What I Learned From My Family’s Photo Session | Terrapin Nature Park


For our 4 year anniversary we decided to celebrate as a family at Terrapin Nature Park! Getting our pictures taken for the first time together in 2 years since COVID wouldn’t allow our photographer to travel back to the US! I always give my families a few ideas to keep their toddlers invested and happy, but what happens when I follow those same steps & my toddler goes off the deep end? What I learned from my own family’s photo session is to just freaking roll with it, dude. Among a few other things….

It’s an all day event. No matter how long your session lasts

A 45 minute session was not only 45 minutes of my day. Do you know how long it took me & my husband to get a 7 year old & a 2 year old ready? Way too freaking long! I woke up before the kids, grabbed a shower, laid out clothes, packed bags, and all before I had any coffee. After the coffee kicked in was when we really started to get things rolling. Don’t forget- this was a 45 minute photo session, though it was about 2.5 hours away. We live in Central Pennsylvania & we planned to drive to Terrapin Nature Park in Maryland! Again- Totally worth it! 100% will do this again in the future! Just not anytime soon.

Planning starts very far in advance

You think I searched my closet & said, “Oh this is perfect, the kids have dresses that match this exact color pallet & Drew just got a new flannel for Christmas! It’s all coming together!” That has never happened. In my life. I went out weeks before out session, bought brand new outfits for everyone, and still wasn’t convinced that they would wear it on the day of our session. Don’t get me wrong, they looked GREAT! It was just another $100 that I ended up putting towards this session. Is it possible to not do that? Of course it is, but I’ve never had great self control & I just wanted these pictures to look perfect.

Snacks don’t always help

They. Don’t. Always. Help. Bribery doesn’t always help, lying and telling them that Santa knows what’s happening everyday DOES NOT FREAKING HELP. My 2 year old, god love her, wasn’t having any of it. Not a single bit! She wanted to play in the water, not follow direction. Duh, she’s 2! She wants to play and experience this new place in it’s fullest! What I should have done, was let her play at this new location and get it all out of her system before the pictures started. This would have taken more prep and (please see #1 again) I should have budgeted that time into our day.

The youngest leads the show

Go figure, eh? She lead the show, we had to go off of her commands practically. A tiny little war general. She was loud, and she cried- a lot. She was tired, and wouldn’t smile without a fight. But that’s okay. Because she is who she is and I could never ask for anything different. It was exhausting, but it was raw and it was her. Well, on her bad days. She’s defiant, and she’s strong willed, and I’m raising her so that she carried it with her. Getting through a photo session without a fight might be nice though!

It’s really really easy to get overwhelmed

You are not alone. Say it with me- You are not alone! I’m a photographer, I focus on Weddings & Portraits. I’m used to being overwhelmed by questions, timelines, kids, parents, families, and everything in between! Why is it so much different when it’s our own kids? It makes such a difference, and I honestly felt it that day. I was getting frustrated, upset, and just really down. I didn’t think that we could get a single good family picture, that everyone would look at me asking why I couldn’t control my kid, and that all of the other families there would be irritated at my screaming toddler. Once I just decided to let that go, it was… easier, to deal with everything. I decided that we would get what we would get, I wouldn’t be chasing a toddler around, begging, or pleading anymore. I would let everything just. Happen.

A huge relief was that I was working with Jade! Our photographer was great, she really has a knack for working with kids and calmed me a few times when I was so worried that we would never get “the shot”. She was a saving grace, and that is one of the important pieces of hiring a professional photographer. They will take care of the hard stuff, you just try to relax.

When to put your kids in their outfits

Well the answer is not right away if you’re driving two hours and your toddler has a problem with car sickness. Thankfully we saw that coming and just packed their dresses in our bags and put them in something comfortable until we got there. Then we changed them, re-brushed their hair, but fed them before we left the car! A big saving grace, here!

Tickles help… sometimes

We tickled, we spun, we laughed with them, we played games, but damn it if nothing worked for our toddler. In a few shot you can see her dad tickling her (don’t worry- she LOVES tickles, and asks to be tickled all the time). This only lasted for 3 seconds, and she really wasn’t into this idea, so we left it alone and just tried to make her smile in other ways. It kind of worked, a little bit. It won’t always though, and if your child really doesn’t like to be tickled, this is not the time or place to try it. While we may want to get the perfect shot, we also need to be respectful of our children, their bodies, and their thoughts. Tickles work for our family because of how much she loves them, but even here it wasn’t an option for long.

It’s exhausting

I slept like a baby when we got back! Trying to just let everything go was probably the easiest part of my day, because on the drive home they didn’t sleep a wink. At the session, there were so many tears that I almost joined them, and trying to ask my toddler for forgiveness when I was out of line was it’s own up hill battle. She came around though, no bribery needed!

I would do it all over again… in a year!

I absolutely would! Knowing everything that I felt in the moment, knowing how my toddler reacted the first time, and even if I expected it all to happen again- I would schedule another session! Maybe next year, though.

Check out a few of my favorites, and see if you can spot where Victoria was less than helpful. If you guessed every picture… you’d be right!

Photos by: Jade Nikkole Photography

Location: Terrapin Nature Park in Maryland (Terrapin Nature Park)

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