Family Pictures with a Sensory Ninja: What I Wish the Photographer Knew

We recently had our family pictures taken, which in and of itself is super stressful. Now throw in a sensory-seeking child that is overstimulated by new surroundings; a recipe for disaster, right?

Our session wasn’t fantastic; my ninja was a hot mess, super uncooperative, and as our oldest, setting the example of behavior for his younger brothers. The photographer, who was trying her best, quickly became overwhelmed and frustrated. Unfortunately, that started a domino effect making the situation more strained, less productive, and utterly miserable for everyone pretty quickly.

While it was by far one of the worst and saddest experiences I’ve had with a photographer, I also learned a few new things that will better prepare everyone for future sessions. Here are my top four must-dos for our next family session.

Moderate Expectations

  • When booking your appointment be sure to set the expectations with your photographer ahead of time. For example, I would have benefitted from letting my photographer know my “must have shots” so we could get those out of the way first while my ninja was fresh at the beginning.
  • Be sure to give the photographer a heads up about some of the challenges they might face while working with your family. Have helpful suggestions and tricks for them to be more successful. For example, our ninja has a really hard time standing still for a period of time longer than a minute. He is a mover. I might suggest having her pose us snap as many as she can and then have him step out for a break and take a different grouping picture. I would also set an expectation with my ninja (who is old enough to understand) that when his “break” is done, it’s done and he needs to be ready to step back in when he is asked.

Set a Tone

  • Make it FUN! Our session this past year was anything but fun. When I get the courage to try again, you better believe that will be our theme! Tough lesson, but I learned pictures should be about capturing your family and what it looks like right now, and not the commercial images I thought I needed. More fun and play means less opportunity for melt downs.

Below is one of the outtakes from our session. Clearly, this is a picture of distress. I’m trying to keep my husband calm, all the boys wanted to hold sticks, and our trusty ninja dog really wanted her ninja to play. Is it a hallmark shot? No. Guess what?! It’s one of my favorites. Why do I love it? Because this very candid photo reminded me that at this time in our lives, we were reading “Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone.” Those sticks are their wands, and they all believe in magic! That is what this picture is. Magic. It holds a memory of a time in our life when anything was possible to them. Now that is kind of awesome.

Family Picture Outtake | Sensory Ninja


  • If your ninja is like mine, new locations can put him on edge and trigger some major ridged behaviors. A solution, let your ninja (safely) explore their new surroundings.
  • When booking with your photographer let them know that you will be letting your child explore and invite them to use that time to work some creative magic and get some fun candid shots of your ninja and family discovering their environment. As a photography hobbyist myself I’m excited by how fun, unique, and creative a session like this could be.


  • Now I’m not at all suggesting just sitting back and letting anything and everything go. But, next time I will defiantly let the photographer do all the talking and directing.

Seriously, the more frustrated we adults became, the less the kids wanted to participate. Honestly, I don’t blame them. Who wants to be around grumpy grownups barking orders at them? While I will not let my children be disrespectful or do anything that will cause harm, I will, however, set an example of looking where I need to and smiling when I’m asked -instead of barking at them to look, hold still, and smile, etc. 

Each ninja is a unique individual with their very own set of challenges. For some kiddos taking a picture is not what they would choose to do. Rember to give grace. For your ninja, the photographer, and especially yourself. For your upcoming session, try to set realistic expectations, keep the tone light and fun, be ready to explore and have an adventure, and RELAX. It feels amazing to take a break and not be the one to call all the shots, so give that job to the photographer for an hour.

I would love to hear if these tips worked for your family or if you have additional suggestions.