I can't tell you the number of times I have had nervous comments from parents leading up to a shoot - and let me first off just say I totally understand where you are coming from, as the Mum to a sassy, confident and energetic 1 and 3 year old. In fact, the cover image of this blog is from a recent shoot where I was trying to get a sweet photo of my two together with Phoebe in a dress from my childhood...I actually kinda love this shot! Toddlers in particular can be fairly hard to predict, on the best day you have little angels who smile sweetly and tear at your heart strings, and on the days they get up on the wrong side of bed you'll be pretty much tearing your hair out hah.
So I have compiled a list of tips and tricks, gathered from numerous family, newborn & sibling shoots, cake smashes, mini sessions and toddler vintage portraits and from my own parenting experience (lucky you!)
1) Pick the right location
Think about where your kiddo is most happy and at ease. Some kids love nothing better than running around at the beach and getting their feet dirty, and some kids would rather be showing off their toy collections and jumping on the bed at home. And both of these set ups can be so special, even if you don't have a home that leapt straight out of the pages of My Home & Garden, this is their life and where you raised them, so capture all it's nooks and crannies!
2) Outfit choices
Good lord, I feel your pain and anxiety around this - we all know that they will definitely want to wear either
sparkly unicorns or spiderman or some iteration of this...not the beautiful earthy toned dresses and linen overalls that you have perfectly chosen. I personally might issue a small incentive around this, maybe drop in something about how cool you will look "matching" your dad/Mum etc (but please don't actually pick full matching family outfits)....and if need be, bring along the outfit they really wanted and we can do some fun shots of them running, jumping on the tramp, splashing in the water etc near the end of the session - they might even end up being your fave shots! Avoid anything fiddly or ill fitting- so you don't have to be constantly pulling up straps, moving frills away from their faces etc, and pop some bloomers or little shorts on with dresses and skirts because someone is usually being thrown in the air or bouncing on a bed or trampoline, or rolling around laughing :) Also bring layers, bring warm clothing and bring a change of clothes just in case - lug them out of the car and we can keep them on hand with my camera bag.
3) Help me, help you
Let me know what floats your kids boats! So I can let them know that I am absolutely infatuated with Paw Patrol too, or just have to meet their best teddy called Teddy. I have no qualms about singing their fave song to get their attention, and if you bring along their fave toy I will often enlist their help as an assistant which has worked wonders in the past. This also applies to older kids too - (more from a letting me know what they are into side of things, rather than me singing to your 13 year old son and dancing an old toy in front of him.)
4) We need you to do silly stuff too, though
Kids are sort of like horses in that they sense your vibe - let your inhibitions go and bring out your crazy silliness side and the kids just love it! Occasionally I might throw you under the spotlight a bit eg "Dad's going to do a funny dance for you", but the good news is I'll get you to stand behind me, so I won't even be able to see you lose your dignity haha - I'm also quite willing myself to throw some terrible dance moves in to get a laugh. Before you come to the shoot, think of a few things that always make the kids crack up, and give them a whirl...here are some of my kids's faves: Silly over the top sneezing, pretending to fall asleep and start snoring mid sentence, the chicken dance, attack of the hand, saying things incorrectly on purpose over and over ;)
And I mean on the spot right here and now food bribes, not future promises of McDonalds. Small treats in multiples that don't make a mess, and don't take ages to eat. I used to say M&Ms, but then I realised thanks to my son that they have a knack of making these messy. Yoghurt drops, small gummy lollies etc seem to work well. Bring wipes just in case!
6) Don't worry, be happy
Try not to stress. I know this one can be tricky, especially if it feels like things are chaotic and no one is behaving themselves...don't worry, I'm still getting the shots. We can take breaks, we can have a snack, we can cool off, we can go and do something else somewhere else, we can watch Baby Shark balanced on my head while l I take the photos if we need to. Keeping calm and positive is the best way to go, and I haven't had a shoot yet where we weren't able to get the shots, so just accept it as part of the chaos of having kids, and we will get there!