One of the most common complaints I hear from fellow mamas about taking photos of their kids is that it’s HARD to get them to smile on camera.
And believe me sister, I get it!
Your kids can be a complete angels, giggling together while playing and the second your phone comes out and takes aim, they turn into staring, glaring, blank-faced zombies (or is that just my 3 kids?!).
It can be super frustrating…but the truth is that having a fun moment interrupted while being asked to smile at a tiny piece of technology…well, it’s sort of strange! So for kids, who feel big emotions for just an instant before moving on, it is just hard to keep the fun and joy alive for long enough to get that photo.
My advice? Start thinking of photos of your kids as being more about showing who they are and what they love, and less about them smiling at the camera. This mindset shift almost ALWAYS leads to photo success, photos that capture real memories, and moments that can easily lead to those smiling-at-the-camera photos you also love (I’m going to share how next week!).
So– what does this all mean??
Let’s Dive In!
Quick Recap (a la “Previously, on the Bachelor” style…): In the last couple of posts, we learned how to prep for and then find the BEST spot for photos in your home (look HERE and HERE if you need a review!). So now that we know WHERE to put our fav photo subject (for me, that’s my kids, but it might be your beloved fur-baby or even your latest Home Goods find!), we just have to know what to do with them! If you choose a pet or piece of home decor, the rest of this post probably won’t make a bunch of sense unless you can coach that subject into ACTION photos (but I’d LOVE to see you try if you decide to! 🤣). But for those of you with human subjects… here goes!
We are going to focus on action based photos today because it involves your favorite subject doing something they were either naturally already doing, or doing something that is FUN– and that always gives a better result (especially when you are just starting with all this photo fun!) than asking for that canned smile at the camera. So the idea is to either CATCH them doing something they love and making the best of it by snapping photos of that, or even more ideally, set them up in that ideal-lighting-spot you found in your house and give them a fun activity to do! It will cut out all the dramatic whining and blank stares of “Just smile at the camera for one SECOND!” you might be used to, and give you some keepsake photos that you love!
I have gathered my 8 favorite tried-and-true activity photo prompts to try with your kids. You can adjust these prompts to fit your kids favorite activities and ages– but they are SURE to get you some fun photos of your kids that show them doing things they actually ENJOY and LOVE, and help you remember who they are today (because by tomorrow, they are going to look like 10 years older, amiright?!). So let’s get to it!
1). Twirl/Spin Photo This is one of my very favorites– though your boys might age out of it quicker than your girls. But kids LOVE to spin, and especially with their arms out it makes for a really cute photo! Put your daughter in a twirly dress or have your kids show you how FAST they can spin (and “Simon-Says” them to switch directions mid-spin for extra fun!). You will want to make sure they are in GOOD light though or your photo might get blurry–try outside in the shade if inside isn’t cutting it!
2). Coloring/Art Project This can be tailored to all ages and lots of different interests. Make sure to grab the bigger photo where you can see all of your kid and some of the background too, and also the detail of their hands holding their markers/etc. Pro tip: try this photo from different angles (from above shooting down on them, and also from the floor right where they are to see what you like the most! This can make a huge difference in their photos because you can actually see their FACE if you get down on the floor with them, assuming your best-light-spot isn’t a table (though it would be ideal for this prompt if it was!).
3). Play with a Favorite Toy Whether it’s a dinosaur, car, or barbie, this can be a fun way to get their “action” faces, which are either typically adorable or hysterical- and a win either way! Try to avoid an electronic toy, and prompt your kid to really interact (“Who is Dino going to eat next?” or “What is Barbie doing today?”, etc)! Use the same pro tip from #2 here, and try those different angles for more interesting photos!
4). Jumping/Action Shots This is another fav of mine, especially if you have older kids. You might decide to find outdoor space (I recommend finding shade!) if you go all out here, but have your kid jump off a bench and challenge them to make it as big/dramatic as possible. I sometimes throw in a spin or spread eagle challenge for extra entertainment (mine, usually!). Snap away! Kids love showing off their skills, and you could turn this into a dance moves, slam dunk, wheelie, or skateboard challenge if your kids have other fun talents as well.
Hello, long email… to grab the remaining 4 prompts (and a bunch more on preview before I share about them next week!), sign up below and the full prompt list will be right on its way to your inbox (but check your spam folder if it’s not in your inbox, because spam folders really love emails from small business owners!).
To learn more about how to better photograph your kids using natural light in your own home, check out these other blog posts I’ve created just for YOU!
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I'm Jill, a wedding and portrait photographer based out of Chicago and Central Illinois, and available world wide! I'm also a photography educator, wife to my favorite person on the planet, mama to 3 amazing kids and an energetic Aussie, and obsessed with statement jewelry and all desserts (especially fruit pies!).
As a past high school teacher, I have a major heart for education. After going full time in my business, I have built a business I love that gives me an almost 6 figure salary and allows me to be home part time with my kids. I dream for you to run a business that enhances your life and lights you up, and I believe I can help you learn how to do it with a little hustle and a lot of heart!
click to learn more about me
You're in the right place! As a past high school teacher, educating others is my life's work and a HUGE part of my business! I have been teaching moms and hobbyists how to use their camera from first purchasing it all the way to coaching them into businesses of their own, and I'd love to help you as well, wherever you are (and whatever camera you have!).
I'm so glad you are here! Teaching Photographers and other small business owners how to run more joyful, successful, and profitable businesses is one of my favorite parts of my business! I specialize in working with photographers to make their goals a reality (or figure out what their goals should be in the first place!).