How to Photograph Uncooperative Children

Date: 15 Jun 2017 | Posted by: Vera Kruis | Category: Babies, Kids and Family

photography tips for uncooperative children

Since photographing children can be quite tricky, it’s important for the photographer to have some photography tips and tricks under his sleeves. Children never stay as children for too long. The precious carefree days of cuteness and innocence will one day pass and never come again. That is why parents like me have tried ways to keep childhood memories in all forms intact. The art of photography has come a long way and is enjoying massive popularity in many forms from big industries to our more popular social media feeds. Photography comes in many types and styles and children are popular subjects. Some children jump to the chance of getting photographed since selfies have been a normal thing for them. It does get tricky that not all professional photographers accept offers or requests for children photography. Some children get awkward and refuse to follow instructions while others simply do not want their pictures taken. This can leave you frustrated and impatient. But don’t give up just yet, because there is still a chance for you to capture a great photograph of your child or children for posterity. We have compiled some photography tips that seasoned children photographer like use to get children to cooperate and thus, letting you get that great shot.

Proper Planning

 A good photo session requires a good planning just like any other activities and more so, if it involves children. Some photography tips go straight to the nitty-gritty path of taking the shot itself, but we start with a good plan we can follow through to help us be efficient and make the process less tedious or tiring for the child.

Gather your materials.

This is important especially if you are planning to shoot outdoors. Check that you have the basics such as your preferred camera, stands or tripods, extra batteries, lenses and flashes and extra memory cards. You might also find it helpful to bring these extra stuff with you:

  • a ladder: for getting some leverage in case you want to try aerial shots.  The best ones are small and portable. This is also handy when you need to go up trees to take a different angle or just to retrieve stray props.
  • Towels: you might not have thought of it but there are so many reasons to bring towels especially with kids. They can be used as props, or to wipe sweat after the shoot. They are also helpful in cleaning up messes.
  • toys or games: these will be helpful when you want to get the children’s   attention and act as props too.

Know the place and weather

Decide on what location you will use to shoot your photos.  It could be indoors or outdoors. Shooting indoors is more manageable in the sense that you can easily control the lighting for your photos. It also helps if the child is already familiar with the place so that they will not feel awkward anymore. Shooting indoors will also eliminate the problem of sudden changes in the weather. However, shooting outdoors can be more fun for children and is good for when you want a more candid shot.  Just make sure that you check the weather forecast beforehand and have a backup location just in case the weather doesn’t turn on your side.

Bring the right people/personphotography tips for uncooperative children

When you take photos of a child, bring his or her friend or favorite person along. It can be a favorite playmate, a parent or grandparent. This person will distract or focus the child as needed.

How to Get Them to Pose

Now that you have made the plan, you can just follow through with it and make our life a little less tricky. The next important thing to consider is how to get the child to pose especially if he or she does not want to cooperate. Here are a few photography tips to achieve that:

Let them run the show

Since the children are the central subject of the shoot, you have to make it all about them. Give them enough freedom and make them think it is their idea. For example, if you want a child to pose like a princess, try to make her play make-believe as a princess. Children usually respond better if they are not pressured to do something.

Keep the camera clicking

There are times when candid photos look better and more natural than posed ones. When photographing a child, try to focus on every activity the child is doing. Take several photos and chances are, you will suddenly capture a very natural moment.

Use distractions

Remember that child’s favorite person you brought along with you? They can act as distractions or as subjects to focus on for the child. You can get a child’s natural smile or laugh when she is interacting with that favorite person in the background. This can be done especially with toddlers who get very awkward and self-conscious during a shoot. Toys can also help to make the child focused and entertained.  They can also double as props to make the photos more interesting.

Interact with the child

Just like children get scared of nurses, they get scared of photographers too. If the child is scared, chances are that the whole photo shoot will feel like pulling out a tooth. A good advice is to interact or play with the child. Playing with the child makes them more cooperative to what you may ask them to do.

Other Tips

Here are still good photography tips you can use or bear in mind when you photograph children:

Make the child feel comfortable

Let the child feel relaxed and comfortable the moment you meet them. A simple psychology hint is to talk friendly with the parents before talking straight to the child. This relaxes him/her and fosters a kind of trust.

Respect the child

When the child gets uncomfortable or tired, let him rest for a break. Do not keep on pressuring the child to do more for you.

Have eye contact with the child

When giving instructions or just interacting, squat down to the child’s eye level. Seeing your adult from looming high above them tends to make them defensive and uncomfortable.

Be quick and sneaky

Always be quick in taking shots because children tend to move fast. Some photographers advise to set the camera to its fastest shutter speed and set to high ISO so you can pause high-speed shots. Candid pictures of children doing something on their own can be very good subjects.

Let the child have fun

If it involves playing with them, then do so. Make jokes and be funny with them. Making the photo session fun for the child makes them feel more relaxed and might even be up to having another session later on again.

Be VERY patient

As the saying goes, “Patience is a virtue”, to lose your temper with the children will only make them less cooperative. Suggest taking a break if the situation becomes frustrating for you. Chances are, the child might feel the same way too. Don’t push them to do something they don’t want. Never shout at them, too. This will only make them frustrated and traumatized with the whole experience.


Whether doing pro photography or just taking amateur shots from your phone or cameras, those were just some photography tips and ideas you can consider and use when you want to photograph children. These were bits of advice and ideas based on years of experience as a children’s photographer. From using simple child psychology and mastering the art of distracting a child, we have done it all. These tips will surely be helpful for you when you are faced with the difficult task of photographing uncooperative children. No one ever wants to end up with a mess of a crying and frustrated child when the only thing you ever wanted was to get them to pose for you! Always remember that the key idea of getting a child, even an uncooperative one, to pose for you is to let them be a child; let them have fun. Hope this article was enlightening to you and will be very helpful when you need to photograph your own children in the future.