4 tips for joyful family photos.

When I'm old and reflecting back on my life, I know our family will've had so many joy-filled moments. Playing chase together, laughing over cards, snuggling while reading a book and looking at each other with so much love. Sure we'll have had whining, tantrums and sassiness, but that comes with the territory right? With parenting, there are amazing highs and really low lows, but it's what you choose to remember and dwell on that matters. Choose joy, choose love, choose kindness and choose goodness. When I'm old, I want to walk the halls of my home and see the walls filled with moments where I held my child's hand, kissed their cheeks and laughed out loud with them. I want these things for me, and I want these things for you. So here are 4 ways to allow for joyful family photos (that don't involve saying "cheese") during our time together.

Mom hugging her toddler daughter in a field of daisies at sunset in Redmond.

#1: Give your child words of affirmation.

It's so special when a parent whispers to their child what they love about them. This little secret between just the parent and child is the sweetest thing to photograph. I see a sweet smile slowly form as the parent talks about their favorite character traits in their child and their favorite things to do with their child. When we delight in them through our words, our attention and our cuddles, it shows in the form of joyful family photos.

Parents laughing with their daughter by the river in North Bend.

#2: Lets explore our surroundings.

Want to walk on a piece of driftwood? Sure! Shall we blow some dandelion puffs? Ok! What about playing hide and seek amongst the forest? Why not! When kids are given the freedom to explore their surroundings, it makes the session fun. They're excited about their new environment. They're engaged, you're engaged, and it sets the family photos up for success. We usually walk to two different locations during our session together to not only create a diverse gallery, but to give your child the opportunity to see something new.

Parents holding hands with their daughter and walking on driftwood at Richmond Beach Saltwater Park.

#3: Bust out the games!

A child's face lights up when they hear the words "let's play a game!" It's extra exciting when I have parents play the game with their child. Attention and movement (tip 1,2) and a game = best time ever! It doesn't have to be an elaborate game with any pieces or game boards. It can be something simple like playing chase or red-light-green-light that'll get all the genuine smiles out.

Father son laughing together at sunset in Bellevue Botanical Garden.

#4: Let kids be kids.

Nothing kills a child's spirit like forcing them to stand next to you and say "cheese." I don't want those inauthentic, strained smiles on my wall and you likely don't either. If your child needs a quiet moment when the camera lens isn't in front of their face, I'll give it to them. If they need some extra cuddles with mom (when we're supposed to be posed with dad), we will definitely pivot and do that. There's no strict formula when it comes to family photos because we do what feels right in the moment. I allow space for grumpiness and whininess because it's normal to feel all the feelings. These feelings usually doesn't last the entire session and with the tips from above (1, 2, 3), your child's spirit will turn, when they're ready, to a joy-filled one. With mom whispering to her child how funny he is, giving him the space to cut flowers because that's what delights him, and then ending with a session of chase through the wildflowers, I guarantee you we will have lots of joyful family photos captured.

Mother helping her son cut wildflowers in Woodinville.

There's beauty in the chaos.

I've never photographed a family that comes to their session looking and acting perfect. In fact, one of my favorite sessions was when a family came to me dressed casually in jeans and t-shirts. They were taking a break from packing up to move across the globe in order to take family photos. Mom had borrowed a t-shirt from a friend last minute because hers was in a shipping box! We had a great time together because the parents showered their kids with affection, walked around the long grasses finding ladybugs, played multiple rounds of red-light-green-light and let their kids be themselves. We did all the tips above and created some joyful family photos. If you'd like to book a session with me this year, please don't hesitate to reach out. Thanks so much for reading!

Mother snuggling and kissing her daughter during blue hour in Redmond.