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Tricks up Your Sleeve When Photographing Kids

If you can predictably define kids in one way, it would be that they are always unpredictable! Am I right? This really proves to be true when there is a camera around. At a recent photo shoot of my family, my youngest boy who is sweet, laid back kid cried the entire time, and my feisty daughter showed up with a movie star smile. 

Generally, my own three young kids are my hardest, most stubborn subjects to photograph. When I would try to take their pictures, my blood pressure would quickly rise the moment they started acting out. I started to develop certain tricks to get them to cooperate during photos. When I practiced these tricks during other photo shoots, I realized I had something special! 

Photographing children does not have to be stressful. Your blood pressure does not have to rise, and you do not have to sweat. Knowing the different ‘types’ of kids out there can help you understand why you need to prepare. The different types of kids you can come across include the following:

  • “The Runners”– kids who just will not sit still for even a moment
  • “The Non-participators” – kids who look angry or won’t look up
  • “The Stinkers” – kids that make silly faces in order to ruin the pictures
  •  “The Stage 5 Clingers”– kids who are terrified of the photographer and only want their mommy

If you stay calm, remain patient, and follow these three super natural and easy tricks, it can be fun for everyone involved!

1) Incorporate Fun and Distracting Props

Adding ‘props’ to your photo shoots can be an easy and great way to get ‘The  Runners’ and all other kid types to sit down and cooperate. When you can make your prop a distraction, it will be a win-win for all. Here are some easy distraction/prop ideas that can be your ace in the hole!

Food or Candy

Years ago, I had a 2 year old, who was a “Non-participator”, and a 3 year old, who was a “Runner”.    I wanted to try a Valentine’s day photo shoot, but I knew it was a lost cause. UNTIL, I had an idea to add in some heart-shaped lollipops. 

#Success! They had fun, and I got cute pictures. We all won! Lollipops are always great ways to add to your pictures AND distract your subjects! I always keep a few in my camera bag JUST IN CASE!

Cookies or cake can also double as distraction-props, especially around the holidays. Why do you think all the first birthday smash cake pictures are such a hit?

Pets and Toys

If possible, incorporating a child’s favorite pet into a photograph can be a great way to get children excited about the photo shoot. Whether it is a dog or a (YIKES!) snake, it will be a fun addition!

If the child has a cute favorite toy, you can try to incorporate that into the photo, also!

Take a look at my short video tutorial on this!


If you have a “Stage 5 Clinger” on your hands, don’t fret. If it seems impossible to pry them away from a parent, then don’t force it! Let Mom or Dad be in the background of the photo. It gives the parents a chance to be included and highlights the love between them!

2) “Get the Silly out”

Before taking any pictures, first let the kids ‘get their sillies out’. This has two purposes. First, when most kids see a camera, they have this instinctive urge to make a funny face. This lets them get it out of their system (especially for “The Stinkers”). More importantly, it makes everyone feel more comfortable and relaxed, and starts to freshen up those natural smiles. 

I always let children take a couple funny pictures, prior to the real ones.  I haven’t met one kid who doesn’t like this, and they are always fun pictures to laugh at later!

If there is more than one kid, I always encourage them to look at each other’s silly faces. It helps everyone start to have fun and you can usually capture some genuine laughs like in the picture below. 

3) “Prizes” in your Back Pocket

Go ahead and judge away. I will always keep a bribe back-up in my camera bag. I wrap a few small toys and use them as “encouragement” (aka bribes), when the child is a “Non-Participator”, an “I-Want-My-Mommy” or a “Stinker” type. 

A solid dollar store bribe turned these:

Into this:

You can even try wrapping a few small gifts. It is a solid fact that 99.9% of kids will do anything to find out what is in the wrapped present. I keep this reserved ONLY for my hardest profile cases.

There You Have It

“The Runners” will sit still – “The Stinkers” will laugh, “The Non-Participators” will cooperate, and “The Stage 5 Clingers” will start to relax. It is as simple as staying calm and throwing a couple treats in your camera bag.

Most importantly, remember, smiles are not necessary to have a great picture. Capturing natural smiles, authentic interactions, and silly moments can make for the best memories. 

What tricks do you have up your sleeve? I’d love for you to tell me in the comment section below!

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Wednesday 11th of December 2019

I love all these tips. One thing I've found helpful for some kids is to talk to them and let them know what you are doing and what to expect next. Don't just talk to the parents and then expect the kids to listen and cooperate. Some kids need to know what is going on. :)


Wednesday 11th of December 2019

Great point! I totally agree! Thank you so much!

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