Children are often the first subjects that a photographer falls in love with as a primary subject.  There are endless benefits of shooting little ones who have yet to develop camera shyness, allowing beginning photographers to have a moving, dynamic, energetic, and sometimes patient subject.  But it isn’t until you are hired to shoot children do you realize that the goal shifts to capture smiles and poses rather than just snapping away for documentary purposes.

Note: For complete training, see our Family Photography 101 Workshop in SLR Lounge Premium.

When it comes to photographing children, the obvious goal is to capture expressions that are framable.  In other words, this means no crying or grumpy faces and no awkward expressions. So it’s up to you, magician behind the camera, to control the atmosphere during the shoot.  And I promise you that you can find ways to get a great expression without a stuffed toy that you have to squeak or shake behind the lens.

The first rule:  Join the child’s world.  Bend down, play with them, ask them to show you what they are doing. This allows them to be comfortable with you; and the more fun you seem like you are having, the more fun they will have.

Here are a few tips to get great expressions:

Here are a few cues for the best children’s poses for photography.

  • Tell them to run.  Tell the child to run down the path, then run back.
  • Show them the pose you want them to make.  Show them how to stand, how to put their hands in their pockets, etc.
  • Where are your pockets?  If you want him to simply pose, then ask him, “Where are your pockets? Can you find them?” And start shooting like crazy.
  • Strike a pose game. If the child is older and more cooperative, tell them every click you want to see another pose.  This often works well with boys.
  • Have mom or dad toss them in the air.  The things that the parents do to make them giggle, tickle or toss, capture it and pan with your subject as they go up and down.
  • Give them something to hold.  Children love to hold things.  They want to learn and play, not smile at a black camera lens.  So plan the session around the activity, tell them to show it to you, or hold their collection.
  • All else fails, give it to them.  For the love of God, just give whatever it is they are crying about to them if they’re in tears.  If you can, have a blanket and or have a way to play a game to “hide” it.

Session preparation:

  • Continuous mode + AI SERVO = Winning.  Children move quickly so you want to capture a clear shot.  You will most likely shoot more than you would with an adult portrait session.
  • Bring candy or toys.  Or suggest to the parents to bring items that are meaningful and not ugly to photograph.  This is a last resort in case the child won’t cooperate and needs a distraction or their binky.  Just make sure it’s a pretty binky.
  • Have mom and dad stand off behind or to the side, not behind you. Parents often forget they don’t need to tell their children to say cheese or remind them to smile.  You’ll find this more distracting if the parents know you don’t have children so they think you need their help.  Kindly tell them where they can stand and you have it under control.  Children want direction from one person and being sweet talked by their parents with bribes after the shoot only creates a tantrum of wanting the candy now.

What I’ve said to capture the expressions and poses:

“Show me where your pockets are.”

“Toss the twins up in the air.”

“Run to the end and turn around and quickly run back!”

“Can you find your favorite car?”

“Family kiss!” (Something they do all the time)

“Can you show me your best ballerina pose?”

We hope you’ve enjoyed and learned from these children’s poses for photography! If you have any thoughts, please let us know in the comments!