How to prepare your kids for a family photoshoot


by Zürich Lifestyle Family Photographer Kati

mum cuddling with her two daughters in Belvoir Park in Zurich during a family photo session

You may have contemplated a family photo session but always wondered how to prepare your kids and what they’re gonna be like – whether they will behave or be in a mood and you won’t get smiley photos. 

Rest assured, I am a family photographer and I’ve seen it all. And I am not bothered by kids’ behaviour. In my photo sessions, kids can run wild, can run freely and can certainly be themselves. Every kid is different and experiencing their own little personalities and quirks is, in fact, the best part of my job.

But I get your concerns, I am a mum too.

It can be a little stressful. But please let me assure you, I have not had one session yet where we didn’t achieve wonderful memories, that make your heart melt every time you look at them.

Working with me on a lifestyle photoshoot means that we’re going to have a fun time together.

It’s all about capturing your family the way they are.

There will hardly be any posing and I won’t ask you to do things that are unnatural to you. The aim of my session is to capture your emotions for one another, all the feels and love. And not the perfectly posed smily photo. 

Why? Because when everyone looks at the camera and smiles at that strange person taking their photographs, there will be no connection between them. But when you all look at each other while having fun together, your eyes tell a wonderful story.

So here are

My Top Ten Tips for Prepping your Children for a Family Photo Session

1. Pick the best time of the day

Find a time that works for all of you, but especially for the children.

From my experience of working with hundreds of families, a lot of small children are best in the morning after they had their night’s sleep. They are rested and in a good mood.

For some kids, afternoons might work too. Every family is different and you will know best what’s good for your children.


family during a photoshoot amidst tulips, Rechberggarten in Zurich
two sisters sitting in the grass at Rieter Park, eating pom bears during a family spring mini session with family photographer Kati from Zurich

2. Make sure the kids have eaten

I don’t know about your kids, but if you want to know what a hangry child looks like, you should see my son sometimes. Being 6 years old, he’s still not able to voice his hunger and just gets in a very foul mood. Suddenly and without warning.

So, the top tip for preparing your kids for a photoshoot is making sure that they have eaten something. Not too much, so they don’t get too tired, but enough to keep them going for a while.

At my sessions, we always have plenty of time to take a break for cuddles and snacks. Feel free to bring a snack for later. Preferably no chocolate or snacks containing chocolate – it never really looks like chocolate in the photos …

3. Wear comfortable clothes

I realise that a family shoot is an investment and that you want everyone to look their best. That is important. But it will happen naturally anyway.

To make the children feel comfy, let them wear their favourite outfits. Favourites that are snuggly and easy to move in (i.e. no new shoes that haven’t been worn into yet). 

And of course, you are always welcome to bring different outfits to get different looks.


little girl feeding her Bernase mountain dock
little girl at a photoshoot, looking a little unimpressed, Belvoir Park Zurich

4. Don’t prep the kids for smiles and good behaviour

I know there’ll be other professionals saying the exact opposite. But I don’t believe in putting pressure on kids or bribing them with rewards before the photo session.

Because sometimes, if you tell your kids that they have to behave, they will feel under pressure. They won’t feel themselves, and might feel they have to do something they don’t necessarily want to do.

It will make it harder for the kids to enjoy the experience. They might even act out because they didn’t choose to do that and consequently, it will make the experience less enjoyable for you too.

And please don’t to promise your children any rewards in advance of your session. Doing this, can be counterproductive.

I have had instances when the parents promised a treat, and after only five minutes into the session, all the child wanted was that ice cream. Because in her mind, she had already done her part of the deal. – she had behaved nicely and a photo was taken. Because kids don’t have a real sense of time yet. So now, it was her parents’ turn to fulfil their part of the deal.

You are always welcome to bring their cuddly toy for comfort or to promise a reward in the last remaining stretch of the session. Just not from the very beginning. Unless your kids are older and understand better.

5. Talk about the photographer and show a photo or video of her/him

When you come to a photo shoot with me, you’ll meet a friend. Because you and your partner will already have met me during our pre-shoot consultation.

I often do these sessions in the evening, when the kids are in bed so that you’ll have your head free to ask all the questions. It means, however, that most of the time the kids haven’t met me prior to the session day.

So I encourage you to show them some photos, or even a video, of me (which you can find on my About page) and let them know my name. When we then meet for the first time, they already know me a little.

lifestyle family photographer Kati in Zürich, talking to a little boy during one of her family photo sessions at Irchelpark
Little girl with teddy and sunflare

6. Bring their favourite toy

When we are outside, it’s always great to have a familiar toy or even a ride-on toy with you. It gives your kids something to do. And it will distract them. 

Scooters, which most kids here in Switzerland have, are always a great toy. Teddy bears, other cuddly toys, bubbles, balls, sand toys, or whatever your kids are into at the moment are great accessories.

If you are unsure what to bring to your photoshoot with babies or toddlers, you can always ask me too.

7. Let the smile come naturally

Don’t ask your kids to smile, it will come naturally. Just enjoy your kids’ company, play, cuddle, and be in the now.

When you engage with your children the way you usually do on a regular Saturday or Sunday, the smiles will flow naturally.

A photoshoot with me is about having an amazing time as a family together. I want you to remember this experience as any other day out on a weekend, where you explore nature or play at home,

Have a rest from your daily stress and just enjoy the company of your loved ones.

siblings hugging during a family photoshoot, at Belvoir Park Zurich
kids looking up in camera

8. Remove distractions

If you know that your child might get distracted by mobile phones, or remote controls at home, please keep them hidden.

Kids tend to forget things that are out of sight.

When we take photos at your home, it shouldn’t look perfect since you are living there with children. However, if there is anything else that you wouldn’t want in your photos, just clear it away for the day. No one will look into your storage room or cupboard.

9. Go with the flow, stay positive and enjoy yourself

As I mentioned above, I want you to have a great time with your family. So there is no need to stress that we won’t catch beautiful images, there’s no need to put a certain behaviour on. 

I want you to be yourself. You want your children to remember you, their mum and dad, the way you are (and not the way you thought might suit a family photo shoot). Also, when you are stressed, the kids will sense it and it will make them tense as well.

So, the best way to prepare for your photo session is to appreciate the moment and to go with the flow.

mum holding her teenage daughter, family photo session in Wädenswil with premium family photographer Kati, Zürich
One the best lifestyle family photographers in Zurich, posing in front of a magnolia at Platzspitz with her son

10. Trust your photographer

That’s it. There is not much more to be said.

If you love my style and have booked a family photo session with me, then trust me. I have been photographing families for 10 years and know how to get the best out of you.

Bonus tip list on what to bring to your photoshoot:

  • water bottle and snacks
  • extra set of clothes and shoes for each child (so they don’t get cold on the way home in case they got wet)
  • A blanket to sit on (not the stripy picnic rug though)
  • towels
  • wet wipes

It’s time to get excited!

I hope this list of photoshoot preparation ideas is useful for you. I’ve put together a short pdf checklist for you, with a printout and tick-off option. Feel free to download it below.

Do you have questions? You can book a free consultation call with me HERE.


And now that all the worrying is out of the way, it’s time to relax and embrace the magnificent decision you’ve made for preserving your family’s story. You may also want to check out some images I’ve taken of other wonderful families like yours.