Tips for a Stress-Free Photography Session
You always hear how stressed parents are about booking a photography session that includes their children (young and old).  What if they don’t smile, what if they cry, what if they just won’t sit still?

I’m here to tell you to RELAX – photography sessions can be fun! It’s so important that you capture these fleeting memories of your family and children to have for generations to come.

I’m a mom to three boys and have been a professional photographer since 1995.  I started young age of 23 right after receiving my Bachelors in Science – Commincation Photography degree. So I understand the stress and the importance of photographing your family the best and easiest ways as possible.

I thought it might be helpful to share a few tips that will help you get the most out of your  photography session with the least amount of stress. Whether it’s with Paula Swift Photography, another photographer or if you attempt this yourself.


Plan ahead: This is key to capturing your children naturally with the least amount of stress. Avoid nap time or that time of the day when your children might not be at their best – better know in my house as the “bewitching ” hour. If your children are sick the day you planned your shoot – POSTPONE IT. Trust me, if your children don’t feel well and are cranky it will show in the final portraits – it’s just not worth the stress.

That’s a key in my photography sessions: NO STRESS!

Dress for Success: Plan the clothing out ahead of time.
It doesn’t matter whether you’ll be wearing your holiday best or a more casual timeless look – you need to plan it out!  Stay away from loud large logos or clothing that clashes. The “rainbow look” for families went out with the 1980s,  always consider timeless apparel. Dress your children in clothing that’s comfortable and that fits them properly. It’s always best to try on the clothing before the shoot…not the day of the shoot. Nothing is worse than ripping off the price tags as you arrive at the photography session and learn that the clothing doesn’t fit your child properly.  If your session is planned for outdoors dress appropriately for the weather. If its cold outside dress them in layers or in coats that compliment their outfits. If its hot out, make sure they won’t get over heated. Another key thing in my photography is comfort. If you’re children are comfortable in their clothes they’ll be happy and content which makes my job easier.
Remember not everyone has to match but its best that everyone has coordinating colors in their outfits.  Remember, you want your portraits to be about your children, not their clothing. Unless you’re going with a fun idea that features the outfit – then go for it.

Have Fun: Stress is normal but don’t let it dominate the day. Once you’ve stressed about your clothing before the big day – Let the stress go & enjoy your session. If your children feel your stress for getting the perfect photo, they will be stressed too. I can assure you that if you bring stress to the session the shoot won’t go as planned. Let your children be themselves. Let them laugh, crying or run around – this is what tells the story of your child so don’t try to control the environment. If things aren’t going well in the studio (or your home), take them outdoors where they can be themselves. Local parks, playing in the leaves, at the beach (if you’re in a warmer climate) and at play always help children feel more comfortable.

Props: These can be helpful but don’t let them take over the photo. I prefer simple things like a wagon, old suit case and tricycle. Anything for young children to sit on or in and keep them interested in the session. Depending on the time of year; leaves, apples, balloons ( no mylar shiny ones) and even bubbles are awesome little props.  These can help young children to feel comfortable during the photo shoot as well.

I love to capture my three children all year long at the beach, in the leaves and in the snow.   I love showing friends and family what my children look like without having to worry about it if they are all looking at the camera smiling. I love to show emotion in my images, this can include those hugs, giggles and even pouts children my show during our time together.

Give them something to do: Holding hands and walking, playing ring-around-the-rosey, or even just sitting singing their favorite song takes the edge off and offers those natural smiles and contagious giggles that I love.

Include your family pets:  They are just as much as a part of your family as you and your children are. Dogs, cats and even pet pigs have been part of Paula Swift Photography sessions. If your family pet is skittish or not allowed outdoors. Sessions can be done at your home.  Including pets, allows children to feel relaxed and adds a fun element to a session. When a dog doesn’t sit still for very long, giggles pop up from children. When they hug , pet or even talk their pets for a walk during their sessions, this gives a more storytelling appeal to your photographs.

DIYers: For those of you attempting to capture your children yourselves turn off the flash. Use natural light indoors and out.

Be sure to get down to your children’s level. I like to lay on my belly and look up at them or have them lay down. Use creative high & low angles and get up close capture their faces and expressions.

