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  • Serena Burroughs

Central Massachusetts Family Photographer - Managing Temper Tantrums During Your Portrait Session

One thing that holds back many parents from actually booking their family's portrait session in the first place can be the fear of their child not behaving. And then being out of hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, while being provided subpar photographs.

We've probably all been there, right?

I for one can see myself sitting in a restaurant with my husband. The kids are losing it and we are just staring at each other, thinking the same thing: "Why did we think this was a good idea?" while our kids keep trying to exit the booth and say the food they begged to order, looks disgusting.

We'd probably murmur something along the lines like: "We better hurry up with our own food before the screaming and fighting starts..."

Sometimes that's just what happens. And it can feel nightmarish when you just want to pack everything up and leave, but here you are ... in a public setting and everyone can see how you handle the situation. Yikes, am I right?

Here is the thing: Temper tantrums happen. Babies Cry. Sometimes uncontrollably, even (hello colic!) - that's something we can't necessarily stop from happening.

But there is ways we can take back control of the situation during your session and help your child(ren) to calm down.

Family photographer Serena Burroughs Photography in Central Massachusetts

So let's break it down in a few points.

1. Being Efficient

The best way to prevent tantrums from even starting is to be efficient from the get-go.

A photographer that can be quick in identifying chemistry and moods can immediately start shooting and take steps to keep the children curious and engaged. Which will result in happy children that then have fun creating memory worthy shot after the other!

2. Taking Breaks When Needed

Some children get tired of paying attention eventually - that's only natural. That's why I focus on several things rather than just your child nonstop. This can be other family members, details of the location or just the parent(s). Especially when we do the latter and focus on just the parent(s), children usually feel left out after a little break and want to join in on the fun. This is the easiest and also my favorite: when they come back to you and want to jump back into the session because they choose to ... It doesn't get better than that.

3. Focus On Playtime, Not The Perfect Portrait

Here's the thing: It's actually really hard to manufacture the perfect family portrait when there is a lot of pressure on the kids to perform. There has to be more to it.

Sure, the formal portrait is important to me and something I do with every session because I think it's a must-have for recollection later down the road in a family's history ... But telling kids about this importance doesn't really help us in getting those genuine smiles. Usually it's not even enough to get them to hold still.

The formal portrait is something I only flat out request when there has been tons of play beforehand. I want your kids positively out of breath before asking them to hold still. When we've worn them out a bit, standing still for a moment will seem like a treat to them. Plus, they might still have that smile stuck on their face because they were genuinely enjoying themselves. The endorphins are still in their system! Smiling for me will be much easier now. And that family portrait you want to frames bad will have felt like zero effort. Well, maybe a little physical effort ;-)

Family photographer Serena Burroughs Photography in Central Massachusetts

4. What To Do When Kids Cry

When none of the methods worked, and tears are flowing after all ... don't panic. Stay calm, do not - I repeat, DO NOT feel like you're doing an awful job and that I might judge you. Because I will not. Make no mistake, I get my own family photographed every year and know exactly what you are going through. My own daughter is in fact still recovering from the pandemic isolation. When exposure to people and other kids was crucial, my oldest went through online kindergarten. A kindergarten aged child did not know how to operate a computer and needed my help for everything. I would race back and forth to assist with paperwork, technology and so on from 8am until 2.30pm. Meetings upon meetings he needed me for and in the meantime ... My daughter fell short.

What followed was a nightmare. Any type of social interaction, or stay at a friend's house would result in her dissolving into tears. Big fat tantrums, no matter how kind and understanding my friends could be.

The key is to let them work it out. You can't talk toddlers through their big feelings yet. At least not always. If you can - my hat's off to you! But the best method so far (for me) has been to let them be. Approaching children that are currently feeling scared, and under pressure makes no sense to me. They have left the mental state in which they can make sound decisions and are just in their feelings, you know? Zeroing in on them to try and help them somehow usually just makes things worse. Putting them on the spot more, is not effective. Does this mean the session has to end? No.

It means I will distance myself until I can see or hear the child more at ease with my presence. Here I will simply shift my focus to other family members if applicable. Photographing them, playing and laughing ... If the upset child can watch from a distance they may realize nothing scary is taking place and sometimes they even want to join in on the fun because they see their family enjoying themselves. If you are a single parent and we cannot split the session up momentarily, I will sit down and simply do small talk with the parent, camera not pointing at anyone. Talking about the day, the weather and other things, while the child cuddles the parent and calms down.

Eventually we will be able to continue. I have had plenty of challenging situations, but I have managed to photograph every child well in the end.

Central Massachusetts Family Photographer

This is at least my philosophy and approach. If you have further questions or concerns, feel free to reach out at


Family Photographer in Central Massachusetts

Serena Burroughs

of Serena Burroughs Photography LLC resides in Central Massachusetts and serves clients in the area and beyond.

To inquire about a session with her today,

you may reach out below.


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