October 26, 2015

Secrets to Cooperative Kids

Charlottesville Wedding Photographer

[part of the Monday for Moms blog series – small tips and tricks that will make big changes in photos of your children]

If you know me, you know that I’m not the most serious person you’ll ever meet.  I was raised in a family full of clowns and while I can be a bit silly at times, I’m not even the nuttiest one in the bunch! 😉  I also tend to be a kid magnet when we’re out and about (kids can somehow sense the teacher in me 😉 ).  These things play together well when I’m photographing kids.  Capturing my own kids, though, can be a completely different story!  I was thankful to have a successful quick tripod family photo session last week in our front yard and had questions about how I was able to get my kids to cooperate for the photos.  I have a few tricks that I use on my own kids and a few that I use on others as well.

1. Prioritize.  You’ll likely only hold your child’s attention for 5 minutes or less.  Decide what the most important image you’d like to take is, get prepped, and take that image FIRST.  Anything you get on top of that is just icing on the cake! 🙂

2. Bribe Prep Your Kids. This one is really important.  Throughout the day, let your kids know that they will be taking pictures later.  Let them know your expectations and what their reward will be for participating.  For my own kids (ages 2 & 4) I told them that we’d be going in our front yard to take pictures and I needed them to be good listeners.  Now I know that some don’t practice bribery rewarding children.  While I’m not here to change your parenting style, think of it like this for a minute.  Every day you go to do something you probably don’t really want to do (aka WORK).  You go because you need to get paid.  If you didn’t need the $ or weren’t getting paid, you probably wouldn’t go.  The same is true of your kids…they would rather be playing.  They don’t WANT to take pictures for you.  They need a good reason!  The reward for cooperation can be really simple.  Some time to play a game that there isn’t always time to play, a special treat they don’t usually get to eat, a trip to the park… Simplicity is key!  Rewards that are too big might be hard to match next time! 😉

3.  Getting Kids to Look at the Camera. If you’re using a DSLR, the shutter will release each time you take a picture and if someone is looking into your lens they will see that happen.  I tell small kids that there is a bug in my camera and if they watch closely it will wink at them.  If this seems to work, I’ll ask them more questions like “What kind of bug do you think it is? Is it a butterfly? A ladybug?” etc.  Often times they will keep studying the lens to try to figure it out. 🙂

4.  Getting Kids to Smile.  This one is super silly, but if a kiddo won’t smile at me through usual methods (jokes, singing, acting ridiculous, getting tickled by their parents, etc.) I ask them if they have teeth.  Usually this makes them laugh, but it only gives me a smirk I’ll continue on.  I often say “I know why you won’t show me your teeth.  You forgot to brush them this morning!” Typically kiddos will laugh at this or get defensive and smile and say “See! I did! They are clean!”  I usually keep joking with with about being able to see their breakfast on their teeth or if I think they will do better with more positive reinforcement, tell them how pretty and white and sparkly their teeth are.

5. Take Breaks. Possibly the most important part, give kids time to be kids (but keep on snapping pictures!)  My favorite images often end being those from times when kids are just playing and having a good time.  Wear your running shoes!! 🙂

And here are a few from our little family’s tripod session. 🙂

Couldn’t get Camden’s smile, but they are both watching for the bug to “wink”. 😉

Fall Family Photos 2015-1

Fall Family Photos 2015-6

Fall Family Photos 2015-8

Fall Family Photos 2015-9

Fall Family Photos 2015-15

Happy shooting! 🙂

Have a topic you’d like to see me cover?  Mention it below in the comments!  I love to hear from you!

– Nikki

Virginia Photographer | Harrisonburg Photographer | Charlottesville Photographer | Staunton Photographer | Luray Photographer



  1. Lee says:

    These are great tips! I often tell my kids to look for the red dot on the lens!!

  2. Misty says:

    These tips are so good! I needed these!!

  3. Love it! I will do the same thing sometimes…”do you see the puppy in the lens?” And they always look intently and then say, “I see it!!” So cute!

  4. Jill says:

    These are such great tips! And I loved your point about rewarding kids!!

  5. candi says:

    as a momma to five boys, I know how hard it is to get kids on board with pics!! You have some great tips!

  6. Leslie Ann says:

    I’m all for the Bribery!! Great tips!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Follow us: