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Say Cheese! How (and Where) to Have a Fabulous Family Photo Session in Chicago's Western Suburbs

Vibrant colors coupled with cooler temperatures make fall the most popular season for family portraits in the Chicago area. But when you have young kids, it’s easy to stress about everything that could go wrong during your family photo session – toddler meltdowns, crabby babies, uncooperative kiddos… to name a few.

Western suburbs photographers (and moms) Lauren Enright Photography, Cheryl Lynn Milan of Cheryllynn Photography and Leslie Campins of Tiny Bubbles Photography are here to help. Use their pro tips to ensure a great photo session and check out their top spots for gorgeous family photos in the western suburbs.

7 Tips for a Fabulous Family Photo Session

1. Stick to your routine.

For a smooth session with a professional photographer, it’s important for kids, especially young ones, to stay on their normal schedule, says Milan. That means getting a good night’s sleep, eating regular meals, bringing snacks and scheduling the session around naps, if possible.

2. Make it exciting.

For younger kids, Enright suggests talking up the session to build anticipation. Focus on the fun stuff, like the whole family heading to a park for a special morning out. Professional photographers also have a few tricks to keep kids happy and the energy up during the session. They’ll use bubbles, props and funny faces to help keep little ones engaged.

3. Reward your kids.

According to Campins, rewards always work better than threats. Give kids who are old enough to understand an incentive to behave during the photo session – the promise of a post-shoot ice cream trip typically does the trick.

4. Don’t force kids to pose or smile.

Family photographers know how to coax smiles out of their littlest subjects. When parents get involved – even with the best of intentions – it can sometimes cause more stress than necessary. Give the photographer space to do her job and listen to instructions. Some of the best photos happen when kids are allowed to interact with each other and the environment.

5. Don’t worry about the perfect setting.

Rain? No problem. The park unavailable? Your home is a great option if your preferred locations aren’t possible. Kids are often most comfortable in an environment they’re familiar with, and according to Enright, lifestyle photography in the home can produce great shots, like the family cuddling together in bed or the kids playing in the backyard.

6. Wear comfortable clothing.

Keep it casual and avoid dressing babies and young children in overly fussy clothing that will cause them discomfort. Avoid awkward family photos by ditching the matching outfits. Instead, stick to a neutral color palette with pops of one or two bright colors, like a scarf for mom and sweater for baby.

7. Relax and be yourselves.

If you’re stressing about the session, your kids will likely pick up on that energy. Relax and have fun, and don’t worry about the camera. Professional photographers who are used to working with kids and families – like Enright, Milan and Campins – have plenty of experience and will make sure your session produces family photos you’ll want to frame and share.

Looking for the perfect backdrop for your family photos? There are plenty of spots in the western suburbs of Chicago where fall is on full display. Here are the photographers’ picks:

Cheryllynn Photography: The Des Plaines River and the little nooks and crannies around Riverside are great spots for family shoots. Lake Katherine in Palos Heights is also a great spot, as well as the park behind North Riverside Village Hall, which has a small pond, rock area, weeping willows and bridge. Waterfall Glen in Darien is my favorite. It’s spectacular!

Lauren Enright Photography: My favorite spots for fall photos are Fullersburg Woods in Oak Brook, Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook and Patriots Park in Downers Grove. Katherine Legge Memorial Park in Hinsdale is also great, but keep in mind that dogs are allowed off leash until 9 a.m., and there is an active Frisbee golf league. Graue Mill is usually on my list, but it’s closed for construction this season.

Tiny Bubbles Photography: There are a couple of popular places in the western suburbs that are well known, like Cantigny Park in Wheaton and the Naperville Riverwalk. One of my favorite hidden gems is the Riverview Farmstead Preserve in Naperville.

Fall photo sessions, including mini-sessions (quick sessions perfect for little ones with short attention spans), fill up fast, so be sure to check out Lauren Enright Photography, Tiny Bubbles Photography and Cherllynn Photography. Special thanks to the photographers for offering their expert tips and advice!

*Above photo courtesy Lauren Enright Photography.

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