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Taking a family photo: is there any other event that can inspire such dread and fits of panic for parents?

A common chorus at family photo sessions goes something like, “Johnny, look at the camera! Take your finger out of your nose, Susie! What happened to the baby’s diaper?! Is this much screaming healthy?” Yes, surviving a family photo session can be tough ask.

The uneasy feelings are not surprising. You want the perfect picture to capture your family in a flawless form that you can admire and parade in front of all your friends. But you also know that your little angels can be… less than angelic.

Fortunately, there are a few tips you can use to help make your next family photo session a snap.

Know What You Want

Before you go into your next photo session, be sure you know what sorts of shots you want. Want to get the sisters braiding mom’s hair? What about that handsome father-son picture? How about just the parents? Write it down so you don’t miss a photo.

Also, talk with your photographer to create an ordered shot list. This’ll help you get the pictures you know you absolutely want first and save less important shots that can be scrapped if things (the kids) go south for last. Plus, your photog may even be able to guide you away from some questionable ideas, like a quirky denim pyramid.

Choose Your Outfit Ahead of Time

You can save a lot of headaches and unnecessary panic if you choose your wardrobe and have everything washed and prepped well ahead of time (and seal everything in a container and lock it away until the photo shoot so the new dress you bought doesn’t pick up any mysterious stains!).

Choosing your clothing ahead of time also gives you an opportunity to consider if you want to have matching outfits, a theme, or other coordinating accessories. And remember that your little ones will be more cooperative if they’re comfortably dressed, so plan accordingly or bring a change of clothes.

Plan Your Shoot Around Naps

There’s no other way to say it: a tired child is a temper tantrum waiting to happen. Don’t risk ruining a good photo shoot by putting an exhausted kiddo in front of the camera. Work with your photography to set up a session after nap time or well before bedtime so the kids will be on their best behavior.

Go in With a Full Belly

Along with being well-rested, it’s important that your child is well-fed, too. If you’re too far out from a meal, you may have to contend with whining and general grumpiness. Make sure you get a good meal in the kids before your session. If you need to bring snacks, choose something that won’t make a mess or ruin an outfit, like carrot sticks, unsalted nuts, or apple slices.

Make It Part of An Event

Kids, young and old, are going to groan if they’re told that they’re just going out to get a “stupid picture taken.” Give them something to look forward to by making the photo session part of a bigger event. Plan to go to a movie, stop by the library to pick up those books they want, or grab ice cream cones after the shoot, and let them know. The promise of a fun event following the pictures will help them smile.

Be Ready to Bribe

Look, sometimes you’ve got to be ready to negotiate with your kids. If all else fails and your little ones won’t cooperate, bribery can go a long way. Leverage screen time, sugary goodies, a new toy—whatever it takes—to squeeze a few good photos out of your darlings. It’ll be worth it once you have a lovely family portrait.

Have Fun!

Most importantly, have fun! Your children react to your mood and emotions. If you’re stressed, screaming, or sobbing, your kids may lock up faster than Fort Knox. Not every photo will be perfect, but that’s just fine. Relax, try to have a good time, and remember that you’ll have more chances to get a family photo.

Now go out there and get that amazing family photo you’ve always wanted. You know the Joneses will be jealous when they see your awesome snap.

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