4 tips for nailing your fall mini session

It seems like summer just ended and my local Target already has Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations out. Didn’t we just start the fall? It’s never too early to start preparing, evidently.

While I’m strictly a Christmas-decorations-after-Thanksgiving kind of gal, I do think there’s merit in preparing to make your holiday season as stress-free (ha!) as possible. And that requires some advance planning.

One of the big things on most peoples’ list is the Christmas card. If you want a family photo to slap on or in that sucker, the process starts, well, now.

That means booking the photographer, picking out outfits, doing the shoot, choosing your favorite images, designing the cards, ordering the cards, addressing the cards, mailing the cards … oh and making sure you’ve got enough stamps and updated addresses! 

It’s enough to make even the most organized mama’s head spin (it does mind, trust me!)

So while I can’t really help you with the steps after choosing your favorite images, I do want you to book that mini session and not just muscle through it but really enjoy it. They’re quick — only 20 minutes — which may not seem like enough time if your toddler is having a meltdown but with a few tips I’ve observed over the years of shooting families, there are some tried and true ways to maximize success in such a short amount of time.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

The family huddle: Prep your kiddos for what’s about to happen and what’s expected of them. 

I once heard Dave Ramsey personality Chris Hogan talk about the “team huddle” he has with his three boys before they eat in a restaurant. He gathers them in an actual huddle (former football star is he!) and asks them, “What are we going to do when we go into the restaurant? What are we not going to do?” and other behavior-setting questions. And guess what? The majority of the time, when huddles happen, the kids act like they said they would. I heard this anecdote before I had a child and it’s stuck with me for a long time. What a genius idea! You could totally do this with “older” toddlers and children to set an expectation for behavior during the session. 

Fake it til you make it: Even if you don’t feel breezy, act it!


Kids pick up on your stress. I can’t tell you how many times a toddler may resist the photo shoot at the beginning and mom’s stress only makes it worse. If mom and dad act breezy, the chances of kids following suite eventually are much higher. The stakes feel high with only 20 minutes to get all the shots but this leads me to point #3:

Go with the flow: Leave the “shot list” to the pro.

I’ll read the situation and start with shots I think are best. Sometimes, kids are shy at first so we can do all the posed ones and then have some fun. Other times, we have to start with candids and get more posed shots near the end when the kids “trust” me. If your kid simply won’t smile (like I experienced with a certain one-year-old photo session), at least know you’ll have memories captured of his mean mug that might disappear the following year. 

If all else fails, there’s nothing wrong with a little bribery!

I was really glad to have a few of my son’s favorite toys with us for our one-year-old shoot to wave around and make him smile. Yes, we now have a lot of photos with his stuffed llama but I love that it’s part of our photos because that llama is pretty much part of the family at this point. Bringing toys for littler ones (one year and under) can be helpful to elicit smiles. Sweet treats for older toddlers and kids are great, too. You’re not a bad mom for bribing. You’re normal, trust me.

You can have a fun, successful fall mini session with a little advanced mental prep work on your end and your kids. It’s important you hire a photographer you trust in case a meltdown does happen and the situation needs a little resuscitating. 

Haven’t booked a mini session yet? Well, you’re in luck! I still have some spots open and you can grab yours here.

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