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How to Engage Your Kids During Photoshoots and Have Fun

I love my kids! I have two little boys, Tucker and Grant, and every day when I get home from work the first words I hear out of my little boys' mouths are, "Daddy, you wrestle?!"

Kids just want to have fun. They want to enjoy you, and the want to be enjoyed. So imagine how a photoshoot might sound to a four year old or a ten year old,

"Kids, you need to get dressed up... don't get dirty! Brush your hair, look your best, don't mess up your outfit, hold it together!!! Hold it! Hold it. Tucker look at the camera! Do you have any idea how much it costs to get your pictures taken..."

Yeah... that doesn't sound like fun. It sounds stressful for mom and dad, and for Junior it sounds like a semi-annual nightmare. All this stress just to get some adorable, life long treasurable photos!

Luckily, this need not be the case. In fact, when done with "fun at the forefront" family portraits can be some of the most outrageous fun you and your family will have together. It can be a moment of deep bonding, gut wrenching laughter, and bubbly awesome candid camera smiles as you enjoy one another.

Here are some ways you can engage your kids at photoshoots and have an absolute blast!

1. Get Warmed Up With Ice-Breakers

"Little Jimmy" I asked in my most befriending voice. Little Jimmy looked nervous, I was a stranger, we were in the desert, and he looked like he wasn't accustomed to having his hair gelled and combed. He looked up at me shyly...

"Little Jimmy, who snores the loudest in your house? Is it mommy or daddy?" Jimmy's eyes lit up, this wasn't what he expected. He sheepishly looked up at mom and dad who I had positioned on either side of him. The smallest, cutest grin crept onto his face. Snap, snap, snap. The camera caught that look!

"Daddy!" He grinned, and dad suddenly had a mischievous smile on his face as he raised his eyes to mommy and countered, "What!? No way, your mom definitely snores the loudest!"

Snap, snap, snap, snap. Move to the left. Snap, snap.

For a moment, the family forgets they are even at a photoshoot in Suaro National Park. They've entered into a playful banter about who saws logs the loudest! And the camera does its work! Snap!

A good photographer is going to help you relax by using icebreakers. These are questions that are designed to mildly embarrass and encourage fun responses, looks, and physical touch from our loved ones. These questions work particularly well for kids ages four to ninety-two!

2. Young Kids Need Physical Connection (How About a Wrestling Match or Snuggles)

Your kids are looking to you to set the tone of the photography event! They want to know they are safe, that this is a place they can get comfortable in. So grab them babies and wrap them up in your arms. It gets them excited to be near you and it makes for great candid moments.

Your photographer might give you a prompt like, pick up your kids and have a group hug... now give em a big kiss. Your young kiddos are going to love being fawned over. Their focus is on having fun with you and that gets them relaxed.

Later in the shoot there will be time to get them to sit still and look at that camera, but a good photographer is going to wade into those waters after the little ones are warmed up and having fun.

3. Make Sure Your Kids Have Had Something to Eat Before the Shoot

Hangry is a real word. Kids are highly susceptible to this form of anger. Especially when put in a new environment where they are uncertain of the expectations that are being given to them. And let's be honest. Photoshoots aren't natural at first. For adults we are often times stiff at the beginning of the shoot because we aren't sure how to act. Kids feel the same way. And if you add in a grumbling tummy, that is a recipe for disaster!

So, I recommend having a light meal before your session. Something to hold your kids over and to get the hangry vibes as low as possible.

Secondly, if you have young kids, like infant and toddler aged, it is good to bring their favorite snacks to the shoot. Sometimes the best way to overcome a toddler who is struggling to focus or an infant who is fussy is to have that bottle on hand, or a handful of goldfish to help encourage the young ones.

There is nothing wrong with taking a quick break to get the hangry vibes taken care of! In fact, I often pack a snack for myself.

4. Don't Force It

You have expectations for your shoot. You've paid a deposit, talked to your photographer about your desires, scheduled, groomed the kids, got your family all loaded up and now the moment has arrived. You want it to count. You are in director mode. You are worried, you are starting to get anxious.

This can lead to a moment in the shoot where you are trying to get that shot that you've been dreaming about, but your kids are tired and hungry and you sense that you are losing control of the family. Some people might try to force the moment, and I'm here to tell you, don't!

Take a break. Play a game. Come back to that dream shot once you start having fun again.

5. Props are fun!

Consider incorporating props into your shoot. Young kids love holding onto things and this can make for some amazing candid shots. Flowers, toys, hats, streamers, ribbons, kites, etc.

If having fun is our goal, ask yourself,

"Is there something fun we can bring to our shoot that my kids will play with and it will look Pinterest, instagram cute too?"

As you build your expectations with your photographer you can ask them what props they think might go well with your style and your vision for your shoot.

6. Take Some Time to Settle Into Your Environment. Do Some Exploring!

Get to know your photographer as you and your kids take a little walk around the area where you will be shooting. Ask your kids to identify different plants or point out any wildlife you see. Observe with your kids and get them to feel more comfortable in this new spot.

As you explore, your photography might use that natural time to get your family holding hands or they might get some cool shots of your children exploring and being curious!

It is ok to slowly settle into a session. Your photographer should be willing to make your experience comfortable and what your family needs. Some families will warm up quicker than others but that's ok! Every family is unique and beautiful. A good photographer will take the time that's necessary to help you settle in.

7. Remember the Guiding Principle, "Fun at the Forefront!"

Kids want to have fun. They want to have fun with you! They want to be snuggled, kissed, chased, wrassled, joked with, tickled, squeezed and loved on. If you come into the session thinking,

"Today, no matter what, I'm going to play with my kids and my spouse and we are going to have fun."

I promise you will produce something beautiful!

What you will create is a natural, authentic joy that your photographer can't help but capture.


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