Apples and Cinema – Your Pittsburgh Family Photographers – Family Portrait Session Tips

Have your holiday family photos coming up? Don’t know what to wear? Don’t know when to go? Along with being the writer of Mommy Miracles, I’m also a full time photographer for one of my own small businesses, Apples and Cinema.


What do we wear? It’s tempting to go with LOUD, colorful prints and patterns when picking outfits for fun family photos, but we promise, your family is already as beautiful and colorful as it is, so we suggest muted colors so that your personalities and beautiful faces pop!


When and Where should we go? We usually pick locations that are going to be less crowded, over ones that would be maybe more picturesque. Or, we pick times that we know aren’t going to be as crowded at popular places. Less crowded locations make the session more relaxed for families, especially if the kids aren’t cooperating, and less distracting for the kiddos. We like to leave the location entirely up to your taste, and convenience, but we’ll weigh in if you want suggestions! And as far as the time of day planned, we should absolutely pick the time that you find your kids to be in the best moods.


How do we make our kids cooperate? Any parent knows, that even though we plan sessions around naps, make sure the little ones are well fed, and pick a place that’s fun for everyone


Sometimes even when we pick the best of times for our kiddos, we’re still not catching the best moods. So, we now offer prizes from the prize bags for good behavior. We’ll tell the kiddos that if they listen to mom and dad throughout the session, mom and dad get to decide at the end whether they can pick a prize from our prize bag! It’s usually simple things like costume jewelry, or puzzles, or stickers, or whatever we may think your kiddos are into! And please, know that we have little ones of our own, and totally understand when kids just aren’t into it, so no need at all to stress. If we see the kids just don’t wanna pose, we’ll roll with it and turn the session more into photojournalism and try to catch the action as it happens!


Keep everybody involved. After we have the family photo of the whole group, we try to mix and match combinations, by taking pictures of just the kids, just the sisters, just the parents, just a parents with the kids, etc…we try to keep everyone involved the whole time. So, when Family sessions are one of our favorite things to do. We love playing with the kiddos, and trying to make the family portrait experience into a fun family outing, rather than a forced portrait session. Often parents ask us for tips and tricks on making the session as fruitful as possible, and the kiddos as cooperative as possible, so we figured we’d blog about it!


As silly as it may seem, we take this time to open up conversation between family members to get some candid reactions, smiles, and cuddles. We may ask questions like “He dad, can you tell mom why she’s such an awesome mom?” Or “Hey big sis, tell your little bro about the funniest cartoon tid bit you watched this week!”


Like what I have to say about this and want to schedule a session with me? Awesome! Just go here! 

Two years in the making, I’m still disciplining my toddlers, and loving it, too

I guess it all started with the terrible twos. Tantrums, fits, pouting, but nothing a mom can’t handle with the right guidance or tools, and a bit of research to find out what’s normal and what’s not; at least that is what’s been helping me with disciplining my own toddlers. And every day, it’s a new chapter with a new situation that needs a little tender loving care or just some straight up tough love. GcoYOV

And with two quite active toddlers, hungry to explore the world, I have needed quite some guidance myself in disciplining my toddlers. Here are a few pointers that usually stick with me on a day to day basis:

  1. I remember reading in Parenting magazine, that the best way to avoid a testy toddler situation is to prepare them for what’s coming their way. For example, before walking into church, explain to them what they’re going to be doing in there, and how they’re expected to behave. Granted, my toddlers always forget about ten minutes into the service,but at least they’re not surprised and totally confused when I put them in time out for trying to play skip hop on the church benches.
  2. Another good way to help them adapt to a situation and figure out the best way to behave is to just let them experience it, a local family psychologist suggested. He found that micromanaging your toddler leaves them confused and indecisive on what the right behavior is for a given situation when you aren’t there. He always said to give them a chance,  and let them learn. He also recommended continuing with situations even if your toddler continuously goes crazy and misbehaves. He said that toddlers need to learn that you are in control, and throwing a tantrum is not going to get them out of a long grocery shopping trip, or out of a Christmas mass service.
  3. According to a recent issue of Web MD Baby, the best way to handle a toddler’s temperament is to not blame it so much on yourself. Some kids are just born super active, and that is just the way they are going to be, even if you’re  number up prime grade toddler trainer. And then some kids, are born  with a quiet personality who like to just sit and observe. Nothing you can do about it. And with that knowledge, you might be equipped with a little more peace of mind to focus on the things that you can indeed control.

