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Photographing kids is one of the more unpredictable aspects of being a portrait photographer. It never goes how you planned, even when the parents claim they have the happiest child in the world. You’ll have to deal with a cranky kid or perhaps a variety of age groups for larger families. First and foremost, tricks that work for capturing amazing adult portraits doesn’t work on kids. You’ll need an arsenal of patience, some creative propping and even a touch of psychology to get the best images.

1. Pose Them Without Them Knowing

Get down on their eye level – when they arrive, let them play with a favorite toy or stuffed animal. Get down on the floor and start shooting quickly. You’ll get some great candids in before they realize where they’re at and start getting nervous or antsy.

2. Use Their Ideas

Don’t suggest poses or you’ll lose them right away, especially the older kids. Let them do what they like and in between you can work in your poses. Subtly suggest how they should move their arms, head and hands. And, you’ll be surprised; some of the kids have great ideas!


3. Get Them Moving

One thing for certain about kids is they have trouble keeping still. Go with it and let them jump, run and swing. Jump ropes, swings, balls to kick or even action shots at the playground will give you some fantastic natural shots. If you’re in the studio, get the music cranking and challenge the older kids with changing their pose every time the shutter clicks. 

4. Observe Them In Their Environment

Get outside your studio – never will kids be more relaxed than in their own element. Visit the client’s home and have the parents plan for them to be doing something they love – painting, looking at a favorite book, helping mom cook and even doing their homework.


5. Follow Their Lead

This technique works great with toddlers. Watch each move they make. You can easily turned it into a posed shot buy making slight suggestions again of where to focus their gaze, place a hand or when to raise a toy.

6. Utilize Props

Don’t count on clients to have items at hand for you to use. Have an abundance of fun props at all times like soap bubbles, food and flowers for girls or sports ball for boys. Families will be able to provide a child’s favorite blanket or even the family pet can be used. There are many comprehensive websites devoted specifically to props for kid portraits, especially newborns. Try Etsy to get truly unique ones and save some money, too.


7. Tips for Babies & Toddlers

This group is particularly tough to get them to do what you want. Enlisting the help of parents help is key.

Solo Shots

Have the parents stand behind or off to the side so you get the child looking in the direction you want.

Parent & Child

For children that just can’t handle sitting by themselves, have the mom press the child’s cheek to theirs. You’re guaranteed to get a smiling kid.


Start the Action

Little kids love airtime so have dad give them a couple of tosses up and down in his arms. Or, try a quick tummy tickle for some nice face expressions. Many parents have their own secret weapons as well to get their child giggling. Be sure to inquire as to what they are and try panning with the camera as the child moves around.

8. Speak Softly

Use a soft whisper when you speak to the child and they’ll be sure to stop what they’re doing to find out what you want.

9. Squeaky Toy

It works with pets, so why not with kids? Use a squeaky toy and move it around to divert their attention.

10. Ask Questions

Most tiny children will not cooperate if you tell them to do something. Use questions to elicit the response you’re looking for such as Where are your ears? Can you find your button?

For more ideas, check out our Pinterest boards to get some inspiration. 

Cheryl Woods

Cheryl Woods is an accomplished photographer, designer and branding consultant with a career spanning 20+ years. Her photographic work includes editorial, fashion, portraiture and product photography for major companies in the consumer products field including QVC and Hanover Direct. She received a B.F.A. in Photography from the University of the Arts and an M.F.A. in Media Design from Full Sail University. Cheryl's work has been exhibited at the Lowes Museum of Art in Coral Gables, FL, The New York Independent Film Festival and the Rosenwald Wolf Gallery in Philadelphia, PA. Check out her website here!


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