Probably one of the most frequent questions I am asked by moms/clients is “how do I engage my children in our portraits?” Truth be told, as a mother of two children ages 9 and 6, I too have struggled with this, especially as they were getting older, until I simply treated my sessions with my kids as I did with my clients. Brilliant! It was my “Ah Ha” moment and has helped me in engaging my children in photo shoots of my own creation.
Engaging children in family sessions can be fun, and you will often find that you create wonderful memories bonding with your children in the process – be it in a family session with a professional photographer, or one of your one photo shoots.
Here are my Top 10 tips for Engaging Children:
# 1: Be Easy-Going – Never Show Frustration. Once they pick up on your stress or displeasure, their wall goes up and out comes the stubborn child – and stubborn is tough to get rid of once it comes out. At the beginning of each of my sessions I tell my parents I’ve got this – let me handle the kids – don’t worry about them “smiling at the camera” or doing something you don’t want them to do. Trust me. I’m a mom and I’m a photographer. A light and playful vibe will shine through in your pictures.
#2. Go with What They Love. It really is ok if the kids aren’t into an activity or direction. If they don’t feel like sitting at that moment, and would rather dance, I go with them and redirect later. Going with the flow, but guiding, is the best way for kids.
#3. Be Playful! It’s a great way to get some awesome action shots and it’s authentic.
#4. They Are the Photographer. This is one of my favorite go-tos on a shoot with a child that isn’t too enthralled at first. Once I show them the back of camera and ask them what they would want to photograph, they often get really into the shoot. (The second image is a behind the scenes at one of my school shoots – I always enlist help:).
#5. Tickling. This brings out the fun almost every time.
#6. Tell a Joke/Whisper Something Funny. This is especially fun with siblings. Oh how they giggle! And it’s amazing how you hear the same jokes…
#7. Ask Them Their Favorite Hobby, Let them Show You. Maybe it’s karate, maybe it’s ballet, either way, kids love to show off and perform their latest skills.
#8. Give them Rewards. Yup, bribery works. But I encourage the reward be a family activity like getting ice cream together after taking pictures. Sometimes, with my oldest I literally pay him for his time – sometimes it’s a $1 for a short amount of time, sometimes it’s a cool new book. He’s 9 years old and his time is valuable. Either way it’s a win-win: he’s happy and I get my shot. Ice cream still works for my 6 year old 🙂
#9. Move, Jump, Twirl and Spin. This is most engaging when you do these with them.
#10. Give Them a Break. During sessions, sometimes one or the other, or all, want to run off for a moment. I let them and say, “hey, go ahead, we’ll be right here taking your parent’s pictures.” Once they see me taking pictures of their parents without them, they usually come running right back.
Are you ready to book your family session? I’d love to talk to you about customizing your own session! I offer outdoor and studio lifestyle sessions and love capturing families, children, babies and expecting mamas.