How to take awesome photos of your kids

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Taking Pictures of kids can feel like a lot of work, but really they aren’t too hard to figure out. In the 6 years I have been taking family photos I have developed a few tips and trick to capture that natural sweet look of kids that can turn a good picture into a great picture. I hope you can use these tricks in your own photography to capture those precious moments. I have broken down my tips by age group because as many parents know what works for the 2 year old doesn’t work for the 10 year old.

Babies (0-1) I don’t use a lot of tricks with babies, but the 2 that I consistently use are first, I give them as much time as they need. I never go into a shoot with a newborn thinking this will be a piece of cake because honestly they are usually my longest photo sessions. If I am in a hurry or trying to rush the baby I know my shoot will be a flop. That kid takes control of everyone the second it’s born, why would I think it would be different for my schedule and me? My second trick I use for newborns is a blow dryer. The mix between the warm air and the loud white noise makes them calm down so much that it makes my job a breeze. I obviously don’t put it too close to them, I barley let the air hit them at all. I also give the mom the blow dryer and let her have a job so that she let’s me do what I need to with the baby. This also comes in handy because I always have really cold hands. I use the blow dryer to warm up my hands and then the baby let’s me handle them however I want.

Toddlers (1-3) Wow where do I start with this age group? They are always the ones that run the show for me so if I am at a shoot you better believe the one I’m jumping through hoops for is that 2 year old. If I can keep that kid happy then the parents will be happy and that makes my job so much easier. Before I even take a picture I make sure I am watching the toddler to see if I can pick up on anything. Is she hungry, or tired? What parent or sibling does she take to the best? Does he like to be held or does she like to run around? Is she shy or loud? Does she like it when I talk to her or am I going to have to have the parent’s help me out? I size them up from the beginning and I stick to what I know until I feel like I have won them over.

If they are shy I will have them come over and look at my camera. I will let them push some buttons and look through the viewfinder. Some kids are out right scared of that big camera that you keep pointing at them.

Honestly, some kids don’t even know what it is until they see the picture on the back and then it dawns on them that it’s a camera. This always seems to get them on board and then they trust me.

If they are active and outgoing then I let them run around and I try to do the older kids first. I let them get a little board of their surroundings and then they aren’t so anxious to run all over the place when it’s time to take their pictures.

If they are uncooperative then I feel like it’s family playtime. This is a perfect time for parents to cuddle them or play with them and it’s your time to get those candid images that we all know parent’s just love.

Don’t be afraid to try peek-a-boo or to find a “really cool rock” that they get to hold if they give you a smile, then find a “ bigger, better and cooler” rock for the next shot. Try pointing out a bird in the sky or tell them that if they are all really quiet they can hear the crickets. This will settle them down for a few minutes and I can get some really cute candid shots at this time. They are curious so play into that.

Kids (4-9) This age is so fun, they are so excited to make you happy and do what you what (most of the time). They also love really bad jokes and really disgusting behavior. I love telling the joke, how do you catch a unique rabbit…unique up on it. The little girls love this joke. They also love it when I tell them not to smile. It ALWAYS makes them smile and if you keep bugging them about not smiling it always turns into a laugh.

Boys usually just want to play around or they just feel dumb smiling for you so try to say something to loosen them up. Say I am talking to a 6 year old boy, I’d say “so are you turning 13 this year?” I always get this crazy eyed look like are you nuts you dumb lady, and then they laugh at me and tell me they are 6. Then I say oh so are you going into 6th grade this year? And then I get the same response and I get the perfect smile from them. I have found that if you give them their space and just use a little wit it goes a long way. It also never hurts to throw in a booger joke or two, I know… all respect for me just flew out the window.

Older kids (9 and up) I have nieces and nephews that I have been taking pictures of for years now and it seems like 9 and 10 is the age where they start to think for themselves and they want a little respect. If you show them some respect then they are all too willing to give it back to you. Ask them about school and be completely sincere. What are their hobbies? Ask them if there are any cute girls/boys in their class. Find out what position they play in soccer and if they scored any goals lately. Give them your time and they will give you theirs.

Compliment them like crazy. The girls want to be told they look beautiful. Show them their pictures and let them see for themselves how great they are turning out. Confidence is key to get them to work with you.

If they keep pulling a cheesy smile or if they boys just can’t give you a natural pose then show them the picture and say “you look a little uncomfortable, can you try this… instead?” Show them what you are talking about and then they will understand you better. They are pulling that awkward smile because somewhere they thought it made them look cool. If you show them (in a VERY respectful way) that they are coming across uncomfortable in the images they aren’t going to want to look like that. Help them correct it and show them the results, they will get on board, I promise.

No matter what age my clients are, I sincerely give them my time. It’s so common for me at the end of the shoot to have that little 5 year old reach up and grab my hand for a minute. I work the entire time to gain their trust and to get a sincere connection with them. If I’m fake with them, then the pictures will look fake. If I’m sincere then those kids will respond to me in a way that parent’s always say “I can’t believe you caught that look!” or “She gave you her real smile, I never get her to give a real smile.” When I hear that I know I made a connection and I know that I did my job right.

I feel like for any age group of children it’s pretty safe to say, just let them be kids. Kids don’t like to be pushed, especially by someone they don’t know. If you allow them to be themselves then they will open up to you and let you see who they really are.

“How to take awesome photos of your kids” is by Leslie Hunter (@childleslie), a professional photographer and author of “A Mother’s Guide to Photographing your Children”. For more tips and tricks please visit her website at


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