her curls while she hands you the flower that she plucked.

Children are often blissfully unaware of the camera when they are playing and having fun, it is more of a discipline for us as parents to try and forget about the camera, but it is such a beautiful thing to zero in on focusing on our precious children and enjoying things from their perspective for a little while.

I'll help you by providing prompts and suggestions for you to interpret however comes naturally to you and your family, your biggest thing is just to really be present in these moments with your children and your spouse.

Family of four sits on a blanket, mom plays with daughter's hand while dad tosses son up in the air during family photos

Let go of expectations

When I set your family in a pose and give a prompt, don't stress that your child isn't "doing it right" - The prompts aren't meant to have only one outcome, you know your family best and how you relate. Maybe your toddler doesn't want to snuggle with you, it's okay to start tickling him instead.

Tickle your babies, tell them a story, sing them a song, look for bugs, pretend you're trekking through a forest hunting for dinosaurs, you know your child and what they'll enjoy! The more you connect with your child during the session, the more fun you'll have and the more you'll love your images.

I loved it when in one session last fall, I asked a dad to dance with his daughter. He quickly realized that his little girl did not want to dance, so he started tossing her up in the air instead (and she loved it!) - You know your child best! Please adapt my prompts to what is natural for you and your family.

Instead of trying to force your child into a pose or expression that is unnatural, embrace who they are at this time, enjoy the time with them, and you'll find that the best images come from that atmosphere!

Redirection over Correction

This might not be your normal form of parenting - I am not advocating for any specific parenting style, but when it comes to family pictures, it can really help if mom and dad focus on redirecting behavior instead of coming down firmly and saying, "No"

Maybe your little one really wants to run one way, but your photographer has asked you to go another direction because of the light or because of a pretty background - Try encouraging your child excitedly by suggesting confidently, "Let's see what's over here!" instead of saying, "Don't go that way!"

Your child will be happy to be having fun with you instead of feeling like they are in trouble.

In case it's just one of those days:

Some times, kids just have bad days. (#relatable)

That's okay. Take a deep breathe. I've been there and I understand!

I am not mad, nor am I judging you or your child.

I am not in a rush.

Here are some "emergency response measures" that you can be prepared to try if needed:

  • Consider packing their comfort item, whether it is a special stuffed animal, a favorite toy, or a blankie, stow it away in your purse or diaper bag to pull out if needed.

  • Parents: Keep smiling! Maybe your little one is really losing it and flailing around, but if you two keep smiling and acting like everything they do is absolutely darling - You will be surprised at how beautiful and sweet those photos will actually turn out!

We'll work together to come up with ideas based on the circumstances of the situation! It'll be okay, and your photos will be beautiful and will tell the story of this time in your little family's life.

Mom and daughter share a cuddle and smile together during family pictures in a field







work with me
Susannah Ray Photography

A meaningful and fun photo experience with your spouse and kiddos in one of the beautiful outdoor locations near St. Cloud, MN: Whether it is a field, lake-side beach, or wooded area, I am always on the search for more beautiful places to recommend for my clients.




work with me
Susannah Ray Photography

Intentional photos of the expectant mother in a beautiful outdoor location. Her significant other and other children are included in the session as well. Flowy dresses to highlight your beautiful bump and make you feel as stunning as you are highly recommended!




work with me
Susannah Raye Photography

Intentional and stress-free photos of your beautiful newborn (and his or her immediate family) in either the comfort of your own home where baby's memories begin, or in a beautiful outdoor location near St. Cloud.

St. Cloud, MN
family + newborn photographer

Hi, my name is


St. Cloud MN family and newborn photographer

On a mission to create and capture poetic + love-filled moments for ordinary families.

I am wife to my hardworking hubby, mama to two sweet little boys, lover of photographs, and family photographer in Saint Cloud, Minnesota.

Photos have always been important to me, but especially since starting my own little family. When my first child was born, I wanted desperately to have photos documenting everything: every finger hold, baby yawn, and embrace from my hubby. Every moment I have with them is such a gift!

Holding my newborn son, I realized that motherhood and family life is too precious to let it fly past without being documented, and I felt an ache in my heart to tell the beautiful story of family for other moms.


Mama, you deserve to have heartfelt and joyful photos with your family that bring memories to your mind and tears to your eyes that you cherish forever.

I create a comfortable space for you to intentionally step away from the endless piles of laundry and be present with your family. With fun games for your children and laidback posing and prompts to illicit natural reactions and sweet interactions, your session is designed to be relaxed and enjoyable for children and parents alike to create lasting memories for your heart and home.