How to Engage Children to Get that Killer Photograph

child photography

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Today I am sharing tips on how to engage Children to get a wonderful photograph. Enjoy.

How to Engage Children to Get that Killer Photograph

child photography

1. Remove the word “Cheese” from the vocabulary.

Saying cheese instantly invites children to put on their automatic smiley face. Removing this word from the photography shoot will allow you to the child to act more normal. This should be the main goal so you can work on taking plenty of natural photographs. So If you don’t want cheesy photos then try not to use it.


2. Just Chillout and Relax

Rather than being stressed out trying to wait for your best or most memorable photo, just chill and relax and the shot will come in its own time. Plan to have at least 1 to 2 hours with your child or spend a fair amount of time watching your child play with toys. This seems like a long time, but you will need if for that memorable photograph to materialise. A good time to do this is in the afternoon when your children still have plenty of energy and won’t be too tired.


3. Choose the Right Camera Settings

I always try to have my settings on the following. ISO400 for action shots or ISO 100-200 for sunny days. Another good setting is to have shutter release mode. If you have it on shutter release speed set to Capture High (CH), then you have to wait for the camera to write to memory Card. Instead, you may have to set it to CL or Capture Low. You will still be able to capture multiple shots at once, just at a slower rate, and not taking up valuable time writing the photograph to the memory card. If you are comfortable with using ‘Manual’ mode, then this will also allow you  to experiment more with your photographs. If you do have a bright and sunny day, which I have had on many occasions, I’d tend to stick with Aperture priority. This way I find I have more control over my photographs. If I’m indoors with my flashgun, I stay on ‘Manual’ mode, mainly because I know the light is going to be constant and I don’t really need to make any adjustments to the camera settings. I will also keep my ISO as low as possible, at ISO200 when using my flash gun (aperture around ƒ/8 and shutter speed at 1/60-80s).


4. Parental engagement?

When I read about parental engagement during photography I got confused messages as to when you should let parents or adults engage and when you should not, but if you are the main parent doing the photography, then there is a level of engagement which is unavoidable. I guess some photographers who photograph a lot of children on a regular basis will be able to say whether parental engagement is good or not. It all comes down to the rapport between the photographer and the child or group of children. All I can say is, if it helps for parents to engage, then let them do so. Taking photographs of the children play fighting with dad or being tickled or having a hug is always a good idea for a great photo in my opinion.

I have a good rapport with my daughter, she is a quick learner and knows how to do poses without asking. She does some silly things from time to time, like sticking her tounge out but that is what children do and we have fun doing this. Making the photoshoot fun is how I get my daughter to allow me to take her photograph without much fuss, she just has fun and I let her run around and be herself.


5. Let It Go!

Some people are sick of hearing the song “Let it go” from the movie Frozen, but the idea of relaxing and going with the flow works when it comes to photography. ‘Let it go’ and let them have fun. Let your child or children go and have fun in the park or in the garden. You can have lots of fun locally and you don’t have to drive very far at all. We have two parks that are a very short driving distance of our home, so we have plenty of choices of where to go.

As the days get shorter and the night draws in quickly, doing a photoshoot in the evening will get more difficult and so you may need to be creative during this time  or wrap up warm. You also may need to take your pictures at the weekends during the winter months. When the sun starts to set, the sunlight is not as overpowering as it can be at noon. This is the same one hour after sunrise, these hours are known as the golden hours. Make use of these times, so you can use the natural light as much as possible without the sun being over-powering and spoiling your photographs.



6. Extended family or family outings

Taking the family to the beach, family outings or simply going to family gatherings are another way to capture natural photographs. Watching children play and have fun with each other is the perfect setting to take those memorable moments. If your family is small and you are reliant on just one parent taking all the photographs, you can all still have fun. On a recent excursion to Blackpool, Sylvia was having fun just playing in the sand. Granted it was wet as the tide had gone out and it was cold, she still had fun and got to spend time at the beach. We all had a fun day out and I managed to get some great photos.

If you are shooting indoors with family, then you may have to think about using a flashgun. I purchased one and I’m now confident about using one.


7. Location

Planning your location can be just as important as doing the actual photography. If you happen to be on your family vacation, you can use the surroundings to get some really good backdrops. Like tree’s, forests, fields, the beach or a local landmark.

If you want to get more of the background crisp and clear in your shot. You will have to raise your aperture to around ƒ/11-ƒ/16. If you just want to have a blurry background, you just open up the aperture it’s maximum, for the lens you have connected to your camera (I.e. ƒ/1.4 for a 50mm lens or ƒ/2.8 for a 70-200mm lens or 24-70mm lens). This is also known as Depth of Field.  I will be touching upon this in another post in the very near future.



  1. Some very good points there my main battle for sure is not knowing the settings on my digital camera, i love using my ipad for out door pics on a nice day it takes such clear pics but if the sky isn’t clear forget it! totally agree let it go is the best advice relax and the natural fun pics are always the best. Thank you for the tips

    • I generally don’t use it anymore, but that is only out of practice. But our little one is very happy with me taking her photograph that she just smiles naturally for me anyway. win win situation. 😉


  2. Great tips, I need to bookmark this page and put these into action! I have a fancy camera I bought when pregnant with our first that hardly ever gets used and thousands of photos from my iPhone of my little man with his eyes closed, looking away, hands in his face etc! Must take better pictures 🙂 thanks for the tips

  3. Really good advice there. When I’m out and taking shots of my son I want to capture the most natural and beautiful moments of him so I just let him do his own thing while I snap away. This captures the best, most candid pictures and the best expressions too 🙂

  4. Great advice 🙂 I tend to use the word “cheese” so much that my 10 month old now recognises it and does his best “cheesy” smile when I shout it – which actually works well at his age, its very cute lol. But the word is now totally lost on my 2 year old who just simply sits saying “Cheeeese cheeese” with a deadpan face, not even looking in my direction lol! xx

    • it does depend on the situation and child. Sometimes it can be a good thing to say cheese, but in general terms, I now longer use the word cheese when doing photography.


  5. Some lovely photos included in your post. With an energetic toddler the only option I have for photographing him is to take the candid shots – honestly, they usually end up being te best. I will definitely be bookmarking this post to come back to in the future

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