How to Photograph Families with Young Children

How to Photograph Families with Young Children

It can be quite challenging to do family portrait sessions. 

Not only do you need to worry about the technical aspects of the session, but you also have to worry about getting the kids to cooperate with you! 

Yet family sessions can be a lot of fun when you come prepared. Hint – think like a kid! 

Choose the Right Time for the Session

Betsy Finchum (aka our AMAZING Head of Operations) & her family

When you’re planning the session, ask the parents if there is a specific time that works best for the children.

Many children under the age of five still take naps or need snack breaks. When you work on the child's schedule it helps them from quickly getting bored or tired.

Asking the parents about the child's schedule can also help you to choose the best location for the session. 

For example, if the family asks to have their session at 2 pm because their two-year-old feels rested and happy at this hour, then choose a nice tree-filled park or a shady location to help with the harsh afternoon sunlight.

Don't Say “No”

Children hear the word “no” a thousand times a day. Here's why it's best to avoid that word during your session.

Hearing the word ‘no' once too often makes a child have a meltdown. This stops your whole session right then and there.

If the child isn't taking direction from you, ask the parent to redirect the child's attention instead of telling the child ‘no.'  

Often a small distraction is enough to get the little folks happy and willing to work with you again. 

My next tip goes a long way in keeping a child happy during your portrait session.

Let Them Have Fun – Even If They Get Dirty

Young children love to explore, learn, observe, and above everything else, play.

Allow them to explore their surroundings. If they get a little dirty it's okay, because you'll capture them being themselves. And also lets you catch some great candid shots.  

If the kids have fun, they'll be eager to have their photos taken again in the future!

Ask the parents to bring extra clothing and wet wipes for their children. Just in case of small mishaps like juice spills on their shirts or a dirty face. 

Don't Be Afraid To Play and Act Goofy

Sometimes you have to pull out all the stops to get the children to cooperate with you. 

There have been countless times when I had to act completely crazy to coax smiles. and turn the child's attention towards the camera.

Dancing, making silly faces, and loud noises helps the little ones to loosen up, play along, and creates real smiles. Peek-a-boo games and singing the child's favorite songs also helps to get them comfortable in front of the camera.

Young children laugh at the silliest things.

The smaller ones laugh at getting gently bonked on the head by a soft toy, puppets, or peek-a-boo. Older children love jokes – so be sure to have a few age-appropriate ones memorized. 

As long as you’re having fun, your clients will have fun too.  Your clients will notice the effort you've put into becoming friends with their children. This is a sure way to build a long term relationship with your client and get repeat business from them. 

Sometimes Rescheduling Your Session is the Best Option

Keep in mind that sometimes young children aren’t in the mood to pose for portraits.

Despite your best efforts to engage them, there will be times that a child will want nothing to do with you. They just want to go home to their comfortable surroundings! 

Before resorting to rescheduling though, attempt to get on their level and see if you can build some rapport with the child.

Sometimes it just takes a little bit of time to get them to open up and play.

However, if you’ve tried everything, reschedule the session for another day and time if possible.

For example, if the session cut into a 2-year-old’s nap time they may not be in the mood for photos. Reschedule for morning and see if that works out better.

Sometimes all it takes for a great session is figuring out the right time for the child.

Student Feature Kaci Groesbeck

In Conclusion

Photographing families with young children doesn’t have to be hard.

Use these tips the next time you schedule a family session. They'll help you get the best possible smiles out of the children and give your clients the best portrait experience.

Bonus Tip:

One of the secrets to photographing children is shooting with a high enough shutter speed to freeze them in motion.

Would you like to learn more about using shutter speed creatively? Then join me for a free camera training session!

Just click the button below to register – see you soon.

10 thoughts on “How to Photograph Families with Young Children”

  1. This was very helpful. I just a photo session with my very active nephew and got some amazing shots because I let him be him, VERY ACTIVE.

  2. You didn’t mention bribery!!!! 🙂 – works like a charm with my twin 3 yr old grandkids – little boy will even kiss his sister for a candy ! —— a special ” grandparent prerogative” !!!

  3. Awesome tips! Sometimes I invite the little ones to take the picture with me. They love hearing the fast shutter and are more likely to want to be in the next shot because they can see what you are seen. We get silly shots and everyone laughs. It works every time!

  4. Being a Grandfather truly helps with the little ones. I’m right at home making silly faces, noises, or whatever to get at the kids level and have fun. Yes, for me that is fun!!

    1. David Molnar - Your Photography Mentor

      That’s great Gary! It sounds like you make it such fun for them! That’s fantastic. 🙂

  5. So, I have a family session coming up the day after Thanksgiving. I had to find out how old the children in these three families (altogether) are, and I was hoping they’d be little ones because I’m a pro with children eight and under (in my opinion – and because I’m their mom). Well, these “kids” are 8 and older, all the way to 17. Three girls in one family, three boys in the second family, and grandparents in the third family. They want to wear their sports gear – and also flaunt their favorite teams – one set for Auburn, one set for Alabama. I just lost! I am NOT a football fan, but I know there’s contention and I can make something show up in the pictures for the rivalry. However, I want to have a good time with this and have the families have a good time, too. Any suggestions?

    1. David Molnar - Your Photography Mentor

      Hi Judith! That sounds like such fun! I would just try to not stress and let it happen as naturally as possible. The best photos often come from the clients being themselves and just having fun. You will probably be surprised what great things will naturally happen. 🙂 I’m sure you’re going to rock it!

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