Five Secrets To Getting Kids To Cooperate During Photo Shoots

5 Secrets to Get Kids to Cooperate for Photos on the Fill Your Frame Podcast with Jillian Goulding

Photographs preserve memories. And when it comes to family photo shoots, the whole point is to get gorgeous and amazing images that tell the story of the family you’re capturing. But how do you capture that perfect moment in photo shoots when kids are involved? 

As a mom of five and an ex kindergarten and first-grade teacher, and a family photographer for the past decade, I know a thing or two about creative ways to get kids to listen and cooperate and have fun while during photo shoots. 

In this episode, I’m going to give you my five secrets to getting kids to cooperate during photo shoots. Secrets that can help you capture the authentic moments while allowing your subjects, especially the young ones have fun.

Validation Goes A Long Way

When it comes down to it, kids just want to be seen, heard, validated, and loved, just like adults do. Like you, they don’t want to be bossed around. Kids want to feel valued and it’s essential that you create a strong trusting relationship with them. And building relationships with people is all about connection. 

And when it comes to photos, you need to be totally transparent with them. Get down on their level, introduce yourself, explain what you’re going to be doing and make it fun. Paying attention to them and talking to them respectfully makes them feel important. And it really does go a long way when you want them to cooperate with you in front of the camera. 

Find A Connection With The Kids

Find a connection with them before picking up the camera. Try to find some sort of common ground with the child or children that you’re photographing. Ask them what they love, what their favorite color is, and their favorite music or story. Then see if you can incorporate that into the shoot somehow. 

One of the things I do when I book families for sessions is I send a questionnaire. On the questionnaire, I ask the family several questions, but in particular, the children.  I ask about their interests and that helps me form a connection I can use during our session together. It’s about trying to figure out as much as you can about them, and try to think of ways to relate to them, And that’s going to boost their mood and their willingness to work with you and listen during the session.

Don’t Underestimate The Magic Of A Game

 Kids love games. And fortunately, pretty much anything can be turned into a game, even family photoshoots. How do you do that?

Try to see who can make silly faces, make them laugh, or have them play together. Create the perfect happy scene and that will allow you to capture that perfect moment and make them feel comfortable around the camera.

Whatever it is that you’re trying to capture, I guarantee you there’s a way that you can make it into a game. There’s always going to be a way to make it more fun for your subjects. Focus on trying to make everything a game, because it’s likely that they’re going to be more motivated to do what you’re asking them to do if they’re having fun during the session, just because you’ve made it interesting and enjoyable for them.

Take Charge Of Directing The Energy Of The Photoshoot

The reason I want to include this one is because as photographers, part of our job is to facilitate the energy of the shoot. Part of our job is to be in control and have a plan in mind so that the session will flow really well. 

As a former school teacher and educator, I feel confident in my ability to get kids to participate in the shoot. And if you’re someone who doesn’t necessarily have a lot of experience with kids, and this is something that kind of stresses you out when you’re thinking about shooting families, I want to encourage you to just practice. Do some babysitting, shoot your friends, and just find as many opportunities as you can to be around kids, because the experience is what is going to teach you to become the best photographer around them.

Forget About Bribing Kids During Photoshoots

This might not be a popular opinion, but I do not agree when parents bribe kids for shoots, I don’t think it works. Kids become too focused on instant gratification, especially if they’re under five years old. 

I encourage parents not to bring candy or like other things to bribe them for the session because it just turns into a power struggle. And it’s going to make a mess of their clothes and disrupt the natural flow of a session. Photographers can’t capture anything within a natural flow, because they’re really just performing and then asking for something. There’s no natural interaction between the mom and dad, there are no natural things that only happen as they’re moving from spot to spot within the session, or interacting with each other in a certain way. None of that can happen because we’re so focused on performance treats.

Photographing kids is challenging, but it can be also rewarding. These five tips can help you bring out the best images, especially with families with kids. As photographers, our goal is to produce photos that are authentic, worth remembering, and special. And with kids, it can be challenging, but it’s still possible to capture those moments. You just need to be creative and follow these secrets to get the kids to cooperate and still have fun in the process. 


5 Secrets to Get Kids to Cooperate for Photos on the Fill Your Frame Podcast with Jillian Goulding

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