Ever have a hard time getting your little ones to smile for the camera? Do you ever photograph people that tell you they hate getting their picture taken? Do you say that you hate getting your picture taken? It can be tough to stay motivated as a photographer when it seems no one is enjoying themselves!

We don’t want you to feel defeated when taking photos. When we first started in photography, we struggled with this BIG time! Over the last couple of years, we have found that the number one priority to making sure you get great photos is having FUN. 

Having fun yourself will help you and your subjects relax and enjoy the session rather than dread it. Here are our top tips for making sure that you and your subjects have fun while taking their photos! 

girl smiling laughing in grass outside emily and erin drew esquared photography

Start asking questions right away

It doesn’t matter if you are at a photo shoot, at your husband’s holiday work party, or meeting someone at a coffee shop: people like to be asked questions about themselves. Whenever someone can start talking about themselves (what they know!), they will feel more comfortable.

So, start asking your subjects questions right off the bat. As they walk up to you.

The questions can be super simple. Ask them if they found the location okay. Ask them if they had a good day. Or even ask them where they got the dress they are wearing. This helps to break the ice, gets a conversation started, and keeps everyone comfortable. And it shows that you care.

This simple effort helps to build trust right away. And you can’t have fun if there isn’t trust. As you continue to ask questions, start getting sillier and sillier with your inquiries. Make it a goal to get the kids to giggle before you even take your camera out!

Pro tip: Little kids can be the toughest to break loose. We find that making yourself look silly works magic! We will a lot of times pretend that we tripped over a rock or hit our head on a branch to get a giggle out.

girl in overall denim dress laughing emily and erin drew esquared photography

Never let there be silence

As you begin the shoot by asking questions and giving compliments, keep the conversation going. If it gets silent for too long, things feel awkward for both sides.

Having a couple of ideas of things to say in your back pocket is a must. Simple compliments are a sure way to ease the tension and boost confidence. “This is going to be so much fun!” or, “I can already tell you are going to rock this session!” or, “I am already excited to see these pictures on my computer when I get home!” will make anyone feel great.

It can be difficult to keep the conversation going when you are focusing on getting your settings right and getting your shot (especially as a newer photographer!). If this is the case, be sure to take intentional pauses so that you can chat in between pictures.

blond girl smiling at carnival emily and erin drew esquared photography

Be your subjects’ biggest cheerleader

Whether it is your own child, your cousin, or a complete stranger, it is so important to be their biggest fan during the ENTIRE shoot. If you have ever played basketball or run any sort of race, you know it builds your confidence when you hear people cheering you on. That’s a no brainer.

So, we shouldn’t treat our subjects and taking photos any differently. If you want the photos to be amazing, you will want your subject to be confident. That confidence will show in the photos and will make the whole experience positive for your subjects.

As we are taking photos we are constantly talking and saying small phrases like “Oh my goodness, this is the cutest thing”, “Do you see her eyes?”, “This is perfect”, “How are we going to narrow these down to just one sneak peek”, etc. We NEVER stop talking. Ever.

Every time, it is amazing to witness the change in our subjects. They go from unsure and awkward to giggling to full on confidence machines. And that is exactly what we want!

boys walking and laughing outside fun photo experience emily and erin drew esqaured photography

Let them see the magic

One surefire way to make your subjects have fun? Give them a peek of the fun you are having behind the camera!

When you get a shot you love, share it with your subjects so that they can marvel over how awesome they look. This works to continue building trust that you are working to make them look their very best. And when they see how great they look, they are going to have fun and want to do more.

Show off your modeling skills

This is our favorite part. It is our favorite because it always makes our subjects laugh as we make the start a bit silly (on purpose!).

There is nothing worse than getting your picture taken and not knowing what to do with your hands or feet! We are consistently modeling the poses we want our subjects to do with some significant exaggeration to get everyone laughing. We always let them know they won’t look as ridiculous as us which makes them more confident (see a theme here yet?!).

showing clients how to pose emily and erin drew esquared photography

Not only are we showing off our mad modeling skills and having fun, but we are also coaching our subjects through each pose. And this means that we will get the photos with the natural, relaxed posing we want. Always give their hands, feet, and eyes something to do. Start with the feet and work your way towards the eyes.

Pro tip: We love connection in photos. One of our favorite ways to encourage that is with directing eye contact. We love to say, “Everyone look at Dad and giggle. And Dad, smile at Mom!” This creates a natural giggle reaction and also gives Dad something to do while everyone is laughing at him!

family holding hands outside laughing emily and erin drew esquared photography

Come bearing gifts

Who doesn’t love presents?! Even if it is something small, everyone loves a surprise gift. It also shows some thoughtfulness on your part.

We love to send our families off with a little parting gift. It could be a lollipop for little ones, a scrunchie for tweens, or a small gift card for the local ice cream shop in town. These little gestures ensure that your subjects leave feeling extra warm and fuzzy. When they hop in the car and drive away, we want them smiling, laughing, and saying how easy and fun it was for them.

Bring along a prop

Props don’t have to be cheesy! In fact, they can add a little variety and make your sessions fun.

We aren’t telling you to haul a prop on a trailer to every session (although, that could be neat, too…LOL). Instead, we are talking about small, natural props.

girl drinking soda from glass bottle emily and erin drew esquared photography

Drinking soda out of a vintage glass bottle adds a bit of fun nostalgia to a senior session.

Try bringing along slices of watermelon for little kids at the end of a hot summer day. This will not only keep them excited if they know they get it at the end, but it will make for some cute (and messy — bring some wipes) photos.

Fairy lights are another favorite. They add a little sparkle in any season and create the most beautiful bokeh at wide apertures.

Pro tip: Ask your subjects if they have any fun ideas! They might have their own prop to bring along that you would have never thought of on your own.

women laughing together emily and erin drew esquared photography

Have fun yourself

Our number one goal when photographing anyone is to have them mention how fun it was. And our second goal? To have fun ourselves!

When fun is the main objective, the stress and awkwardness that so many of us associate with photos disappears. Everyone is way more comfortable and relaxed, including you!

In the end, your goal behind the camera should be to have fun and enjoy yourself as you capture priceless memories. If you stop having fun, it will feel like work. And no one wants that!

Good luck and we can’t wait to hear about all the ways you have a blast at your next session!