Never shoot in full sunlight because it causes squinting and raccoon eyes. Turn the sun to their backs or find a better time of the day when the sun isn’t as strong. Or find nice open shade area. If there are leaves  on the trees there is shade usually most times of they day. What is open shade? This means pulling your children out a bit from the shade until you see a pop of light in their eyes. You need open sky in front of them, stay away from the deep woods.  Foliage is great, but pull them out  and away from that bright orange and yellow tree, so they don’t turn orange and yellow from the colors all around them.

Finally, don’t force your children to get their pictures taken. Any parent knows that the more you try to get them to do something the more they’ll resist. Try to make it fun and of course a little bribery reward goes a long way. I know first hand with my three busy boys a special treat for those adorable smiles work very well.

Remember to be in your photos too. The biggest complaint I hear each time I photograph a session, “I haven’t been in any photos with my kids since they were born”.  Please get in your photos, for your kids, for their memories. They don’t care how your hair looks or that you need to loose that 20lbs of baby weight.  They want you to be in the photos too!

Enjoy your photography  session and remember to have fun. You are capturing memories that you will look back at and thank yourselves for doing.

I hope you find these tips helpful for your photography session. Please feel free to leave anything ideas that have work for you in the comment area.

Here are some  photography session examples that I feel show my style and how much fun families and their children have during their time with me. Even if it’s just for one hour once a year. Memories are being bottled up and hung on their walls to showcase how special their family is.

I also have a photography book that came out in May 2017 that will showcase these type of photographs and how I captured them.  Storytellling Portrait Photography – How to Document the Lives of Family and Children is available on Amazon today  Click here to View and Order.

Each page showcases a favorite image(s) and gives the behind the scenes info into what it took to capture that storytelling moment. This may include…               

  • How to capture those unexpected moments
  • How to get shy children to warm up to you
  • How to keep children involved in their photography session
  • Use of props to keep the session looking natural
  • How to incorporate pets
  • How to capture children on the go
  • How to let children be themselves during a session
  • Learn how to sit back and watch a moment happen
  • My favorite gear to used at sessions


Paula Ferazzi Swift, M. Photog., CPP,  is a Master Photographer, Photographic Craftsman and Certified Professional Photographer and an international award winning photographer working in the Metrowest area of Boston specializing in the art of capturing images of children, their families and relationships that couples share in front of her cameras  You will find Paula’s professional photography studio in Sudbury, MA.

Paula is an award-winning and nationally-recognized photographer for her published work in newspapers and magazines.   She has been nominated for and won several national and international awards including the recognition of her and the photography staff at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette as finalists for the 1999 Pulitzer Prize in Feature Photography for their coverage of the Worcester Warehouse fire that killed six Worcester, MA firefighters. Paula has won National Press Photographers Association, New England Associated Press Editors Association awards for her photojournalism work as well as local advertising awards for her photography. She is  a member of such professional organizations as the Professional Photographers of America, Professional Photographers Association of  Massachusetts and American Society of Photographers .

In 2009 Paula was the recipient of the Hallmark Award for best color portrait, Kodak Gallery Portrait Award , the highest scoring portrait print, judges choice ribbon and 3 blue merit ribbons at the Professional Photographers Association of Massachusetts annual print competition. In 2010,  2011, 2102, 2013 and 2014.  Paula’s work was recognized and awarded the highest honor of Loan Collection and General Collection at the Professional Photographers of America International Photographic Competition.  Recently Paula Swift Photography was featured by CBS Boston as one of the best Boston Family Photographers. Paula continues grow her craft through education and love for photography by attending professional photography seminars, workshops and started sharing knowledge through speaking at seminars in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Her work has been published in a variety of publications, including The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Times, Time, Newsweek, USA Today, and Esquire.

In 2015, Paula Swift began teaching other photographers through the Professional Photographer’s of America Super One Day classes about her newborn photography. She is also speaking throughout New England on her photojournalism experience and how she incorporates that unique career into her everyday portrait photography work for clients in the Boston area.

Paula who grew up in Longmeadow, MA currently lives in Framingham, Massachusetts with her husband Chris and their three sons Ryan, Trevor, and Logan … her inspirations.