The Making of A Milestone Session

I recently received an inquiry from a nervous Mama who wanted to schedule a milestone session for her 1 year old, but was afraid that it wouldn’t go well because their son was very shy and *clingy to Mom* (boy do I remember those days!) Her call made me think of 2 different 1st year Milestone sessions I did back in the Spring of this year. TWO 1st birthday studio sessions scheduled on the SAME DAY. The first session was TWIN girls and the second was a little girl and her big sister (who was only 3). For that session, Mama was nervous because the older sister was known for being shy and they had trouble with her sitting for photos in the past.

Well, I sure had my work cut out for me that day!! And that’s ok!

First year photos are hard. Important, but hard. In fact, photos with children between the ages of 1-4 can be hit or miss. I am not a psychologist, so I cannot begin to tell you about the mental state of young children, but I can tell you from personal photography experience, even the most outgoing, friendliest 1 year old can lose it during a photo shoot. LOSE. IT.

Side note: Did you know that not all babies want to dive head first into a birthday cake?! It’s true. Some babies hate their smash cakes. Sometimes I have to hide fruit and goldfish inside a cake to make the baby even touch it. True story!

Anyway, back to the story…

I wanted to write this blog post to tell/show you what happens in my studio when you schedule a 1st year Milestone session… and it doesn’t go as planned. The first session with the twin girls started off well, but Sister E quickly developed performance anxiety and would not let go of mom and dad. Sister G?! She was having the time of her life! We got plenty of photos of her, so many that Mom jokingly said “if we can’t get photos of E, I’ll just switch dresses on G and tell E that’s her when she grows up!” (gotta love identical twins!)

The session ended with us only getting one good shot of both girls together, and no photos of Sister E. So what did we do? I ended the session about 20 mins in, when I knew it was not going to turn around, and we rescheduled for another day and a different time. And you know what, it worked! Sister E was still a little shy, but we got some great shots and Mom & Dad were thrilled (and we never had to pass off one twin as the other!)

The 2nd session did not go well either. Baby J knew immediately that she did not want to let go of Mom, so I started off taking some pictures of her big sister, to show her that it was fun and get her excited!

Sweet J was still not having it, and personally, I do not think it’s worth it to get little ones so worked up over photos that they are bawling their eyes out. Mom didn’t think that rescheduling would make a difference, so we improvised! We gave J a little time to calm down, then we sat mom in a chair, had her lean back as far as she could, and I took as many close up shots of the star as I could. She was plenty happy when she was with her mom, she just didn’t want to sit alone!

Mom was upset when she left and thought that we didn’t get any good shots. But she was pleasantly surprised when I delivered her gallery, and ended up buying them all!

Was it exactly what she had pictured in her mind for her daughter’s 1st birthday photos? No, but once you take a look at that beautiful face, it doesn’t really matter. And you know what, there’s always next year (just look at how well her big sister did!)

So for anyone who is looking to book a 1st year Milestone session, here is my advice—

1) Book it. One way or another, we will make it work and you do NOT want to miss out on this special time in your child’s life.

2) Schedule the session for a time you know your child is at their best. Right after breakfast or right after nap. Whenever they are usually content!

3) Keep your expectations low. Even your “she always smiles when I take her photo!” child will be anxious when they come to the studio. I am new to them, my home is new to them. We will take a little time to warm up, but understand that if your child does not want to “perform”, we may need to reschedule or improvise!

4) Keep the session simple. No child wants to change 4 times in 1 hour and smile about it! I recommend 1-2 outfits with 1-2 backdrops, max. And don’t bring a large audience. I know it’s fun, but children get overwhelmed when something feels like a big deal, and honestly, they don’t know where to look.

5) Be happy with what we get. The whole point of Milestone sessions is to capture a specific time in your child’s life. If they are shy and don’t like to smile, that’s okay, let’s capture that. If they are crazy and love to spin around, let’s capture that. If they like to lay down with their favorite blanky and suck their thumb, let’s capture that. I will do my best cat/dog/cow/monkey/Old MacDonald/Wheels On the Bus/sneezing impressions to get your little one to look directly at the camera and smile their best smile, but it doesn’t always happen, and that’s ok!

If you have any other questions about Milestone Sessions, or would like to book one indoors or outside, please contact me at I would love to work with you and your little one(s)!

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