Top 10 Children’s Photography Tips

We all take so many photos of our kids, but it can be difficult to get that perfect shot when your little model won’t sit still, won’t smile, or will only smile like a cheesy gameshow host! When you try to direct children to pose, they tend to assume bizarre, twisted positions or do things that they never normally would… They say never work with children or animals, but we think it’s all in the approach and the method rather than trying to direct a little bundle of energy to do what you want: “Stand there!” “Don’t make a face!” “Hug your sister!” If there’s one thing you can rely on, giving a small child a direct command is likely to result in the complete opposite!

how to take great child photos

Photo by M S; ISO 1250, 1/50-second exposure.

You need to take a different approach when taking portrait photos of little ones, from teeny newborns to boisterous toddlers and pre-schoolers to teenagers! No matter whether they’re feeling shy, nervous, defiant, or grumpy, you need to do your best to show their best side, and—most importantly—make your child feel comfortable during photo shoots.

Here are 10 top tips for photographing children:

1. Follow their lead. Placing a child where you want them to stand and asking them to smile nicely rarely works. Let them roam, explore their surroundings and any objects or props that might be around. There will be plenty of natural smiles, gorgeous expressions of surprise and curiosity along the way—it’s your job to catch those moments, not force them.

2. It’s not all about the smile. Any new parent can attest to the fact that you can spend hours of your day just staring at all the little subtle expressions your baby makes. Although life becomes busier as they get more mobile, they still possess a wonderful array of quirks, frowns, grimaces, grins and funny faces that really show their personality when caught on film. A great way to get a good expression and pose from a child for a photo is to ask them to think about something in particular: What are clouds made of? How high can you jump? What does the world look like when you’re upside down?

3. Make them feel at home. There needn’t be a great rush when photographing children. They don’t perform to order, so sometimes you just have to be patient and let them get used to where they are and what’s going on. And there’s no reason why portraits need to be taken in a studio—why not shoot on location at a place that is special and meaningful to you, whether it’s your home, a favorite playground, the beach, or on holiday? Familiarity makes us all relax, and especially children, so some beautiful candid snaps can be taken when your child feels totally at ease.


“Child laughing” by cheriejoyful

4. Don’t put the camera down! Every moment with children is an opportunity for a great shot. And you might have noticed they don’t tend to stay in one place for very long. Keep shooting, keep watching, keep the creativity flowing. And if your child just wants to make funny faces that’s fine— if you keep photographing for long enough, their facade will drop eventually and suddenly you will get a flash of the real them.

5. Get down to their level. A great big looming adult with a camera hiding their face can be frightening and overwhelming. Get down on your knees or crouch down to their height and you will be instantly more approachable. Photos from this perspective also look much better than ones from above, which can skew proportions and make for odd angles.

6. Be quick. Set your camera to its fastest shutter speed and use a high ISO for ‘freezing’ high speed moments. If you’re using automatic camera settings, there should be an option for sports or high-speed shots. Catching photographs of children in action—if you’re quick enough—can create some spectacular images that reflect the 100mph nature of having kids.

7. Vary your shots. If you’ve taken a load of full-body shots, move in a little closer and focus on their busy hands, their little feet, their angelic (most of the time) faces. Even photos where your subject isn’t facing the camera can translate a lot of personality and body language. Move around with them and get a great choice of photos.

8. Be sneaky. There are times when you don’t even need to let the child know you’re taking photos. Observe and pick a moment when she is completely involved and engaged in an activity and start snapping away. Candid portrait photography often produces the most beautiful images (with both children and adults), because the subject is relaxed and not trying to pose or look a certain way.

9. Don’t force it. If a child is not enjoying himself and is getting upset, it’s time to put the camera away. Respect their privacy and their self-confidence—after all, you wouldn’t like a camera shoved in your face if you were feeling shy and vulnerable, would you?

best tips for children photography

Photo by SMb Photographie; ISO 125, f/7.1, 1/9-second exposure.

10. Make it fun. If you’re a budding photographer or just want to get the best portrait photos possible of your children, you have to make it worth their while! Making photo shoots fun and enjoyable means that your kids will want to do it again, and again, and again… Let them get involved and take some pictures of you for a change! Show them all the images afterwards and let them help choose which ones to enlarge or how to edit them. Digital cameras specifically for children (i.e. very robust!) are becoming cheaper and cheaper, so why not provide them with their own camera and start seeing the world through their eyes?

About the Author
Rebecca Dawe Photography – Leicestershire’s Premier Wedding & Portrait Photographers. Wedding and portrait photography specialists, creating beautiful, natural photographs.

Like This Article?

Don't Miss The Next One!

Join over 100,000 photographers of all experience levels who receive our free photography tips and articles to stay current:

10 responses to “Top 10 Children’s Photography Tips”

  1. Rob says:

    Great advice, all of it.
    I often take my camera along when playing outside with my son. Once, we were just sitting at the patio table, making silly faces at each other. He found one of mine particularly funny and I snapped this one:
    You just never know when and where the next great shot will come along.

  2. Jens says:

    It’s interresting to see photos children snapping from each other. I found my daughter making better photos then I was able to shoot ;-)

  3. NewTripod says:

    Very good tips. I liked the first one very much. If you ask a child to smile some times it works but most of the time you have to follow their natural behavior.

  4. MabZziCLe says:

    very nice captures me :)

  5. Prakash Khatiwala says:

    Man this is it, come next Holiday I shall employ the tips to capture the childhood of children in my family.

    Thanks for sharing the article.

  6. I absolutely agree with the 4th tip. I was at a child’s birthday once with my daughter and the photographer there wasn’t taking any candid pictures. The only time she was snapping shots was for group photos. None of the fun of the party was really captured. The pictures in this article are great examples. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Vera Kruis says:

    Lovely photos! All your tips are also very helpful. I love candid shots. I usually take a lot of candid shots especially when I shoot with children. You’ll just never know when you are going to capture a magical moment with them.

  8. Marcus says:

    It helped a lot when you mentioned how it is recommended to choose a place that is familiar to your kids when taking pictures of them. I understand that doing some research and assessing your own needs can help you find the best type of pictures to remember your kids. We are planning on having a family photo session and wanted to make sure we knew how to make it bearable for our kids, so I’m glad I found your page.

  9. Ellie Davis says:

    I like your suggestion of letting the kids wander and explore instead of trying to get them to stand in one spot and pose. I am wanting to get some pictures of my daughter while she is still young but I don’t know of any photographers that specialize in children portraits. I will have to do some research and find one that I can work with.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

New! Want more photography tips? We now offer a free newsletter for photographers:

No, my photos are the best, close this forever