Photographers are pretty polarized on the use of props. While I don't typically photograph families using props, when holding sessions outside their home, I advise my clients to bring certain things with them. Meaningful items can encourage natural interaction and put adults and children at ease. Such objects achieve a dual task of making sessions more pleasant for the little ones and helping me capture a variety of images (unique expressions and detail shots). Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering props for your family session.
1. Children are big collectors of natural artifacts. If they find great sticks, flowers, or shells on your way to the session, let them have it. This is also a great way to add texture and visual interest to images and provide detail shots of little hands and feet.
2. Objects that move, such as pull toys and kites can really change the dynamics of a session. Movement also helps make more emotive images. Toys help younger children stay focused and cooperative. Instead of directing children, I try to ask them to direct their toy, which typically elicits more interest and cooperation.
3. I also like including meaningful items in my client's images, as long as they are placed in a natural context. This homemade quilt used as a picnic blanket is a perfect example. It works so well, unlike, for example, an ultrasound image placed in grass or on driftwood. Context is everything!
4. When in doubt, bring food, bubbles, or books. I have yet to see a child disappointed by bubbles. Reading a book to your child could be a comfortable first thing to do if you are camera shy because this is what you do around one hundred times a day. And colorful food looks great in little hands and smeared over faces.
Finally, If you forget to bring anything, fear not, I often bring tutus and bubbles to full family sessions.