Whether it's your first or tenth family photo session, getting photos taken can be overwhelming. There's a lot to do, bring and prepare, especially when there are lots of little bodies involved!

I've been photographing families in the Dallas area for a few years now, and I like to think that I help my clients feel prepared through my family welcome guide and lots of communication. Now it's time to let you in on some of our secrets! Here are some of my top tips to make your photo session go as smoothly as possible:

1. Gather clothes and shoes the day before.

I like to gather all the pieces of every outfit for my family the day before a photo session and set them aside in a spare room or an area where they won't be disturbed. That way you can see if you are missing any last minute items or if there are any repairs to be done. You're also checking one thing off your to-do list that you won't need to worry about the following day! And when it's time to get dressed on the day of the session, no one can say they don't know where their outfit is.

2. Prioritize sleep / naps.

A solid night's sleep is always helpful for a busy day ahead (so try not to party too hard the night before)! If you have young babies or toddlers, try to stick to their normal afternoon naptime routine. If all else fails, try to give them a chance to at least nap in the car so they'll be fresh for the session. I'm always surprised how my kids are so much more cooperative when they're not tired!

3. Snacks are always a good idea!

You never know when someone might be a little hangry. Pack a few snacks to keep away the grumpies and perhaps even to use as bribery for the toddlers (if you know you know). As the photographer, I often bring a treat or two for kids as well, but I always defer to parents on which snacks or candy they are comfortable with their children eating. Consider packing a few tried-and-true favorites to help things along in case the kids need a little extra energy—or motivation.

If you're pregnant, please don't forget yourself either! An energy bar and a big bottle of water works wonders, mama! It's important to stay hydrated and keep your blood sugar steady, especially if it's been a hectic afternoon.

4. Have mom get ready first.

Ok, this is a tip that photographers will preach until we're blue in the face: For better or for worse, we moms are typically the ones who need the most time to get ready (and who are the most particular about their appearance in photos). As with most things in life and parenthood, it actually doesn't serve anyone in the long run if you put yourself last.

No shame—We've all done it at some point or another, myself included. It usually goes something like this: I spend time and energy painstakingly getting my husband and kids everything they need (brushing hair, finding outfits, cleaning fingernails, and changing diapers), and then before I know it we're running late with little or no time for me to get myself ready. So, I rush my own self-care routines and settle for "good enough." Meanwhile, the kids are happily undoing all the work I've done on their appearance in the last hour (clothes are getting dirty while they wait for us to leave, socks are coming off, hair is getting rumpled). By the time we get in the car, my stress is through the roof and it sets the tone for the whole drive over. Sound about right?

It doesn't have to be this way. If you arrange your morning or your afternoon around your own getting-ready routine, there is less stress for the whole family. Prioritize yourself. Whether you decide to get your hair and makeup done professionally, or just take your time doing them yourself, I suggest giving yourself at least 1-2 hours to get ready before getting the rest of the family ready. Trust me. It's worth it.

5. Embrace the mess.

If you have babies or toddlers, I know you're going to want them to look perfect and sit still the whole time, but chances are they simply won't. Whether something spills, a rip happens, or we encounter some unexpected rain and mud, embrace it and try to stay anchored in the moment...Because your children certainly will! Kids are great at staying in the moment, and seeing the beauty in every little thing. I find it helpful to adjust your expectations and know that whatever happens, the photos will be genuine, authentic, and cherished as a real moment in time within your family's life together.

OR, if you're a control freak like me, you may consider packing one backup outfit for each child that goes with the whole family's color scheme that you would be ok with having as a "plan B outfit." This especially goes for newborns (they are SOOO good at blowouts!). Even if we're taking photos in a studio, you never know what might happen. Thankfully, I've never had a client get so dirty that they needed to change outfits in the middle of a photo session, but if the peace of mind is worth it to you, please do feel free to bring contingencies!

6. Remember to relax and have fun!!

A photo session can feel like a huge, intimidating production; but at the end of the day, all you can hope for is to do your best in the preparation stage and then let go of the rest! During your photo session, all I ask is that you relax and stay present to your loved ones, and I'll take care of the rest. No matter what happens, we are going to have a great time celebrating your family! After all, the days are long but the years are short. Let's make some memories!

Ready to schedule your family photo session? Let's chat!