FAQ: How do I bring out the best in my child during a portrait shoot?

Photographing children is a labor of love!  They are quite the wiggly little things who are easily impacted by just about anything! They might be hungry, thirsty, tired, under the weather, or just plain uncooperative.  Honestly, during a child or family photo shoot I have to give the creative credit to the child themselves!  I merely follow their lead and capture what they give.

Little ones are so adorable and I highly advocate having your child’s portrait taken regularly.  They just change so fast!  Time goes by so quickly.  You don’t want to let the opportunity pass you by.  Before you know it they won’t be a baby or a toddler or a preschooler any more.  You can’t go back.  As a mommy who will be celebrating her baby’s fist birthday this week… it just feels all too raw and real right now.

So how can we get the best from our children and make the best photographs?  First I have to say that choosing custom photography is a really great choice.  Most custom photographers allow for quite a bit of time and flexibility in their shoots.  In my experience chain studios such as Walmart, Sears, Target, etc… give you a very short block of time and zero flexibility.  You just have to hope your child will shine in 20 minutes.  Custom photographers take the time to get to know children allowing them time to warm up and get comfortable before they pull out the camera.

As a custom children’s photographer I like to follow the child’s lead.  I like to play games!  I like to interact and have fun!  I want the child to be happy and comfortable!  You just won’t get great photos otherwise.  Often parents tell me that they can never get a smiling photo of their child.  The child either makes bizarre faces or refuses to cooperate.  I admit, I do occasionally run across a child who even I can’t get to smile.  But that is very very rare.  I do so by interacting the child on the child’s level.  My years as a teacher and a mommy have taught me well how to get along with little ones.

A good example of this is a recent shoot I had with 3 year old Thomas.  Thomas is an active high energy little boy (just like they all are).  I used his energy to create games that he enjoyed.  While he was enjoying himself I snapped away.  Mom was thrilled with the results.  In the photo below Thomas had discovered a wooden porch that wrapped clear around this little house at the park.  He DELIGHTED in running around and around and in his mind sneaking up on me.  During this game I was able to capture the photo below.  And since he enjoyed that game so much he was in high spirits and totally enthused to let me keep shooting him as we moved through the park.

That being said… Safety first! I want your family, especially your children, to remain safe at all times. You are responsible for keeping an eye on your child. My field of vision is limited by my camera. If you are concerned your child might fall, eat something they shouldn’t, or hurt themselves in anyway please feel free to jump in and help your child.

One thing I always tell parents is this… Please Do not try to FORCE cooperation. The more you WANT them to do it, the less THEY want to do it!  Silly but true!  Positively encourage your child!  Bribe them if need be.  I have to say, during our couple of hours together we are not trying to raise saintly children.  Let’s just have a great fun experience and create awesome photos.

I love capturing action! The best shots are those I take as the child (and family) is playing and having fun being themselves.

I encourage families to bring snacks & drinks (though no red juice that will stain clothes or faces). Napkins, wipes, and tissues are often handy as well.

Real smiles are the best! Please please PLEASE do NOT ask your child to say cheese!  I say that with a smile and a laugh.  Sometimes it happens and that is just fine.  But cheesy smiles are not what we are hoping for!

Some of the most beautiful photos are those where the child is not smiling.  It is worth wile to capture children in a wide variety of moods and facial expressions.  Smiling and looking at the camera is not always the end goal!  I strive to create all kinds of memories and photos.

In the end, a positive experience will create beautiful photos.  My most relaxed and fun loving clients typically end up with photos that I am most proud of.  We’ll take our time and do what it takes to get it right!

Here is to a fantastic and FUN photo shoot!


  1. Very helpful advice. Gotta love the reverse psychology trick; works every time! Children are active, that’s just what they’re about. Besides, isn’t that what fast shutters are for?! : ) Double thumbs up

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