I generally like to sit back in the shadows when shooting my own kids because I prefer to capture them in their element and I don’t like to force them into photos.

However, sometimes I get the urge to put them in a pretty setting or in one of my favorite spots in the house to get a somewhat “posed” photo. I use this term very lightly, because trying to pose little boys is excruciatingly painful and the looks I get when I try to get them to “smile at the camera” is comical at best. With that being said, I have a few tricks that I use to get real interactions and genuine reactions. Best of all, they work with kids of all ages!

5 ways to get genuine reactions from kids in photos

1. Have backup

When I am shooting one at a time, I get their brother to get directly behind me to “help”. Making funny faces or telling a joke sometimes does the trick, but not always. My oldest two are really into YouTube videos, so they like to pull up a really silly video (which I struggle to find amusing, but whatever works) and play it behind me. There is nothing better than eyes closed, nose scrunched, big belly laughs. The laughter I get is amazing and best of all, it’s genuine!

Related: 6 ways to get kids to smile without saying cheese

photo of boy laughing with a scrunched nose by Kimberly Milano

2. It’s a secret

If I want two or more kiddos in the frame, I’ll sit them where I want them and tell them to either play a game of telephone or whisper a really funny secret that they don’t want mom to hear. (Potty talk seems to be a big hit, at least with my boys.) The connection this shows between brothers and the big smiles and laughter this produces makes this mama’s heart sing.

black and white photo of kids whispering by Kimberly Milano

3. Red Light, Green Light

Play a game of “red light green light”.  This can work with all ages! I love movement in photos, so this is a good way to capture connection AND movement all at once. Line up your kids and have them hold hands. So many people stop here, but that’s not where the magic happens. Playing “red light green light” gets them moving, laughing and having fun with each other.

picture of 3 kids running by Kimberly Milano

4. Ring Around the Rosie

One of my favorite games to have them play is “Ring around the Rosie.” My oldest finds this kind of lame and I do get an eye roll occasionally, but for the most part, he humors me. Best of all, even if he thinks he’s “too big for this,” he does love to play with his baby brothers and he winds up enjoying making them giggle.

Related: 7 ideas to make photo shoots fun for kids

two boys backlit in a field by Kimberly Milano

5. Eskimo kisses

Who doesn’t love Eskimo kisses? I love how sometimes the giggles start before they even touch noses. I could photograph Eskimo kisses all day and it will never get old.

pic of two boys laughing together by Kimberly Milano

These are just a few tricks and tips you can use you to help your kids show natural emotion and not dread getting in front of your camera. Just use your imagination and make it fun for them! Put down the camera for a moment if you need to and get them playing. Just have your settings ready to go and when they get in their element, step back and start clicking away!

Related: Move It: Summer Murdock’s secret for authentic photos

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