5 Minutes for Photography: Kids Photo Shoot

As photographers, we love doing outdoor photo shoots with kids and families! They’re usually a lot of fun for everybody, and the pictures are a blast. But, really, half the benefit of hiring a professional photographer to do your photos is their practical knowledge of how to organize the shoot so that it turns out a success. Today I’m going to share some of these tips that you can use in taking photos of your own kids!

(The other benefit to hiring a professional photographer is the $5,000+ of photo gear they bring along. That’s a bit harder to share with you in a blog!)

So far on 5 Minutes for Photography, we’ve talked about shooting from unique camera angles, and how to zoom in and out to fill the frame and control your background. Now, here are some practical tips for a do-it-yourself photo shoot with your kids.

1. Go somewhere different. Give your kids (and yourself) a change of scenery for the afternoon. They’ll be more excited, and it will make your photos more interesting! A park or playground works great, or if you’re near the ocean or a river or lake, that can be a big hit too.

I know some parts of the country have snow on the ground right now, and others are 80 degrees and sunny… so take advantage of whatever nature offers you! (We got to escape the Oregon rain last weekend to shoot a wedding in Sacramento, and the change of pace was great!)

This little guy got pretty excited by a local cornfield:

2. Take along props. Simple kid-sized chairs or other things you have sitting around the house can make photos look a lot more interesting!

3. Keep them thinking about everything but the photos. Surprise them with a toy you brought along. Encourage them to race against each other or play games. Have them spin around in circles until they’re dizzy, or start a tickle war. You want the photos to show their genuine excitement and emotion, and “say cheese!” usually doesn’t produce that!

4. Shoot photos like crazy. Camera memory sticks are cheap, and hold hundreds of photos. Don’t wait for the “perfect moment” to magically appear… when a scene starts looking halfway decent, start clicking away like your life depends on it! It’s easy to throw out the “rejects” later.

When we shoot an hour-long photo session with kids, we’ll come back with 600+ photos. That’s an average of one photo every ten seconds! Then we’ll narrow them down to about 30-40 favorite images which we’ll deliver to the family.

5. Dress for success. Select outfits for your kids that will look good in front of the camera:

  • Bright colors work great, and give a cheerful look to the photos.
  • It’s not important for the kids to all be wearing perfectly matching clothing, but it’s a good idea to have them dressed in similar styles (light or dark colors, long or short sleeves, etc.)
  • You don’t want the outfits to distract from the faces and emotions in the pictures, so it’s best to avoid patterns or designs with too much contrast.

Although we do like this photo of our son (on the left), the plaid shirt has so much contrast that it distracts from the rest of the photo. But on the right-hand photo, the boy’s solid red shirt really emphasizes the colors nicely, without drawing attention to itself.

6. Go with the flow. Sometimes kids just aren’t in the mood for lots of photos. If you can switch gears to keep them from feeling stressed out about it, it will pay off in the long run! We’ve seen many families where Mom picks up a camera and the kids get tense and start acting out, but when we come in to take photos, they’re all smiles.

Your goal should be to make a photo shoot with them as fun as possible! (If all else fails, I recommend a quick stop at Dairy Queen on the way home. There aren’t any rules against bribery…)

I hope this has given you some ideas to get started with. Most important is just deciding to make time to create some unique images of your family, and you may be surprised at how much fun it turns out to be!

Have fun trying out these ideas, and share your photos with us! Post some of your favorite images on your own blog, and add it to our Mr. Linky:

And if you like, you can display a 5 Minutes for Photography button in your post to help your readers find more photo posts.


Carrie B and her husband Jonathan are Oregon wedding photographers, and you can see more of their recent photos on their photography blog. She’s also a staff reviewer for 5 Minutes for Books, and operates her own book review blog as well!


  1. says

    Carrie, these are such WONDERFUL ideas! Thank you so much! I absolutely loved this post as I’m always trying to get great shots of my sweet girls. :)

    Now if only I can learn more about my camera beyond the “auto” function…

  2. says

    Thanks for the great ideas, I had another one to share. Lil Betty Crocker is my daughter – a kitchen is a fantastic place for photos this one was on the floor of the kitchen with things I got from the cabinets and the hat my grandma made for my daugther to wear so, that made it so much more special and really tied in the idea of a little chef in the kitchen.


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