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How to keep little kids engaged during a photoshoot

Hi fellow photographer!

I’m sure it is nothing new for you to hear that working with kids can be both challenging and rewarding. It's also not surprising that it can be challenging to keep little kids engaged during a photoshoot. If you are new to family photography or if you have been doing it for a little while and are looking to learn more about keeping kids engaged, then this post is for you. I’ve worked with little children in my business for over 2 years, and I also have my own little kids, so I’ve learned a thing or two over the past 4 years! I’m going to give you some tips and tricks that will help children feel relaxed, confident, and comfortable. Because we all know that an uncomfortable child will be 10x harder to work with!

So here are some ideas and tips:

1. Communicate with your clients ahead of time

One way that I personally communicate with my clients about their children is in my questionnaires that I send to all my clients ahead of time. There is a dedicated question about their children and what they like, and any other ideas for how I can keep them engaged (favorite shows, songs, etc.).

Another little thing that I tell my clients ahead of time is for them to show their child(ren) a picture of me ahead of time. Some kids are really apprehensive around new people, so having their parents show them a picture of me, tell them my name, and just overall hype up the upcoming experience with me can help ease some of their nerves.

2. Choosing the right time and location

Working around children’s naps and happy times is a significant factor when choosing the session time. Do you typically love shooting at sunset? In the summer that could be a huge ask for little kids who go to bed at 7 (or earlier!). Maybe the client tells you that their child is happiest in the morning. Or maybe you’re trying to schedule the session at 10AM but their child typically naps at 10:30 and they’ll be cranky. You get the idea. We want the children to be well-rested and well-fed right before our session as much as possible.

Regarding location, we need to think about what will help the child(ren) feel as comfortable as possible, yet not distracted. For instance, choosing a park that has a visible playground could make it really challenging to keep the children engaged, because the whole session they’ll be trying to run off to the playground. An open field, some other type of neutral location, or the client’s home are great options to keep the child(ren) feeling safe and comfortable.

3. Be playful

If you aren’t naturally playful or don’t have kids of your own, this one might feel awkward for you. But I cannot stress how important being playful and engaging with the little kids in a genuine way is in getting genuine smiles and helping the children feel comfortable with you.

Going back to point number 1, if you know some things that the child is interested in ahead of time that can be something you can reference if you just have no idea where to begin. For example, if the mom tells you in the questionnaire that their child loves Spiderman, during the session you can pretend to shoot a web at her. Playing with children and involving topics they genuinely care about is an (almost) sure way to get them interested and more cooperative. So if you notice they have a character on their backpack, or a sticker on their hand, ask them about it and be playful. Being at a photoshoot is one of last things that most little children want to do, so if you make it feel like you are there to play with them, you’ll help them be far more engaged.

Another way to incorporate play is to have the parent actually play with their child(ren). Whether that’s playing a quick game of monster chase, tag, or gently tossing their child up into the air, movement and play among the family will be sure to garner some genuine smiles and laughter.


You really can't work with kids without a healthy dose of patience. Children operate on their own time, and might just need to run around for a minute because that is just how little kids are made. Plan your sessions to allow little breaks for the kids and even communicate this ahead of time with the family that we can take a break whenever they need to.

5. Bring lovies, non-messy snacks, bribes, etc.

When all else fails, it’s ok for the children to have their lovie in the photos. It’s an accurate representation of who they are in that moment in time, so why not include it? It’s also a good idea to remind parents that they can/should bring non-messy snacks/treats (just be sure to avoid chocolates or things with food coloring that can stain their teeth/mouth).

Working with little kids can definitely feel like a run for your money. But by communicating ahead of time, keeping the session playful, remembering to be patient, and having a bribe backup will set you up for engaged little ones who give you genuine smiles.

maternity photographer philadelphia | pregnant mother lies on dad's lap while toddler climbs on dad
maternity photographer philadelphia | pregnant mom sits on blanket with husband while he lifts toddler up in the air
maternity photographer philadelphia | toddler girl with flower crown and pink dress
maternity photographer philadelphia | mom, dad, and toddler daughter sit in a field of flowers
maternity photographer philadelphia | pregnant mother with flower crown and fitted pink dress looks down at her belly
maternity photographer philadelphia | pregnant woman in fitted light pink dress holding her baby bump
maternity photographer philadelphia | toddler girls kisses her mom's pregnant belly
maternity photographer philadelphia | pregnant woman wearing flower crown and fitted pink dress holds her belly while smiling at the camera
maternity photographer philadelphia | pregnant mom stands next to her husband while holding her toddler daughter's hand
maternity photographer philadelphia | pregnant woman stands next to her husband in a green garden while her husband puts his hand on her belly. Their toddler daughter is in front of them smiling.
maternity photographer philadelphia | pregnant mom lies in a field of flowers alongside her toddler daughter
maternity photographer philadelphia | pregnant mom wearing flower crown holds her belly while smiling
maternity photographer philadelphia | pregnant woman wearing flower crown rests her head on her husband's shoulder
maternity photographer philadelphia | pregnant woman smiles while holding her belly and holding her husband's hand while he smiles over at her
maternity photographer philadelphia | pregnant mom holds her toddler daughter while smiling in a green garden
maternity photographer philadelphia | husband kisses pregnant wife's head
maternity photographer philadelphia | pregnant mom holds toddler daughter with dad on her other side in a green garden

I am a Philly family & newborn photographer giving my clients bright and genuine photos that they will cherish forever. To learn more about booking a session with me, click the button below. I can't wait to serve you!

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