7 ideas to make photo shoots fun for kids

  • boy covering his face picture by Celeste Pavlik

Typically when I shoot it’s for a few reasons: to fulfill an artistic need, possibly creating something that’s new to me, to create a new piece of work for my portfolio, or to add to the growing collection of documenting the lives of my children and our family.

I would say over 90% of my work includes my children. So any reason I can come up with to make it fun for my children to be photographed, then I’m happy, and they’re happy.

I like when I am able to involve my children in an idea for a photo. Sometimes we’ll brainstorm what I would like the finished photo to be and other times we’ll just talk about an idea or an activity that they would like to do.

Over the past few years, my boys have grown accustomed to having a camera on them and near by at all times. Do they always love it? No. But, they also aren’t ones to run and hide either.

I guess I am lucky if they’re not running the other way! Here are a few tips that I hope you can incorporate into the way you go about photographing your children or even your client’s children.

kids bath by Celeste Pavlik

1. Let them be.

One of my favorite ways to photograph my boys is when they aren’t aware of me being there. If I can, I will try to catch them when they are just playing with one another, having a quiet moment, or completely immersed in an activity and they don’t realize I’m there.

kid in the trees by Celeste Pavlik
boys playing in the yard by Celeste Pavlik

Ignoring them is a great tactic, too. Act like they’re not even in your view finder!

I will tell them that I’m just checking my light, or I’m not really ready yet to take their picture. I keep my camera on silent shooting mode when I take their pictures because first, they count really well, and when I tell them ‘just one more picture’.. well, you know the story I’m sure.

Silent mode is great because it makes it less likely that little ears will clue in on how many times you’ve actually clicked the shutter! It’s wonderful when your ‘test shot’ becomes a keeper!

brothers sitting in a chair by Celeste Pavlik

2. Be engaged.

Okay, so yes, I just said let them be and now I’m telling you to be engaged. But both avenues can lead you to some really amazing photo opportunities.

Ask your child to tell you a joke or a silly story. Right now one of my boys is really into knock knock jokes. He thinks he’s the funniest thing since sliced bread. And they make no sense! But we both laugh so it’s a win-win.

Our children love our attention so just talking, listening, and being attentive especially when they’re silliness relaxes them and you is perfect because it allows you to capture the in between moments.

boy looking up at the snow by Celeste Pavlik
boy looking through fingers by Celeste Pavlik

3. Keep it short and sweet.

I cannot stress this enough. When I first started getting serious about photography, I did not realize how much easier it was if I kept a photo session under about 10 minutes or so. It makes sense. Smaller children have very short attention spans. Don’t expect them to be able to enjoy the photo shoot if it lasts too long.

boy looking down by Celeste Pavlik

4. Let them do something out of the ordinary.

I was talking to a good friend and photographer and fellow photographer, Jessica Nelson, about this. I asked her what she does to make her photo shoots fun. She replied “Let them do something they don’t usually get to do. Bubbles! They’re messy and no fun to clean up! So it’s a treat when I let them play with them.”

I know first hand how they can quickly get out of control and all over the place! So this is a perfect example of how you can create a special photo when you allow your kids to engage in an activity that’s a rarity, it creates some great opportunities to photograph moments that are authentic and fun at the same time.

kid blowing bubbles by Jessica Nelson

photo by Jessica Nelson

5. Let them take the photo.

How often do you hand over your camera to your 5 yr old? Probably not ever. However, giving them the remote can be great fun! I love to do this with my kids because it allows me to just sit back and watch what they take photos of, of themselves. It’s the safe ’selfie’ I guess. My kids love to ham it up in front of the lens when they’re in control of the shutter.

boy playing in a chair by Celeste Pavlik

Jessica shared a beautiful self portrait of her and her daughter. In the wonderful essence of a girl, her daughter chose to capture a quiet moment with her Mom.

mom holding daughter by Jessica Nelson

photo by Jessica Nelson

6. Go on an adventure or to a new location.

What’s great about this one is that you can go location scouting, do something you’ve been wanting to do outside of your typical daily routine, and often these types of shoots lends itself to much more relaxed time for your children when in front of the lens.

Anytime we go to the beach I bring my camera. The light, the water, the way it makes me feel… is relaxed and happy. My boys love the water just as much so it’s not too difficult to shoot them just doing what they do best at the beach.

kids running in the water by Celeste Pavlik

I also love to hone in on them discovering what’s around them and exploring on their own.

boys hands by Celeste Pavlik
brothers hugging on a hill by Celeste Pavlik

7. Include someone they enjoy being with.

For my boys that’s their Daddy. They absolutely adore their Father. Any opportunity they have to climb in his lap and any opportunity I have to capture their fun and their connection through my lens I try to take advantage of that.

dad hugging son by Celeste Pavlik

About the Author:

Known for her dramatic use of light and admiration of black and white photography, Maryland photographer Celeste Pavlik has a gift for capturing a wide array of emotions in her honest and organic imagery of her subjects. While the subject of her lens is most often one, or all four of her sons, she also immerses herself in the quietness of macro and still life photography. Receiving acclamation in several juried shows, she is finding herself happily pulled in to the fine art world. Celeste is a Canon photographer, Lensbaby lover, freelensing fanatic and enjoys processing 90 percent of an image in ACR with a final polish in Photoshop and or Lightroom. Besides photography, Celeste likes to spend time with her boys, explore new places, bake and snuggle in one of her well loved quilts.

11 Comments

  1. Jessica Apr 23 2015 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    LOVE these tips. They are so very helpful! I am always trying to think of ways to keep it fun with my kids as I want them to have GOOD memories that they associate with mom having a camera in her hand. Definitely going to be applying some of these in my daily shooting of my children! THANK YOU!

    • celeste pavlik May 06 2015 at 10:01 am - Reply

      thank you! and yes, them having good memories of you taking pictures is so important, but easy to forget!!

  2. Erin Bremer Apr 27 2015 at 8:55 am - Reply

    Your boys on the chair when they thought you were “testing” your settings, LOVE IT!!

    Thank you for sharing these tips! I have to always remember to keep the times I photograph my kids short and sweet!!

    • celeste pavlik May 06 2015 at 10:02 am - Reply

      thank you Erin! yes, many of my favorite shots end up being my ‘test’ shots!! lol

  3. Sonia Apr 27 2015 at 11:38 am - Reply

    Very interesting post! Super useful, thank you!

  4. Mathilde Apr 29 2015 at 1:58 pm - Reply

    This blog is always full of great tips! Thank you! Even though i’m a family photographer, it’s always great to have new ideas.

  5. Anastasia May 03 2015 at 10:34 pm - Reply

    nice read! I have to learn it by heart before I go for a family session with 2-3 toddlers next time, hahah

  6. Helen May 26 2015 at 5:22 pm - Reply

    It may not make sense to hand your big camera to a five-year-old (because it is just too heavy for her to hold, and too large to grip) but in my experience a five-year-old (and even a four-year-old) can absolutely handle a compact camera!

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