If you've ever If you’ve ever felt the wrath of a hangry toddler, you know why I’m writing this post.

A toddler boy sits on his mom's lap and cries during their family photography session in Chaska, Minnesota

Let’s walk through this together: you’ve found your photographer, booked your mini session, coordinated everyone’s outfits, and expertly styled your hair and makeup for an easy ten minutes of photos. Maybe you’ve even picked out a place on your route to stop for ice cream on the way home to use as a bribe incentivize good behavior.

A toddler girl with curly blonde hair and sunglasses sits at a patio table with an empty ice cream cup in front of her.

Your photo session day arrives, and the weather looks perfect! Everyone has gotten ready seamlessly, and you’ve gotten out the door on track to arrive 10 minutes early as requested. You hit some traffic, but it’s all good - you still arrive 5 minutes before your session time which should give you the leeway you need. 

You pull in to park, and realize that the worst has happened - your two year-old has fallen asleep en route. The dreaded 10-minute car nap that destroys absolutely everything. You start getting her out of the car, and it’s full-on demon mode.

If you know, you know. 

Maybe you’re able to work some magic and calm her down during the short window you have, but by the time your photographer starts with your crew her eyes are red and puffy, and the streams of snot coming out of both nostrils just won’t seem to subside.

Sometimes this kind of thing is truly unavoidable (we’ve all been there), but, as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Keep reading for 7 tips for a successful mini session with kids under five!

A preschool-aged girl laughs as she cuddles on a blanket with her parents at a Twin Cities family photography session
1. Keep your photo session schedule day light

You’re a parent of young kids, and your world is chaos. I get it! But one of the best things you can do for any photo session day is to ease into it as much as possible. Take it easy around the house and/or schedule small, minimally-stimulating activities in the morning, leaving your afternoon and post-nap timeframes light on to-dos. Overstimulated kids who’ve been sweating in the sun all day are going to be much harder for you to motivate when you need them to.

2. choose your family photography wardrobe and accessories a minimum of 1-2 weeks before your session, and have everything set aside at least 24 hours in advance

There’s nothing worse than scrambling to finalize your outfits last-minute, screaming that you all have nothing to wear. Save yourself this headache on your photography mini session day and plan ahead! Here’s a guide to crafting your wardrobe in case you haven't worked that out yet*

(*It's a post for newborn sessions, but a lot of the info will still be applicable as you design your family photography wardrobe!)

Bonus tip: have backup options at the ready - for spills, accidents, when your child accidentally colors all over themselves when you’re not looking, all the things. Backup options ready for everyone (and bring them with)

3. get the adults and older kids ready first

Usually the person who needs the most time preparing for photos is Mom - if this is the case in your world, make sure Mom isn’t scrambling to get ready after everyone else. Mama, set aside plenty of time to do what you need to do to feel confident and look amazing! Your little ones can chill out and snack while you prepare, then change them right before you go. (You know your kids best, but in most cases I’d definitely plan to change them before you leave the house. A kid who doesn’t want to be changed into what you’ve picked out is not going to look happy in photos taken mere minutes after the wardrobe struggle.)

4. arrive Extra early for cat nappers and/or kids who don't do well upon waking

'Nough said. Crabby wake-ups from toddler power naps are the worst.

5. snacks

Bring allll the non-crumby snacks - raisins/dried fruit, applesauce/fruit pouches, fruit snacks, string cheese, sliced fruits/veggies, etc. If they’re into it, it travels well, and it doesn’t have crumbs, bring it with.

6. make sure the kids' everyone's bellies aren't running on e

Hangry toddlers (and husbands, and humans, and probably animals in general) have a hard time being present, playful, and rolling with the punches - so do yourself a favor here and make sure everyone gets a decent-sized snack or mini meal if your dinner plans postdate your session time.

7. make a list of everything you need to pack, and have what you can ready to go at least one day before your session

If you think you’re seeing recurring themes about snacks and pre-photo-day preparations, you’re not wrong. We all know that “I’ve rushed-out-the-door-now-I’m-forgetting-something” feeling, and it’s stressful to say the least. I personally do best when I brain dump a list of things to pack (for any occasion) at least a week in advance. I inevitably think of more things throughout the week, and when it comes time to pack, I’m forever grateful with my past self for having done the legwork ahead of time.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Lovey/blanket/favorite toy
  • Something to keep them entertained in the car (especially something somewhat new or that you don’t usually allow on car trips. For my toddlers an electronic laptop we usually didn't allow in the car was the “big ticket” item)
  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Extra clothes/undies/diaper
  • More snacks
  • Wet wipes/boogie wipes/tissues
  • Did I mention snacks?
A toddler holds onto his parents' hands and smiles at a Minnesota Family Photography session.

Let’s face it - toddlers are mini tornadoes. You can never be fully prepared for what direction they might take at any given moment, but you can do your best to anticipate chaos and plan ahead . Hopefully these tips help you ease into your photography mini session in a way that leaves you calm, cool, and ready to draw out the smiles for a quick 10-minute photo update.

Still need to book your session? After reading this, you’re more than ready - book your session now and I’ll see you May 21 at the Arb!



A photo of Miranda appears "taped" next to her contact information