Welcome! If you have clicked over from my post Professional Photographers’ Secrets For Amazing Family Pictures, you are in the right place! This is the third post in the four-part series that will teach you all the posing tips and tricks you need to get great family pictures! (To see all four posts, click here).
Getting family pictures can be very stressful. Maybe you’ve paid a lot of money to have these pictures taken. Or maybe you’re the photographer taking the pictures, and you feel the pressure to get great pictures that the mom will love. (Because let’s face it–the Dad has most likely been dragged along against his will 🙂 But when there are kids involved, you never know what is going to happen.
It can be challenging to get kids to stay in one place, look at the camera, and smile. As a Certified Professional Photographer, I have learned some tricks that are super helpful when it comes to getting great pictures of kids. Even if they are less than cooperative 🙂
Tips for Getting Kids to Cooperate for Pictures
In my experience, bribes don’t work. Our first inclination is to tell the kids they’ll get something wonderful if they behave and “smile pretty.” However, young kids forget about the bribe quickly, or they never really cared about it in the first place. When a typical photo shoots lasts for an hour, it’s simply unreasonable to expect a child to hold the motivation of a reward in their mind for that long. Even twenty minutes is too long. Try some of the following suggestions instead!
1. The fake laugh trick. A fun way to get natural smiles is to have everyone (or just mom and dad) make monkey noises, or do a loud, low fake laugh. Those fake laughs often turn into real laughs, and then you can get great pictures with genuine smiles. (You’ll see that not every child was buying it in the picture below, but most of the dads look happy, and sometimes it’s even harder to get a natural smile out of them than the kids!)
2. Let the child hold a favorite toy. It’s a great idea to bring a small toy for a child to hold or play with during the shoot. This often keeps them occupied and more focused than if they don’t have anything in their hands. It’s a small sacrifice to have a little toy in a picture when it means that your child will stay in one place and be happy!
3. Bring a small chair for the child to sit in. Chairs are great for containing children! Yes, they will often get out of them, but if you can steal a few shots while they are stationary, it’s worth it! You can also tell them that it is a special chair (and really play it up) and that it’s their turn to sit in the special chair.
4. The “Bug in the Camera” trick. When kids won’t look at the camera, I always ask them, “Is there a bug in my camera?” They look right into the lens, every time. Then I can get great close-up shots. If they say there is no bug (which obviously, there isn’t), I ask them if they are sure so they will keep looking and I can keep shooting!
5. (For parents trying to help) Don’t divert your child’s focus. A big issue is when parents stand behind me and try to make silly noises, and otherwise get their kids to smile. The problem is, they aren’t standing directly behind me. They’re standing a little off to the side. This means that the children will look at their parents and not at the camera. Having the kids look to the side is not the goal! If you are going to try to engage your children, stand DIRECTLY behind the photographer. Jump up and down so you can be seen above the photographer’s head if you have to.
6. Let kids take some ownership and make some decisions. If I see that a child isn’t engaged and doesn’t really want to be there, I will ask them to help with the shoot. I’ll say things like, “Hey, do you think we should take pictures by that tree, or that other tree over there?” Or, “Should we take this picture standing up or sitting down?” “Would you like to stand by your mom, or your dad?”
During one shoot, an autistic boy was expressing displeasure at where I was placing him in relation to the rest of his family. So I said, “Hey, why don’t you arrange your family?” He happily told everyone where to stand and placed himself where he wanted to be. There’s no harm in taking extra shots like this, and some of them may just turn out to be the best ones of the shoot!
Stay tuned for post number four where I give you tips for taking your own family pictures. (As a professional photographer, I do urge you to pony up the dough and hire a really good photographer every two or three years. But in between, I know that most people will end up taking their own pictures).
Don’t miss any posts in the series! Click here to see them all!
Brendan Shelton says
I love the idea of bringing my son’s favorite toy for him to hold while we take family pictures. The last time we had a family photoshoot he was acting out and we couldn’t calm him down long enough to take a good photo. I’ll use some of your tips this time and try a photographer that has a lot of experience with kids.
Melissa Howell says
Good luck! I hope this time your photo shoot goes much better!