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My son is almost 3. He is rambunctious and very active. I take all the portraits of my kids and family myself. It’s starting to become a little bit of a challenge getting the “shots” I want. I’ve got some Tips for Photographing Active Kids that I’ve been using lately and might help you with your own photography.
We recently took our daughter to Veterans Park in Birmingham, AL to take her first birthday pictures. While we were there, I really wanted to get a few pictures of my son. He is an active little guy and I had this idea of exactly the expression I wanted to capture.
First, let me start off by saying that I am so much better at photographing other people’s kids. I can get them to relax and get a good shot much more easily than with my own kids. I’m willing to bet you have a similar experience with your kids. It must be something about listening to mom on yet another thing. Part of it is also my expectations that I bring to the session, which brings me to my first tip.
#1 – RELAX
Do everything you can to prepare for the photography session you have in mind and have some treats or incentives on hand to bribe if necessary but after that, just breathe. Go with the mood of your kid. Play with them and get them comfortable and then get your camera and catch them in the moment. If you stress and fuss over every piece of hair and your kid getting in the dirt, your kids are going to feed off of that and resist like crazy! You aren’t going to get them to cross their legs and be “perfect” and really those types of pictures don’t usually look very natural. It’s great to have a plan and set up how you’d like it but be flexible. I find that when I photograph other people’s families, if the mom is stressing the rest of the family is totally hating the pictures.
#2 – GO QUICK
I try to keep our family sessions to about 10-15 minutes of me with my camera out. I do prep work and get in the mindset and then I work quick. It’s like pulling off a bandaid; just do it quick and as you’ll see with other tips, distract them and they will barely know you did anything. If things aren’t going well, I try playing a bit with the kids and try again. With my kids as little as they are, their attention span is very minimal. If I push it and draw it out, they are going to lose their patience. Sometimes when you push them though, you still get some cute shots of them being “done”.
#3 – PICKING LOCATION – Pick somewhere your kids can run free and play as they naturally would. Going to a museum with breakables is a recipe for disaster. But don’t pick a place that they are too comfortable. The park we went to is a place we frequent, however we went to a different section, at a different time of day. We were away from his regular play equipment so he wasn’t eying the crowded slide as I tried to snap pictures. There were lots of groups playing volleyball and open fields where he could run around and it was new and exciting. You could also do your own backyard and pull out a bubble machine. How cute would it be to capture your kiddos excitement with something new and fun like that? Speaking of a bubble machine leads me to my next tip.
#4 – FUN PROPS – Instead of trying (and struggling) to get your children to sit still and be out of their comfort zone (especially when they are really young and don’t understand) bring something that encourages them to be active and that they enjoy. It will help them relax and be more natural. We brought along his soccer ball. Bouncy balls, favorite toys, etc. whatever makes your children comfortable and excites them. Encourage them to play together if you have more than one you want to take pictures of.
#5 – PICKING OUTFITS – Coordinate outfits if your taking pictures of a group but don’t pick an uncomfortable outfit your kid will hate and want to rip off. Their discomfort and distain with the outfit is totally going to show on their face in your pictures and you are going to be struggling the whole way. Involve them in the process and let them have a choice between options so they feel empowered and excited about it. This works with any type of photography session.
To summarize, prep with what you have in mind but just be flexible. Go with the flow and don’t try to force anything. You’ll be able to capture some natural looks. As much as I would have loved that my son didn’t rub dirt all over his face, I kind of totally dig the way these picture turned out. Doesn’t he look like a tough kid? I think he will appreciate having these around as he grows up.