Photographing young children can be a challenge for many photographers, but for anyone who shoots families, learning how to work with very young children is a necessity.  With a little preparation, and a bit of willingness to act like a kid yourself, any photographer can win over their little subjects.

1. Become Friends

Even though the parents are paying the session fee, the kids are the ones that are necessary to win over to have a successful family or child photo shoot.  After a quick greeting to the parents, establish yourself as a playmate as soon as possible after the meeting the children.  Get down on their level, introduce yourself directly to the little ones, and tell them all about the fun you are going to have.

2. Be Silly

Kids love adults who can be as silly as they are.  Have a few simple, age-appropriate jokes to tell, complain about how your son made you finish your carrots for lunch and makes you go to bed early, be prepared to imitate some favorite characters popular with the under-five set, and ask the parents ahead of time for any songs or games that always make their children laugh.  Download apps that make funny noises and practice using it from inside your pocket or ask the parents to stand behind you and use it.


 3. Have “Secrets”

Children love having “secrets” from their parents.  Gain their trust and allow them to have fun by creating some fun “secrets” just between you and them.  If you know that their parents are going to take them out for ice cream or to pick out a toy after the photoshoot, ask the parents to allow you to be the one to share this secret with the children during the photo shoot to get great, natural smiles.

Any time of year, ask the children what they are hoping their parents will get them for Christmas or their birthday and promise not to tell.  Kids also love playing tricks on their parents.  Have parents sit down and say loudly that you are taking a couples portrait while instructing the kids to play a trick on their parents, such running up to them and tickling them or acting silly to make their parents laugh.

4. Have a “Friend” on Your Camera

Very young children may be intimidated by the camera.  Even though their parents may take their photo all the time with their phones, it may be the first time they have seen a DSLR.  Solve this problem quickly by telling them that a creature/friend you created lives in your camera.  Ask kids to look for the creature/friend from time to time to get good eye contact with the camera.  Also, consider getting an inexpensive attachment for your camera, such as a

Also, consider getting an inexpensive attachment for your camera, such as a Shutter Hugger or a more versatile attachment that fits in your hotshoe like a DaisyGrip, which can hold a puppet or even a phone that can display the child’s favorite character or video.  Even babies will turn to look at a bird that is squeaking on your camera.
children 5 and under

5. Incorporate Movement

It’s unrealistic to expect very young kids to sit still.  Scout your location ahead of time and identify at least 3-5 spots for photos.  Incorporate games that get kids up and moving in your photos or take a few breaks to allow kids to shake it out.  Races and dance contests are always a hit with little ones.

When you win over your youngest clients not only will you get fantastic photos with natural expressions but you may find that you have a great time during your family photoshoots.  If you are really good, you may even get invited over for a playdate some day!