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6 Tips on Successful Photo Shoots with Families

As a photographer, you face constant hurdles: deadlines, creative droughts, lighting, editing, etc. Dealing with difficult families shouldn’t be one of them!   

This article will provide you with 6 tips on how to manage shoots with families - including children.

Comfortably Posed

When photographing a family, your primary goal is to capture genuinely happy moments and to show the love that is between everyone. One easy way to accomplish this is through a comfortably posed photo.

Try to sit everyone close to one another - preferably at head level. Even if kids are at varying ages, sitting them down together will make them appear close. Sitting down shots are also easy to execute.

Get a Genuine Smile

Reflect back on your own family photos. Remember dressing up in uncomfortable clothes and sitting awkwardly? And trying to put on a happy face even though you weren’t that happy?

How can you get kids (and everyone else) to give you genuinely happy smiles? When everyone is seated close to each other, have the parents to tickle the kids and quickly capture the giggles and fun. When kids lose interest and can’t sit still, get them to stand up and hold hands. You can also get them to jump up while holding hands, to swing from their parents’ arms, to wave at you, to sit on their parents’ shoulders, etc.

Try to encourage flexible poses. If you put kids in rigid poses, the photos will come out looking awkward. Let them pose how they want to pose and most importantly, make them feel comfortable and encourage them to have fun. When children feel comfortable, they are much more likely to show you their joyous selves.

Step Away from the Camera

If you’re working with families with small children, put the camera away at any point you see family members becoming irritated. 

Yes, even though you are the one doing the brunt of the work; the family will get tired, restless, or they may completely lose interest in the shoot. In that instance, take a break and interact.

You can ask questions, go on a walk, or introduce fun toys for the children to play with. Toy cameras are often a hit with small children. Make sure that both children and parents are enjoying the process.

Show Them the Photos

After a few shots, show everyone what you captured. It will get the kids feeling excited and involved and will make them more keen on cooperating with you. Adults will also get reassurance that you know what you’re doing and that everything is working out. With everyone feeling inspired, your family will be easier to work with.

Distract and Redirect

If a child is uncooperative, distract her and redirect her focus. Show her something of interest.  

Keep in mind that kids do not have the best attention spans, especially for “boring” stuff like photo shoots. For this reason, it’s best to get the most difficult shots and poses out of the way early in the shoot. Get all the shots you want (all the kids together, kids with each parent, etc.) while the children are still feeling cooperative. Then move to more fun shots like those that involve activity.

Don’t Believe the Parents

Parents may assure you that they have the most well-behaved and easy-going children. Yet on the day of the shoot,  you get introduced to cranky and irritated miniature monsters. The fact is that children will be children. Especially when they have to focus for a couple of hours for photos they don’t care about. Aim to have compassion for what is childhood. And be ready for anything.

Aim prepare yourself to work with uncooperative children at every shoot. As long as you accept it and are flexible, everyone – even you – will enjoy the shoot. Patience and preparation wins out every time. 

Wrapping Up

Photographing difficult families can challenging, but it is manageable. Follow these tips for greater success!  


Photo attribution: Bess Hamiti, Janko Ferlic, Daniela Dimitrova, kai Stachowiak, and Stefan Schweihofer