10 questions with a professional children’s portrait photographer

Family portraits and professional pictures of the kids are something most families do eventually. Whether you have yours done annually, or will just do them once, there are a few things you’ll want to know to make sure your portrait session goes great and those pictures are the ones that will capture the best of your little babes. We caught up with Jaime, of Jaime Fleming Photography, a professional portrait photographer and mother of 2, to ask the questions you know you want to know.

1. How long should I expect a session to take with 2 kids?

Jaime Fleming Photography 3
Photo by Jaime Fleming Photography

I always block out a 2 hour window for my sessions and don’t put anything super important directly behind a session involving children or babies. Most kids can’t last the full 2 hours – many, not even close. But there are times when it takes a bit of time to get the session rolling. The entire experience is new to them: new location, new clothes, new lady with a weird gadget she keeps holding up to her face. And on top of that, mom and dad are acting weird today!

It may take some to get the kiddos to warm up to the photographer before a camera should be shoved in their face. Sometimes kids are cranky or an unexpected feeding for little ones needs to take place before any shooting can begin. And that’s ok. A good photograher is going to have slotted enough time to work through these typical delays. Parents shouldn’t feel rushed to get their kids to cooperate or be made to feel guilty when things get tough. It’s ok. It’s expected. Plan ahead for it and stay calm. You’ll have plenty of time.

That all being said, when working with children, it is usually pretty obvious when they reach the “done” point.

2. Should I bring props, stuffies/lovies/food bribes?

I’m typically a “less is more” person. But if there is a special something you want included in your photos, by all means bring it. If there are items that help motivate your child – like a movie or blankie, sure, bring it. I wouldn’t bust out those attachment items right out of the gate, though. They could become a hindrance if they won’t give them up. For toddlers, bubbles are a great way to hold their attention and keep them somewhat in one place for 3 seconds. Plus, I like the type of photos where families are interacting and having a good time together over a stuffy posed portrait. Basically, bring anything you’d like – just know that it may end up in the photos.

3. Should the kids be all matchy-matchy or best outfit? How do you recommend they dress?

My personal preference is for each person in the photo to be dressed for their own body. It’s probably a good idea to have a little bit of coordination of some sort, even if it’s just colors that look nice together. But in general, I don’t care for the super matchy-matchy look. I like mix and match colors and patterns, and a little individual style to show.

4. Are there any colours that shoot better than others or ones to be avoided? 

Jaime Fleming Photography 2
Photo by Jaime Fleming Photography

I usually suggest to my clients to choose anything but white. White washes a lot of people out and often looks distracting as it becomes the bright spot in the image. Our eye is naturally drawn to the bightest spot in the image, so ideally that should be the face. I like to stay away from white on clients unless we are intentionally doing a white on white type set up.

5. What’s best for location? Studio, home or outdoors?

This is a very photographer specific question. Know your photographer’s ability and style before committing to them as a client. Make sure the look you want is something they offer and do well. If you want nice polished studio shots, it’s probably not ideal to hit up the photographer who markets herself as a natural light photographer. I personally love on-location outdoor sessions because children get the opportunity to move around and explore and some really nice shots can come from that.

6. Why is there a fee for a sitting and another fee for images?

Despite common belief, “taking pictures” is a lot more involved than just clicking a button on a cheap, auto-mode camera from a big box store and running a filter from a web based editor in all the images. And also despite common belief, there are a TON of expenses that photographers have to cover – not just that 19 cent print cost you see advertised at the local drugstore kiosk. Running a photography business takes a lot of time. A lot of time. And there are many costs involved that most people don’t even think about. So yes, a custom photo experience can get pricey. But what you get out of it is so very worth it!

7. Can I just buy a disk and print my own pictures?

Jaime Fleming Photography 1
Photo by Jaime Fleming Photography

There are some photographers that are totally ok with this. Some have tailored their business around the “Shoot-n-Burn” concept. Others are a lot more protective of their images. In my case, I typically don’t offer a disk of printable images. I like to maintain control over the quality of the images attached to my name. I also like to maintain the copyright to my images, and depending on where a client chooses to upload and print, that copyright can be compromised. Check with your photographer before booking to make sure they offer digital images if this is something that is important to you.

8. What time of day is best to shoot with kids?

The best time to shoot is whenever your kid is happy! I like to plan sessions with kiddos around their eat/sleep schedule. Most parents can tell me instantly when their kid is typically cranky, so let’s avoid those times.

9. What can you fix in Photoshop – what’s not fixable?

Going back to that idea that photography and photo processing take a a TON of time, pretty much anything IS possible in Photoshop. It’s a wonderful tool with seemingly endless options. But every little edit takes time. Some of those fixes that don’t seem like such a big deal cause a lot of frustration. Ideally, we want to get the shot as close to perfect as possible in camera.

Of course, working with children adds an extra hurdle – or fifty. It’s a judgement call that day: What am I willing to try to fix here on the scene, knowing I could end up missing shots to come because the kids get cranky, and what am I willing to overlook here and now, and just deal with it in Photoshop? I play the trade-off game in my head and overlook what needs to be overlooked. Just don’t do what one client did to me and tell your photographer that you are only going to wear one solid polo shirt through the entire session and then expect me the photographer to change the colors of the shirt in Photoshop. Ha! I laughed so hard. Just change your shirt, dude. 

10. What can I do to ensure you get the best results out of my kids on camera – feed them? bring food? Don’t feed them right before?  

Fed kids are happy kids. We want happy kids. Fill them up. Bring snacks if they are motivated by foods. If we are talking infants, get a good feeding in right before you get there and bring a bottle or be prepared to have a nursing session or two on the spot. I really really don’t mind if we have to wait to get a baby fed. I’d much rather get the baby filled up and happy than do 100 little short attempts to appease them with a brief feeding. Happy kids make happy photos. That’s our goal.


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