  4. When your child misbehaves, make it a point to explain to them what they are doing wrong. When Toddler Boy acted like a terror at Summer Camp this week, my husband and I sat him down and talked to him about what he did wrong, what he should have done, and why he was being punished and for how long. This changed his behavior for the nest day at Summer camp by a complete 180.
  5. I watched with amazement a dad at church with his own toddlers. They were sitting a few pews ahead of us a couple weeks ago. As my kids went absolutely insane in my pew because mass was conflicting with their nap schedule, his two toddlers sat absolutely still and facing forward, listening to the priest. And any time his toddlers dared to stir or turn around to check out the mayhem my kids were causing, he quickly took control and reprimanded them, reminding them to focus. I guess what I learned from that is the importance of consistency and patience. Because to be honest with you, sometime I just give up and leave the battle. So it was refreshing to see that it is totally possible to keep your cool and stay in control.

Now this isn’t to say at all that with these pointers, my toddlers are now saints. Because anyone who knows me and my kids know our crazy dynamics. My toddlers are who they are, and I adore that. But it’s always nice to have these bread and butter words of wisdom to help me discipline my toddlers in situations that I can indeed improve by working on their behaviors!

Sticker Charts Really Work

With Christmas, Epiphany, and Valentine’s day out of the way, I was running out of excuses to buy toys for Toddler Boy. There just weren’t any reasons to lay down money on big toys until at least Easter, and even that’s not a reason for most parents. I was also still struggling with getting him to clean things up, brushing his own teeth, and getting dressed by himself. That’s when I decided to start the sticker chart.

And it works! Toddler Boy has been wanting as Pop Up Pals Amusement Park for about a month now, which is a pretty expensive toy, and so I figured that a month of sticker earning would be a good measure for him to earn it. So we used a ruler, markers, and construction paper to make the sticker chart, and as we made it, I explained to him that every time he does something good, he gets to put a sticker on the chart, and every time he does something bad, I take one away. I also explained that once he earns enough sticker to fill up one row, he gets to go to the toy store and choose a toy.

Right after we made the sticker chart, we took a trip to the store and picked out special stickers! Toddler Boy picked out some Spongebob stickers for himself (The were no Blue’s Clues), and he picked out some Hello Kitty stickers for Baby Girl.
This system also works as a teaching tool of teaching a young toddler the concept of working for what he wants. He helps cleans his room to earn stickers, which earn him a toy. Later on this transcends into the allowance system, which later in life hopefully helps to develop good working skills. Hopefully!

Toddler Boy loves it, too. When I tell him he’ll get a sticker if he puts on his whole outfit in the morning, he hurries up and gets dressed, and is so proud of himself thereafter. If he knows he’s gonna lose a sticker for acting up in church, it encourages him to cool down. Of course, Toddler Boy is only human, so sometimes, he just isn’t having it and he indeed loses a sticker. And when we come home, I explain to him that because he didn’t cooperate in church, I am taking off a sticker. He gets upset about it, but hopefully he will learn the ends to the mean, and his behavior will improve.

I sometimes use this as a two-step method. If he doesn’t stop jumping on the bed after I’ve told him repeatedly to stop, I’ll put him in the corner. If he still acts up, he also loses a sticker. And to him, that is the end of the world.

The cleaning up routine has improved 100 percent since starting the sticker chart. I still have to tell him a couple times to clean certain things and walk him through different steps of the clean up process (For example, Leggos go in the red bin, and blocks go in the green bin, etc.), but he is getting better every day because of it, and definitely learning organization. And just this weekend, he earned enough stickers to get the toy he wanted! It took about a month because he would earn some and then lose them all in the same day (A looooong day).

We made a sticker chart for Baby Girl too, just for fun, but she still doesn’t quit get it yet (She’s not yet two). And, even though it’s fun to make the sticker chart together, I’ve attached a JPEG of a sticker chart I made quickly that you can use!