10 Tips for Family Photoshoots with Kids

If you’ve ever looked on Pinterest for Family Photoshoot ideas you’ve probably come across hundreds of photos of  perfectly groomed children in cute matching outfits while holding hands and smiling into the camera. But as you scroll through Pinterest you hear your youngest crying, your oldest shouting and the middle child looking very suspicious with a marker in her hand. How do normal families take great family photos? Here’s 10 tips for family photoshoots with young kids.


  • For tips on wardrobe look here at some of my guidance for family color schemes. In terms of getting your squirmy toddler or fiercely independent kid into a cute outfit be sure to include them in the decision process. Have them help pick out their outfit and be sure to give it a test run. I’m a fan of bargaining, promise they can wear their favorite pjs all day tomorrow if they wear the nice slacks for photos today.

  • Make sure that the clothing is weather appropriate. I’ve been to some cold (very cold) shoots and nothing ends a happy family session faster than a cold kid. Layers and props are great for photos so don’t be afraid of layers and warm props like umbrellas or blankets.  Also get creative with other warm options like hand warmers hidden in pockets, long underwear under jeans or big fluffy blankets to throw on in and out of the photographs. Warm weather shoots should always include some water, and maybe something with a little sugar to keep kids motivated and hydrated.

  • Bribery. Steer clear of food bribing while at the shoot. I’ve edited a lot of chocolate out of kids clothing. No matter how well behaved your kids are if they smell M&Ms in your purse they will want them, and complain till they get them and you will cave in the hopes of just a few more smiles. Save the food bribes for post session. There’s nothing wrong with some post session hot chocolate or ice cream. I’ve even had some families include the bribe into the session, they roasted s’mores during the session and I stayed and got some adorable photographs of chocolate covered happy kids.

  • Stuffed animals. Stuffies as my kids call them, are touch and go. This will solely depend on your kids. Sometimes stuffed animals are great. I can hold them over the camera or parents can do silly things with them to make kids smile. But sometimes kids just want to hold them and all of you photos will have Mickey Mouse in them, and that’s not the look you’re going for, trust me.

  • Babies. Babies are adorable and fairly easy to make smile as long as they are comfortable, fed and not overwhelmed. Sometimes well intentioned relatives over stimulate a baby trying to make them smile in a photo. Put one person in charge of making the baby smile and remember to stand behind the camera. Babies are cute no matter what so don’t worry if they are smiling perfectly or chewing on their hands, its the season of life and not all of the photos will have the same look. Close up portraits of baby will show their bright eyes, cute dimples and true personality even if its without the Hallmark smile.

  • Interact. This is the toughest one but the most rewarding. The best photos are ones of you hugging your kids or looking into the eyes of your baby. Kisses between you and your partner while the kids make their own natural reactions. Looking directly at the camera is the most instinctual thing to do but try to look at each other. Do the impossible and forget the camera is there and just keep smiling and loving on each other. We’ll get plenty of posed photos during a session but the interactions in between are up to you and the most fun.

  • Games. With larger groups of kids I like to play games, like chase the bubbles, or Red Light Green Light or Can You Make Mom laugh. Throwing rocks into the river or taking a break to sprint up and down the hill all help burn off kid energy and stay focused when its time to look at the camera and smile.

  • Watch timing. If you know that your baby is the happiest in the morning then schedule your session then. Lighting is important but there’s no reason to wait till sunset just to photograph your two year old having a meltdown in front of a pretty sky. Do it when its right for the kids and pick a location that offers shade, variety and ease of travel.

  • Keep it short. Most photographers offer several hour family sessions. Sometimes a family needs a long session to take breaks, move locations or have a wardrobe change. All of those are perfectly acceptable. But know that kids (and usually husbands) only last for 60 minutes and that’s okay. Buy the package that offers you time flexibility so you don’t have to scramble in 30 minutes but don’t feel you have to take the full two hours just to please your photographer. You will get plenty of adorable photos.

  • Lastly enjoy the session. No matter the age or demeanor of the kids, they will grow out of it and you’ll want to remember them just as they are in that time of life. The purpose of family photos is not to be that Pinterest family but to freeze frame this moment with all its challenges and joys so you never forget it.