1. To be Matchy-Matchy or not to be Matchy-Matchy? I spent a lot of time debating what we should all wear in our photos (Mike? Did not.). Should we do that traditional matching color palette thing that seems to be in everyone’s family photos? At first I thought not, but ultimately ended up changing my mind and decided we should all be in some blues and neutrals. I’m glad I did. With Natalie not cooperating with our big plans to pose together, it was nice having something tying us all together neatly in some of the less posed pictures. When you think about what you’re going to wear, go with what is comfortable and flattering–if you look terrible in red, don’t wear red. Think about your kid’s comfort, too, and make sure things fit well and aren’t digging or scratching anywhere. Whether you match or not is less important than comfort, but I really am pleased with the unifying colors that we decided on.
2. Don’t expect your kid to act like someone else’s kid. Maybe you’ve seen other people’s family photos and you are crossing your fingers that your little munchkin will, too, sit quietly on your lap and smile contentedly at the camera. If your toddler is anything like my toddler, though, the only way that would ever happen is by divine intervention or pretty heavy-duty sedatives. Since I wouldn’t count on the former and the latter would almost certainly warrant intervention from Child Protective Services, it’s best to accept that your child isn’t going to magically transform into a placid model just because you want some special photos. It was frustrating to chase Natalie and struggle to make her happy, but in the end I just had to remind myself that we were capturing pictures of her being her–every shot of her wiggling out of our arms or stubbornly refusing to smile or playing in the rocks perfectly illustrates exactly who she is at 14 months old. And I don’t want pictures of someone else’s kid, I want pictures of my kid–the kid who is independent and silly and curious.
4. Props, props, props. Have stuff for your kid to play with. Not just because it will look good in the photos, but because it will keep your kid happy–and then that kid will look good in the photos. We were prepared with balloons, a bubble machine, pinwheels, flowers, books, bouncy balls, and a little basket. Some of them (balloons) were a complete bust. But others were a complete lifesaver, and are really the only reasons we have pictures of Natalie sitting still. Bring stuff that you know your child likes to play with, and think about what colors, activities, and items will work for photographs. We had hoped to have some matching balloons in some of the shots, but when that didn’t work out we went on to another plan of reading some books together and having Natalie fill her little basket with rocks. And it worked. I’m so, so glad we brought way more stuff than we needed because it meant we always had something to offer Natalie to keep her occupied.
5. Smile. Even if you’re hot. Even if your toddler is squirming away. Even if your clothes are riding up. Even if the wind is making your hair fly directly in your face. Because the point of the pictures is to catch you having fun with your family, right? So have fun. Enjoy the absolute craziness of the moment and laugh through the rough stuff. Those sweet, smiling moments will make the pictures that you couldn’t live without.