At times, it can be difficult to get our kids to cooperate for the things we know are important. Eat your broccoli. Brush your teeth. Do your homework.
And as parents who love to take pictures of our kids, we know that getting them to sit for the camera can result in the same kinds of rebellion. We know how important these photos are, but we just get eye rolls and groans when we say it’s time for a picture. Over time, our kids can begin to resent seeing our cameras.
So, before your child develops the dreaded “photographer’s child syndrome,” here are some surefire ways to make your kids want to be in front of your camera.
Get the kids involved in the creative process
Kids are naturally creative. Spend time around any child and you will see how vivid their little imaginations can be.
On top of their natural creativity, they love to be involved in whatever it is you are doing. So the next time you are itching to get some photos, let them help you plan out some of the shots!
One of my favorite ongoing photography projects is one inspired by my kids’ imaginations. We include the whole family in our shadow series and the process is as much fun as the final images. The kids are always eager to participate as they get to help plan out the picture and watch it come to life in the editing process.
You don’t need to start a new project to get the your kids involved. As you are shooting, ask your child what he or she wants to do for a fun photo. This can be as simple as letting them make a silly face. Or perhaps they want to show you how high they can jump. When they are involved and having fun, it’s easy to get a willing participant for photos.
Make the photo an adventure
I don’t know many kids who don’t love a good adventure. When it’s time for a photo, pick a new spot and promise them lots of fun as you go exploring together.
Even better, let THEM choose where to go for some photos. Let them know you are bringing along your camera and that you need their help taking some photos. Allow them to choose some things to take photos of. Trees, bugs, flowers, or whatever grabs their attention. Talk to them about what you see and let them help you figure out good ways to photograph things.
Another fun option is to create a photo scavenger hunt. Make a list of things that you hope to find or see on your adventure and tell your child you need their help finding the things on your list.
When you are out and about, let the kids lead the way as you explore. Step back and snap some photos while they enjoy discovering the world around them.
Remember, not all adventures have to be far away or extravagant. Trips to museums, libraries, aquariums, even stores like Target can present opportunities for fun and photos. Consider seasonal activities as well such as apple picking, strawberry picking, trips to the pumpkin patch, carnivals, etc.
Use these activities as a way not only to get some photos but also to make lasting memories as a family that you can turn into family traditions!
Introduce a new toy, craft, or activity
What child doesn’t love a trying out something new? When they are engrossed in their new toy/craft, you can snap a few photos. They probably won’t even notice they are being photographed!
Let them have fun and get messy. You’ll get some great photos and make some fun memories in the process.
I love to bake with my kids. We choose a recipe together and I take some photos of the baking process. Not only do the kids feel involved, the process ends with some yummy treats to share together. It’s a win for everyone!
Let the kids be the photographer
Your children see you behind the camera all the time. Chances are they’re curious what it is about taking photos that you love so much.
Next time you are taking pictures, let your kids have a turn behind the camera. Have them choose what to shoot and praise their work as they create some photos of their own!
If your child is a young toddler or baby and you don’t quite trust them with your gear, pull out a toy camera or inexpensive digital camera made for children. For slightly older kids, you can buy a cheap DSLR or let them use some of your old gear.
They will love getting to play photographer for a bit and you can start teaching them some photography basics. You will be amazed at how quickly kids pick-up on ideas such as looking for light and composition.
Sharing the love of photography will make the process that much more fun for everyone.
Stay positive and focus on fun
Let’s keep it real. Sometimes photoshoots just don’t go as planned.
Sometimes, no matter what we try, our kids are just not in the mood to have their photographs taken that day. Try to remember that they are little humans and respect their feelings. When they say they are done with photos or you can feel the session start to head south, let them know that it’s okay to be done for the day. Thank them for letting you take some pictures.
I know it’s frustrating not to get the shot you want. But you can try again another day. If you lose your temper, chances are that the kids won’t be on board next time you have a photo idea.
When you keep things lighthearted and fun and keep the focus on the kids rather than the photo, you are more likely to have a willing participant the next time you pull out your camera.
Take breaks from shooting
Don’t hide from your child behind the camera. After snapping a few photos, put the camera away for a bit. Play and interact with your child so they know that your photo outings aren’t just business but are lots of fun, too.
If your goal is to get a portrait or more formal picture of your child looking at the camera and smiling, try to get that photo right away when you head out to shoot. Once you get the shot you want, keep your shooting more candid and keep your camera at your side more often than not.
When your photo sessions are as much about connecting and being together as they are about taking pictures, your kids will be that much more likely to cooperate.
Reward good behavior
Kids thrive on positive reinforcement. When you have a photo session that goes particularly well, let them know that you appreciate them. Shower them with words of appreciation, and maybe even give them a special treat like a sucker or small toy to thank them for being so great.
Is it bribery? Maybe a little bit! But it’s human nature to repeat behavior that gives us what we want. Letting the kids have a reward for being awesome subjects is a great way to earn their future cooperation.
Even better, the reward can be another photo opportunity! While the kids are engrossed in their treat, you can snap a few frames to remember the joy.
The key to getting the kids on board is to keep the stress out of the photo process. If you make taking photos an activity that they enjoy rather than just a means to get photos you enjoy, then everyone will be happier.
More than anything, the photos you take will have happy memories behind them rather than memories of a stressed-out mom. So focus on fun, focus on the kids, and you will be able to create pictures that your heart will love. And chances are, the kids will want you to take more of them in the future.