Children being silly in Black family photoshoot

As a mom of two small children, I know exactly the anxiety you feel when it comes time to have a family photoshoot. Children are unpredictable and it never seems to fail that on picture day, no matter how much you practiced, they decide to act like an ass. 

I understand you’re nervous about wasting your time and money on photos when you’re not even sure you’re going to have a decent one to print or post to social media. I know the frustration that comes with finding and purchasing that cute little outfit that they hate and refuse to sit still in or even better get dirty right before it’s time to take the pictures. Trust me, I understand all of the thought processes that go into a family photoshoot when you have children. 

However, I also understand that children are small for only a short period of time and it’s so imperative that we capture those memories before they’re gone. 

In my 7 years of photographing families and also having the experience of taking photos with my own children, I’ve come up with some best practices. Keep reading for my 5 best tips to prevent your children from ruining your family photoshoot this year.

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family photoshoot with Black mother and children

1. Don’t Aim For Perfection

Be like Elsa and “Let it go.” I’m not saying don’t try to get a great photo with everyone looking and smiling, but let go of the idea of perfection. During every family session I attempt to get that awesome image, mainly to please the moms, but that doesn’t always happen. For this reason, I also take pictures of everyone individually and in smaller groups to ensure everyone has a great photo. Believe it or not, 9 times out of 10 I get the most adorable photos of the children this way.

If you end up with one or 2 that are decent, trust me you are winning. If it doesn’t happen, it’s okay; you just have more blackmail for their teenage years. 😉 Having physical evidence, to go along with that memory of your kid acting up, makes for a way better story down the line. 

No one is perfect, so embrace the foolishness and I promise you’ll have a better experience and your family photoshoot will turn out better.

family photoshoot with Black father and children
Children being silly in family photoshoot

2. Make Sure They Are Not Hungry Or Tired

Children nor adults work well when they are hungry or tired so try not to schedule your family photoshoot during mealtimes or nap time. This is a recipe for disaster that comes with lots of whining and crying. You’re going to be upset because the children will be cranky and uncooperative and the images are not going to be good. Like at all. To ensure the best circumstances, make sure they have at least a snack 30 minutes before the photoshoot and that you’re scheduled a few hours before or after the normal nap time.

3. Do Not Yell During The Photo Shoot

Time and time again, parents get frustrated at their child for not being cooperative during a photoshoot, so they yell and make threats. I’m here to tell you that it is probably the worst thing you could do. First, because the child tends to be even more upset and unwilling to cooperate and second, because the parents then are upset and it’s showing all over their faces too. 


When I see a parent about to lose it, I try to step in to lighten the mood. Typically I advise the parents to let me take some images of a child by themselves. This gives everyone a short break from the tension while me and the child play a few games like silly faces in the camera. This is a welcome distraction that usually has the child coming back more happy, lovable and cooperative. This time also gives the parent a breather before we attempt to get more great images during their family photoshoot.

4. Parents, No Matter What, Keep Looking at the Camera (or each other)!

Children are unpredictable and it’s way easier to control the parents in the photo. I can’t count how many times I finally get a kid to look and smile in the photo, only to realize the parent is not looking or smiling. Usually the parent is so busy looking to make sure the child is doing what they need to do that they miss the moment. 


Children sporadically look at the camera so, if you want that great image, you as a parent have to just keep looking and smiling no matter what your child is doing. Oftentimes, that perfect photo happens when you’re least expecting it.

Black family photoshoot

5. Let Your Children Be Their Authentic Selves

Children have a variety of personalities and for me it is truly the best thing! One of the first things I tell parents during family photoshoots is that I do not pose children. I will attempt a few times to get them to sit and smile and look at the camera, but I think images of children are best when their authenticity gets to shine.


In my time as a professional photographer, the family images that have given me the most joy are those where the children are allowed to be their true selves. Whether they were running around, jumping off of things, spinning or making silly faces, these images tell the story. These images are candid and catch the child with a true expression of joy that can’t be mimicked or faked. The cutesy, posed and smiling images are great, but the personality pictures make the best memories and usually have me cracking up laughing during my editing process.

**Bonus Tip** Don’t Be Opposed To Bribery

Some children love taking pictures and are a joy in front of the camera, while others…not so much. LOL Then you have those who are somewhere in between and your best tool to get a great family is image is bribery. Yup, good old fashion tit for tat. Whether it’s promising them some candy, an iPad or even an adventure, sometimes you have to do what you have to do to get the shot. Motivation is key so bribe them with something they love!

Now you’re equipped to make the most out of your next family session, so don’t hesitate to create those memories!


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