Ideas for Capturing the Best Photos of Kids

Over the past year the majority of my photography clients have been parents with kids. Kids grow so fast and change so quickly that we want to capture every stage on their way to adulthood. But photographing kids is different than photographing adults. Kids won’t usually follow instructions on how to “pose” for a picture. They often have their own agenda and they’d much rather be having fun than sitting still and smiling. So how do we get images of our little ones that we will cherish forever?

Here are a few tips for parents to help your photographer get the best images possible. Most of these ideas have come from my experience photographing kids so far…

Don’t stress and have fun.

I know this is easier said than done, but the more relaxed everyone stays, the better your pictures will look. If your child refuses to smile, look at the camera or sit still, that’s perfectly normal. In fact, that’s what I would expect a young child to do. Most of us want the picture where everyone, including the 2 year old is looking at the camera and smiling, but is that reality? Not typically. We may get that shot or we may not. As long as we keep our expectations in check, we can enjoy the process and have pictures that will capture our child’s personality.

Not looking at the camera and not smiling, but still beautiful

If you’re having fun, most likely your child will have fun, too. You can help keep the session fun by tickling your child, giving them a piggyback ride, telling them a secret, or playing follow the leader or another game with them. All of these activities can make great candid shots.



Let them lead.

If your child wants to wander off and explore the area, let them! Not alone, of course. Let your photographer follow them and get some great candid shots of your child being a kid! Sometimes the best expressions come when a photographer has a few minutes alone with a child. When kids (or anyone for that matter) aren’t thinking about other people who might be watching them get their picture taken, they often slow down and give very honest, open expressions.


Smile as much as possible.

As the parent of a two year old myself, I know how difficult it can be to restrain yourself when your child is not behaving the way you want him to, especially when you’re paying to have his pictures taken and when you multiply that by two, three or more children it can be that much more difficult. But the best thing you can do as a parent when you’re being photographed with your child is this:

  1. relax
  2. smile and
  3. enjoy the time you’re spending with your child.

It’s such a shame when I’m going through pictures from a session and I see one or two images where ALL of the kids were actually looking at the camera with halfway decent expressions on their faces but one or both of the parents weren’t looking at me or look upset or frazzled. It’s best to let the photographer direct your child if needed so you can stay (and look) calm, cool and collected.

Bring snacks, books and toys.

This is something very practical that every parent can do with just a little preparation the night before the shoot. Sometimes kids just need a break during the session. If you’ve brought a snack, bring it out when you sense your child needs a change of focus. Try to choose snacks that aren’t crumbly and won’t stick to their teeth. Fruit, yellow string cheese, or Rice Krispy treats are good choices. As the photographer, I may keep shooting during part of the snack break, but it will help take your child’s mind off “performing” for the camera.

I often ask my clients to bring one or two of their child’s favorite books. Having a parent read the child a book can help the child calm down and can make for some cute, cuddly pictures.

If your child has a toy that you wouldn’t mind having in some photographs, bringing that out later in the session can be another way to shift the child’s focus and slow him down.

Capturing real life…notice the drumstick!
One of my favorite shots of kids just being kids – the older brother, the middle brother and the blur that is their little sister. 🙂

I know everyone loves to see pictures of children smiling, but in some of my favorite images of kids, they’re not smiling. Your child is beautiful and precious whether he or she is smiling or not. So during your next photo session relax and just enjoy the time together.

This sweet, open expression was captured at the end of the session when the rest of the family was getting packed up to leave.


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