We have a mini session for fall family photos scheduled for this weekend, and I'm curious to know if any of you have any tips or (small) prop ideas. We'll likely be using these photos for our Christmas cards.

Last year, my sis took our pics so the kids were comfortable and it was very laid back. She let me check the viewfinder as she took photos and I would tell her what I liked/didn't like.

This year, we are going back to using a professional photographer. I used this lady 2 years ago and her style is more journalistic. She doesn't set up the shoot (at a park) in any particular way, and doesn't really provide props. I'm okay with no props but at the same time, think they might be useful in getting the kids (1 and 3) to cooperate, hehe.

I had asked her last time to give us a bit more direction since DH and I both feel kind of awkward in front of the camera. She did, to a degree, but most of her shots were just candid (walking around the park, LO holding a stick and smiling, looking at the nearby horse stables). They did turn out nice but I also would like some more portrait type family shots. Towards the end of the session, she laid out a blanket for us and we took some more staged-looking photos, but I didn't end up purchasing those.....

Should I kindly ask her again from the start to give us some direction? Should I bring some examples of what I like (on my phone)?

When you're on a family-shoot, do you just smile and pretend you're doing things as you naturally would around the park, lol?? I just feel so self conscious around cameras as it is! I would rather be told "sit/stand this way and look here!"

Any info/tips appreciated. Thanks!