We know how stressful it can be to get your family altogether and on the same page for photos - much less the stress of "what to wear". Its enough to need a bottle of "cheer" before the holidays even start.

Well, I'm here to help! I've been doing this for over 10 years now and I have a few key pointers that can help you (and your family) keep it together during one of the times you actually really NEED to feel joy.

Ok, so lets get to it:

1) SLEEP. Make sure everyone is well rested the night before and that your toddlers and babies have had a nap before your shoot. If your photographer didn't schedule your shoot around your babies' naps, call them right away and reschedule. I'm not kidding. A well rested toddler or baby is the difference between "Happy Holidays" and "To Hell With the Holidays". I don't have a tip higher on the priority list than this one. I always schedule my clients' shoots around their baby's nap schedule - ideally RIGHT after they've woken up from a nap, but not before, not during (they will be super angry that they are being woken up). Older children and adults can manage being tired pretty well, but a baby cannot.

2) Be Clothes-Minded. Get your clothing together a week before your shoot. Down to the socks and accessories. Have everything cleaned, ironed and set aside so that the day of the shoot you aren't searching around for Juniors missing black sock or big sis' earring. This might seem like a super "duh" tip, but many people put this off until a few days before and then get overly worked up when everything isn't perfect for the shoot. We don't care if you're missing socks or an earring to be honest. But we care that you might be stressed out if you are. Getting these tiny details out of the way in ample time is really critical to your peace of mind the day of the session and we are ALL about helping you get that!

3) Bribery works wonders. I'm not a fan of this tactic on a daily basis, especially for really young children, but during a shoot its a lifesaver. If you don't want to bribe them with food or candy or an unhealthy item, bribe them with an experience that they want to have like playing a game that they want to play, playing with a friend that they want to have a sleepover with, or going to that new arcade with everyone afterwards. Kids really REALLY hate getting their photos taken unless they're a ham (most people are not, yet expected to always have a great demeanor when having photos taken). You can help them get excited about the shoot by reminding them of the fun thing or event that's happening once the shoot is this way, they will be looking FORWARD to the shoot instead of dreading it. I also try to keep things light and fun during the shoot, but just to set the right tone ahead of time - I've seen this work wonders.

4) Self Care for Mom is PARAMOUNT. Ok, I know that entire sentence feels like an oxymoron. What is that?? Try to set aside some time to get your nails and hair done prior to the shoot so that the day of, you feel like a million bucks. Your mood really determines the mood of the entire family (especially your hubby's), so the better mood YOU are in, the better the entire shoot will go. Trust me.

5) Be early. Even if your photographer can't get to you early, just being early takes that part of the stress out of the way. There's nothing worse than already being stressed out about how everyone looks and what mood little Timmy is in and now you're late and can't find parking. Our studio, located near downtown San Diego, has ample parking which is super convenient to an on-time arrival, but if you're going somewhere else make sure you've scouted out where their parking is and what the situation is so that you're not scrambling at the last minute for parking details and where the building is, etc. If you are shooting with us and don't know exactly where we are, send us an email at: so that we can get a map to you immediately.

6) Set your expectations low. This is not me being negative. This is me being practical after shooting thousands and thousands of families with young children. If you have small kids and want a perfect posed family photo - lets reset your expectation. Small children, especially toddlers, will NOT pose for a photo. You can pretty much count on the opposite of that happening. I have been able to get a lucky shot here and there, and with my retouchers immaculate skills of swapping out heads on family photos, we can probably put one together in editing, BUT in the moment expect that chaos is going to happen. Expect it. When you set your expectations high and things start to go against your expectations it shows on your face. Big time. We can retouch wrinkles, swap heads, even slim arms and waists - but we cannot make you look like you're having a good time if you're miserable because no one is cooperating. Setting expectations low is the better way to arrive to a session. EXPECT chaos. Enjoy the chaos. Know that your photographer is professional and can either get a great shot of your family, or hire one that you trust enough to be able to do that. Which leads me to number 7...

7) Hire the right people. Hire a photographer that is well versed in the exact type of photoshoot you are wanting. This tip is not a marketing ploy. I honestly do not care who you hire for your photos, although of course, if it is me I'm super excited to work with you and your family. What I REALLY care about, however, is that you've found someone that fits your criteria and vision for YOUR family. What I often see is the opposite. I see people hiring their photographer based number 1 on budget, not experience. Secondly, I see them hiring based on the number of images they're going to receive and not the QUALITY of the images that they are going to receive. That's like buying a car that gets good gas mileage even if the car has no tires and your family won't even fit into the car.

If you have small children, hire a photographer that is VERY experienced with small children. If you have pets and want your pets in the photos with your family, hire a photographer that has LOTS of experience with pets. If you are wanting a sexy couples photoshoot, make sure your photographer has ample experience with posing couples together in a sexy way that doesn't look icky. Not all photographers are the right fit. Even if you like the way their photos look. A wedding photographer cannot do a newborn shoot the way that a trained newborn photographer can. Expecting that a photographer that specializes in adults can shoot a family with multiple young children is just setti