Keeping Kids Engaged During a Photo Session
I’m sure you’ve been there. You just want a few cute pictures of your children. And all you get are cheesy smiles, blank stares and the back side of your child as they are running away. Or even worse – tears. Getting kids to cooperate and keeping them engaged during a photo session is no small task!
As a family and child photographer, I often find myself planning gorgeous photo shoots for my girls. I get so excited about capturing a stunning image of the two of them. I plan to print it huge and hang it on my wall so I can enjoy it every single day.
And then, my three year old decides she doesn’t want to take pictures and runs off thinking it is fun to be chased. My one year old realizes that she has a bow in her hair and pulls it out. Then, notices she has a pony tail there too! And out that goes, leaving her hair standing straight up like a mad scientist. My husband carries my oldest back for pictures. But she is screaming and crying. Even if we get them sitting together, I know there won’t be any smiles. Or pictures worthy of hanging on my wall.
Does this sound familiar?
If you thought it was any different for a professional photographer, I hope it makes you feel better to know it isn’t.
But in the last year of trying to will, wrangle, beg, plead, and bribe my little ones into being the muses I hope for, I have learned one valuable tip. And I’m hoping it can help a few other mamas out there too!
So here it is!
I started making my photo sessions about them doing something fun rather than sitting nicely and smiling for the camera. Of course, I have it planned out and set up in just the right lighting with all the little details to make it picture perfect. But then, when I bring my two little ones into the set, they have something fun and unique to do.
1. This keeps them in one location so I can take pictures. Yay! That is a win right there.
2. I get genuine smiles, giggles and laughter.
3. I get an amazing variety of pictures because they are doing something rather than one picture of them sitting and smiling.
So, you may be wondering what are some things I’ve given them to do. A few of my favorites have been:
When this pictures was taken, their favorite things to do was play with a bucket of soapy water on the deck. I know you can relate. All the toys in the world and they love the simple things most! So I figured they would love getting to play in a big tub of bubbles together. I set up an antique tub where the sunlight was beautiful and glowing. Added a few fluffy white towels and fresh sunflowers. And then I showed them the fun I had set up for them. They splashed, played and were engaged and happy the entire time. And I got some amazing pictures. Win Win!
This is probably my favorite session so far! Autumn was 2 1/2 so she really didn’t remember fall leaves from last year. And Addie had never seen them. Unfortunately, that year, the leaves just hung on and on. They weren’t really changing colors or dropping. So, I asked my dad to look around the neighborhood for any yards that had beautifully colored leaves and ask if he could rake a few bags up for them. Of course, no one minded their leaves getting done for them. And my dad brought 10 bags of fall leaves for us.
We spread them in the yard and let the girls play! It’s amazing how such a simple activity as playing in the leaves help keep my kiddos engaged during the entire photo session. They had so much fun and asked every night if they could do it again. And I loved the pictures so much, I have them printed on huge canvases in my family room!
While we were on vacation I got the girls all dressed up and took them to the beach at sunset to go look for shells. The beach itself is a perfect way to keep kids engaged during a photo session. There are birds to chase. Shells to find. Sand to play in. And waves to splash through. Addie loved playing in the sand and Autumn loved looking at how pretty each shell was and dancing around on the beach. You don’t need a beach or vacation to make this idea work. The shores of a local beach, collecting fall leaves at a park or stones for a stone collection on a hiking trail all give the same idea.
Autumn has always loved to be right there with me any time I cook. She loves to help stir and even has her own set of pots and pans. A few months after her sister was born, I realized I had a lot of updated pictures of her sister, but not too many of her. So she and I had a little baking time together and I used it to capture some fun pictures of her.
As silly as it sounds, my girls are obsessed with eggs right now. Plastic play food eggs, Easter eggs, real eggs (there have been a few messy kitchen incidents). They love all kinds of eggs. I’m sure you moms have tried to figure out where some of these obsessions come from. Getting inside a toddler’s head is a crazy place! I am assuming it is because they use ‘shaker eggs’ in zumbini class and at library story hour. But, I’m honestly not sure. Regardless, I decided to use this to my advantage. And to help keep my kids engaged during their Easter photo session this year.
My oldest was with me when I bought the container of plastic eggs used in this picture. She wanted to play with them right then. But I told her she had to wait and that they were for an Easter photo session. Well, that was all it took! She kept asking when we could take pictures! Yay! So, I set up the backdrop. Put them in cute vintage inspired rompers with bunny bonnets. Sat the basket full of eggs in front of them. And Voila! They happily explored the eggs and I got the pictures I had envisioned!
I would say playing with eggs would be a session that will work for most. But, think about what your child is really excited about right now. And use that to build a session. Do they love to paint? Take a canvas outside and let them create. Do they have a favorite toy? Maybe build a session around it.
I hope these ideas inspire you! If you try one or an idea of your own, I’d love to hear how it turned out. Just reply in the comments below.