Games to play at family photo sessionsGAMES TO PLAY AT FAMILY PHOTO SESSIONS

      We’ve all been there. Either as a mom or as a professional photographer. Sometimes children just aren’t into having their picture taken! Most young children don’t sit and smile on command. And if they do, it is usually forced and not the genuine smile that parents hope to capture.  But luckily there are many ways to get children to cooperate and even have fun on picture day! One of my favorite ways is to play games during a family photo session.


      This is one of my favorite games to play at family photo session. Children have so much fun and the final pictures are full of joy, laughter, and family connection. Start by asking everyone to get in a circle and hold hands. And then if needed, show them how to play.


      I usually sing the song for them. If you ask the parents to sing, or if the children do, many of the pictures will be of open (singing) mouths. I do the singing so they can do the smiling and laughing!

      Use this game as an opportunity to snap pictures of the entire family as well as close ups of individuals.

      Position mom and dad on opposite ends of the circle. This will help bring balance to the family pictures. And it will give you an opportunity to take a few pictures of mom laughing at the children she is holding hands with, and the same with dad.


      Remember elementary school gym class? I loved when the teacher would bring out the brightly colored parachute to play games with! Pack a big blanket for your next photo session and ask mom and dad to hold the corners and float the blanket up and down while the kids run underneath.


      Think of the blanket as a prop in the photo. Be sure to select a blanket with colors, textures and patterns that work well with your family’s outfits and the photo location.

      Even though this is more of a lifestyle picture, be sure to help start mom and dad off in a pose that will have them loving how they look in these images. Remind them they don’t need to stand like statues in that position, but it’s a starting point before adding movement, fun and interaction.

      3. TICKLE TIME

      dad playing with daughter in a park at sunset
      A tickle can be posed on a blanket. Or it may be more of a playtime image like this one.


      This is a great one for getting genuine connections and loads of laughter. Have the family sit on a blanket and ask mom and dad to tickle their kids. Once they are all tickled out, I find that most kids love getting a little snuggle with mom and dad. And I love getting those images just as much as the ones full of laughter.

      dad holding daughter and giving her a kiss in a park at sunset
      And sometimes those moments right after the tickle can be the sweetest. When they were done, dad swooped up daughter and gave her a kiss.

      4. WORD GAMES

      This game is great for older children. You say a word, and they have to tell you the first word that pops into their head. I may say ‘pencil’ and the son may say ‘paper’.  I could say ‘red’ and the daughter may say ‘dress’. Once they have the idea, use ‘dad’ or ‘mom’ as your word and see what silly or sweet words the children come up with. This game is sure to get the whole family laughing and smiling.

      5.PEEK A BOO

      baby girl laughing as mom and dad fly her overhead at a family photo session
      Dad was playing peek-a-boo from behind mom. Their daughters smile is priceless!

      This game works wonders when photographing babies and toddlers. Peek-a-boo is one of the earliest games children are able to play. And, holding a big camera in front of your face is basically the first step in playing peek-a-boo anyways! It’s easy to compose the picture, ask mom and dad to smile and then peek out from behind your camera. It usually takes a few times for the child to catch on to what you are doing. But once they realize you are playing peek-a-boo, they will be all smiles!

      6. SIMON SAYS

      family picture sitting in covered bridge
      Playing Simon says to get a perfectly posed family image and genuine smiles.

      Playing many of these games during family photo sessions allow the photographer to capture lifestyle and in the moment type images. I love these type of images because they really show the joy and connection of a family. But, I also know that many parents want a more traditional posed image of their family. For those type of pictures, Simon Says is the perfect game to play. I use the Simon Says command to get them sitting nicely with mom and dad. This can help down the the little details like crossing ankles or hand placement.

      Once I have them all placed, I usually give a non-Simon Says command and see if they fall for it. If not, I laugh and tell them I was sure I had them! Sometimes this (if I act silly and dramatic about it) will get them laughing so I’m ready to snap a picture. If not, I give them a silly Simon Says command like, ‘Simon Says, without moving your hands or feet, wiggle your ears.’ At first they will look serious as they try, but then they usually burst into laughter. Snapping a picture at that moment creates the perfectly posed picture with authentic laughter and smiles.


      This is a great game to play during a family photo shoot if you want to get picture of the family walking and holding hands. Simply get the family lined up hand in hand and tell them to race to me when I say ‘green light’. If I yell ‘red light’ they have to stop. I love that this game not only brings out smiles and laughter but also creates lots of movement in the pictures.


      This game is similar to red light, green light. But it is best for just the kids. Ask the children to hold hands and run towards the camera. Asking them to hold hands helps keep them together in the pictures.


      Tongue Twisters are a great way to get the whole family laughing. I like to use this one after I have the family positioned into a pose. Then I ask them to see who can say this tongue twister the fastest. Grab some family pictures full of joy and laughter as each member gets tongue twisted and the rest of the family bursts into giggles.

      10. TELEPHONE

      big brother kissing sister at a family photo session
      Big brother was whispering a telephone message into little sister’s ear.

      Telephone is the perfect game to play when you want to capture a calmer and quiet moment. And is perfect for getting pictures of just the children. Or capturing a moment between mom or dad and a child. Ask a mom and her daughter to snuggle on a blanket while mom whispers a message in her daughter’s ear. Then ask the daughter to try to whisper it back to her mom and see how accurate it is. And, I always like to ask mom to make the final telephone message a silly one to see if she can get her daughter to laugh.


      Be sure to capture the moment of theme whispering for an intimate and sweet images. And then be ready to capture the laughter between then if the message is all scrambled and silly.


      I’m sure you remember having staring contests with your friends growing up. The idea is simple. Ask the kids to sit close together. I like to take a moment to pose them slightly to make sure the final image looks great. Then tell them to stare into each others eyes. The first person to look away, blink or laugh loses. This game may take a few minutes. But once one person cracks, there is bound to be laughter and great photo opportunities.

      A variation on this game is to ask two members to stare at each other. But as they stare they are supposed to move their faces closer and closer together. Until they are finally touching noses. This variation often allows me to capture more tender moments.

      What I love most about these games is that many don’t require any planning. You can keep a few favorites tucked in your back pocket. When you find yourself struggling with a child who isn’t into the family photo session, simply pull out your favorite game to play! It can be the difference between a gallery full of blank stares and a gallery of joyful authentic images.

      If you have any favorite games to play at family photo sessions, I’d love to hear it! Just drop me a comment below!