How to do a fun family photo shoot... with uncooperative kids!

We all know that kids are like ticking time bombs, except we just can't see the countdown timer.
What do you do with kids who just simply won't cooperate? Or throw tantrums? or just aren't feeling the whole "photo shoot" idea? In this blog, you'll read(and see) just how I do it... and how much fun it can be as well.

Fall has arrived, and many of you(both photographers and families) are venturing out to see the beautiful colors and capture those life long memories for yourself or your clients... and all the craziness in between. We all want those super amazing, warm, and happy fall photos to show off to the world, but an uncooperative child may ruin it all! Well, not for me they won't. I turn an unhappy, totally pissed off child into a happy and fun loving show stealer.

It's all in how you talk to them... make it a game! Kids love games.

One trick that I use a lot is letting them take a picture with my camera. Kids are absolutely fascinated by today's technology. Especially things they aren't used to seeing, like a big professional grade camera. They get so into it, and before you know it, you'll have the whole gang wanting to take pictures of anything and everything. I follow this up with a simple, "ok listen up, I'll make you a deal... I'll let you take more pictures, if you be a good girl/boy for mommy and daddy, ok?" 99/100 times they say, "ok" with a big smile.

Some general rules to follow are:

  • 1. Get down to their level. Having kids look up to you as a big towering figure of authority just intimidates them. Getting down to their level by taking a knee, or even sitting down next to them makes them feel equal to you, and less scary of course.
  • 2. Talk to them like a friend, not a boss. Soften your voice a bit, talk about things that they like, such as action figures for boys, or flowers and dresses for girls. Find that common ground to connect with them and get them to open up to you. Saying how pretty a girl looks in her dress, or how beautiful she is goes a long way. Or saying how cool a boys shoes are, or how awesome his new toy is.
  • 3. Make everything a game. Find creative ways to get them to do what you want for a photo. Things like, playing tag with their siblings, or finding the biggest bestest pine cone out there! You'd be surprised at how excited kids get with the most simplest of things.
  • 4. Laugh and joke with them. It may sound silly, but kids love fart jokes. And nothing gets a kid laughing hysterically like a fart joke. Of course this is very age dependent, but you get the idea.
  • 5. Have mom or dad tickle them. That is always a go-to trick to getting a kid to break their stern "i hate this photo shoot face".
  • 6. Patience. Or even more simply put... time. Sometimes there may be nothing you can do, and all you can do is give them time to open up to you on their own. This may be 10 minutes, or an hour. It all varies. This is when you'll just have to roll with the punches, and find those sneaky photo opportunities when they are expecting them.
  • 7. Medical conditions or Behavior disorders. Although less common, there are some times when a medical condition or behavior disorder may be the cause of a child not cooperating, such as ADHD, Autism, or Learning disorders. The key here is to understand this ahead of time and talk with the parents about it. They know their children best, so talking with them about what works and what doesn't work can save a lot of time and effort. Be mindful and respectful of cases like this and don't make assumptions.

Every photographer has their own trick to getting kids to cooperate, so this isn't an "end all" solution by any means. The point behind this is to try. Try your best, because that's all you can do. Get out there, and don't be afraid of a challenge :)

And a BIG thanks to the awesome Lan Family for the motivation for this blog :) I absolutely enjoyed your photo session :). It was a blast! You have a very beautiful family!

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Meet the author and photographer!

Hello, my name is Tim Conzachi, and I am a professional wedding, family, portrait, and event photographer in the Reno, NV and Lake Tahoe, CA area. I am a 100% self taught photographer whose love for photography fueled my learning and dedication to the never ending perfection of my talent. My love for capturing people and their families is what makes me happy. Seeing the looks on their face after they receive their photos is absolutely priceless. If you'd like to book a shoot with me, please visit

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