If you’ve ever had a “grumpy dad” at one of your photo sessions, you aren’t alone. These tips can help!

Here’s how it usually goes down: You arrive at your photo session, all pumped up and ready to rock. You’ve reviewed all your poses, you’ve got everyone’s names memorized, the light is gorgeous and up walk your clients. You greet them enthusiastically, and out of nowhere, it’s like a cloud has moved in. You can feel the tension. Mom smiles meekly, and the kids hesitate. And then you meet eyes with dad and you just know: he does NOT want to be there. And just like that, your energy is drained. And you haven’t even started! Grumpy dads can ruin a photo session, and that’s why it’s important to learn how to diffuse their negative emotions and win them over. These tips will help you do just that!

grumpy dads

Give them a Plan & Timeframe

Let’s face it. There are a thousand other things a dad would rather be doing than taking photos: watching the game, washing the car, heading to the gym, relaxing in the recliner, you name it. It’s doubtful that getting dressed up and prancing through tall grass in the golden light gets him quite as excited as it does you. So start off by letting dad know you have a plan.

When you begin your session, give dad an overview of what your time together will look like, how long it will last, and where the end is. That last part is important: let him know that there is an end, and that you know where that is. This could look like saying, “We’re going to start by playing some games over here in this field, then I’m going to take the kids aside for some shots while you take a break and relax. Next, we’ll walk down the path for a few more family shots and some shots of each of you with each of the kids. We’ll wrap it up with a couple quick shots of just mom and dad, and we’ll be done! We’re looking at being done in under an hour.”

Knowing that you have a plan for the session gives dad something to follow, so he can rest assured that he isn’t expected to spend his entire evening wandering through a field. If he knows where the end is, he can work towards it. This is why it’s a good idea throughout your session to remind dad frequently where you’re at in your time frame and where the end is. “You guys are doing great! We are about halfway done.” “Ok, last setup! Just five minutes and we’re done!”

Stick to It

One of the most important things to remember is that, once you have established a plan and a timeline, stick to it. When you say you’re going to be done, be done. This isn’t the time to get inspired by the light and carry on shooting for 20 more minutes. Nothing will upset a grumpy dad more than feeling like you haven’t respected his time or your word.

Sure, there are clients who we know well or who we know won’t mind taking an extra couple of shots when we feel inspired, but as a general rule, make it a habit to discipline yourself to get the shots that you planned for, and then let your clients go. When you build this sort of trust with your clients, you build relational equity with them and they walk away thinking “that wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be!” You don’t want them thinking “I thought she’d never stop!” So yes, that light might be perfect, and that idea that just came to you is a killer one, but if you’ve got a dad that isn’t totally on board, you’ll need to save it for your next client. Stick to the plan and earn their trust.

Engage Them THEIR Way

Dad’s will engage in their session best if you make sure that they can just be themselves. Be mindful of the ways that they love to interact, and make sure to incorporate that into your sessions! Let them play, let them have fun, give them something to DO! Sure, we all love a good snuggle fest for family photos, but be sure to let dad cut loose and have fun with his kids, too! Snuggles and softness may be a great representation of mom’s relationship with the family, but chances are, dad will enjoy the process and the photos more if he can get involved, play and rough house a little!

Dad’s really aren’t as big of a challenge once you know some ways to get (and keep!) them on board during your family sessions. A little understanding, communication and FUN can go a long way towards turning those grumpy dads into fun dads!