The games we play during sessions elicit terrific reactions from the children, but they’re really for the mom and dad. Let’s be real: Photography sessions are stressful. If parents are given an activity where they can let loose and enjoy the day, all the worries about how they look and how the kids are behaving melt away, and the fun really starts. Here are my top five favorite photography games designed to help every family member look and feel relaxed and natural on camera.

1. Family Hug

I like to bring everyone together for a group hug several times during the session. Every time I yell out, “Family hug!” everyone has to stop what they’re doing and embrace one another. This produces images that are connection-driven and brings wandering or overly excited children back to being engaged in the session.

family hug, a photography game for photo sessions

2. Wiggle

I play the wiggle game at almost every session, and it always gets everyone giggling. I line up the family in a row and have them hold hands. Then I wiggle my own body like a total goof-ball and say, “Everybody wiggle, wiggle, wiggle!” Vary this by having them twist or dance.

photography game where family wiggles together

3. 10 Seconds

This is a connection-driven game that draws out beautifully intimate moments. It can be played with grown-ups and kids of all ages. I get two subjects facing and ask them to stare at each other while counting to 10. As they count, they should move their faces closer together and try to end up with their noses touching. This quickly can bring out both tender and silly moments.

photography game of 10 second stare, mom and child looking at each other

4. Tag

Nothing makes an image feel more joyful than movement. Usually, the children start to run around naturally and, much to their parents’ surprise and delight, rather than try to rein them in, I give chase with my shutter speed cranked high. If the kids don’t start running organically, I’ll tell them to start running while I’ll try to “tag” them with my camera. Immediately after this game, let them all rest and get settled for a traditional family portrait.

photography game, tag, little boy points to camera

5. Everybody Look

This is the game I play once I have the family settled for a traditional family portrait or holiday card photo. I’ll try to get just one frame of everyone looking at the camera (bonus points if they’re smiling), then I’ll instruct them to look at the person whose name I call out: “Everybody look at Jane!” Click. “Everybody look at me!” Click. “Everybody look at the silliest person!” Click. I usually segue into a tickle fight to grab really fun connection shots.

family hugging during photography game

All photos by Virginia Greuloch.

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