Tip #1: Plan Ahead
Have a plan for your session prior to wrangling all the kiddos together. Make sure your camera battery is charged and your memory card has plenty of space. There is nothing worse than getting your kids all set up only to have your battery die or your screen flash "no memory!" right when you are getting ready to push the shutter. Trust me...you do NOT want to deal with that!
Another thing that goes along with this one is make sure you have all prop items ready prior to bringing the kids in. Your 2 year old is not going to sit still while you go searching for that box of ornaments you were wanting him to play in. (plastic ornaments please...no glass!!)
Tip #2: Pick the Right Time of Day
If you have a little one who naps don't plan a shoot in lieu of their 3 pm naptime and think that your session is going to be anything but disastrous. No one wants to try to photograph a fussy baby or an irritable & cranky toddler. Try to pick a time during the day when your kids are most rested. Make sure they are fed too...a hungry child is a whiny child.
Tip #3: Dress Cute Yet Comfortable
That adorable frilly lace dress may look beautiful on the hanger but might be a little too itchy for your 3 year old. If you simply must have your daughter photographed in frills and lace make sure the dress is lined in a soft fabric or that you have another layer of clothing between the dress and her skin in order to avoid fits of itching. Opt for clothing that is comfortable and that kids can move in. Holiday pajamas make adorable Christmas card photos for kids (matching footed pjs for adults..not so much!) Dress the kiddos in coordinating colors with layers...but not necessarily in matching outfits. Pinterest is a great place to get "what to wear" ideas!! Use them!
Tip #4: Give Them Something To Do
Kids like to be doing something. Have an activity planned as part of your shoot so that your kids will actually want to participate and the smiles in your photographs will be more genuine and less contrived. Real authentic smiles are the best ones after-all! Obviously this one will really depend on what is appropriate for the ages of your children and their abilities. Decorating Christmas cookies is a great idea for many ages. For our children we took a little Christmas tree and a basket of ornaments to a nearby field and it was AWESOME! The kids loved getting to stand out in the field and decorate that little tree.
Tip #5: Let Them Play
Kids are kids. Let them do what they do best! Sometimes the best shots aren't the ones you had in mind in the first place! After our little mini session involving the tree I simply told my kids "go....run!" and they did....and those images are some of my favorite images of the evening. In fact that center image in the group of three you'll see below was the only thing I put on the back side of our Christmas Card this year. Just that one image of them laughing and running..because it reflected them perfectly and it wasn't even a part of my plan. Oh, and that last shot at the very bottom...it's going on my wall...BIG!
Tip #6: Don't Stress
This coming from someone who does the complete opposite when it comes to photographing her kids. HA!! But if I have learned anything in my photographic journey it's that if you stress, your kids will read that stress and will reflect it back in their behavior. And then you'll stress more...it's a vicious cycle. So try to relax and make it a fun experience. It doesn't have to be elaborate. Everyone doesn't HAVE to be looking at the camera and smiling...sometimes it's just not gonna happen and that's ok. I guarantee you that that photo of all 4 kiddos leaning into themselves laughing hysterically because daddy made a funny noise will be the best one anyway :)