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The 3 Biggest Kid Photography Mistakes

The 3 Biggest Kids Photography Mistakes

A Guest Post by Brent Mail.

After watching many families at the beach over the school holidays, I noticed that most of the parents, as well as some professional photographers, were making the same 3 HUGE mistakes when they were photographing kids. I could see the parents getting frustrated and it looked like no one was having fun.

I guess I can summarise the 3 mistakes in one sentence. “Hey kids, please sit down over there, look this way and smile!”

Mistake 1: Asking Kids to Sit Still: “Hey kids, please sit…”

The kids are all dressed up for the photo shoot and excited, but don’t quite know what will happen, so they do what comes naturally – they run off and play.

The photographer and parents then try to round up the kids, find a place to photograph them and then ask the kids to sit down and be still and look at the photographer. Ever tried this? It goes against all the natural instincts of the kids – they are super excited and told to sit still. Very difficult to achieve!

Kid photography mistakes 1

Solution – Let the kids run & play

All kids love to run and play. It’s a natural part of being a kid, so why not let them do what comes naturally? Some of the best images I capture are when kids are allowed to run on the beach or at a park. I take this one step further and create games for the kids to play, like racing each other, or getting the parents to chase the kids.

There are 2 things that happen when kids are allowed to run & play:

  • Kids have all this built up energy that needs to be released, and now they get to use it up. It’s fun for them and they become happy, playful kids. This is what you want.
  • Parents and kids get to relax and we capture natural facial expressions, un-posed with no fake smiles.

Kid photography mistakes 2

Tip: Shoot in sports mode – use a fast shutter speed 1/500th sec or 1/1000th sec with AI Servo auto focus (tracking autofocus). When kids are racing towards you, a very fast shutter speed and tracking autofocus will mean that you capture all the action and your subjects are in focus.

Mistake 2: Asking for a Smile – “…look this way and smile!”

Wow, this is a big one. I don’t think I have ever seen a parent not say “smile” to their children when they are being photographed. “Common kids, smile. Give us a big smile!”

Yes, sometimes we get a smile, but it’s normally a fake smile. Who wants images of their children with fake smiles? Not me.

Kid photography mistakes 3

Solution – Be the Clown

Have you ever taken your kids to the circus to see a clown? A really entertaining clown, who gets the kids laughing. Go behind the clown and photograph the kids – those are real smiles!

So you (the photographer) need to become the clown.

How do you do that? When you meet the kids for the first time get down to their level and introduce yourself in a very enthusiastic and loud voice. Set the scene from the start, then, when you are photographing the kids, be loud, be funny, do funny things like roll your eyes, stumble around, dance, or get the kids to scare you! Bring along props to entertain the kids, like a clown nose.

Kid photography mistakes 4

An alternate to being the clown is the have the parents or siblings become the clown. When I’m shooting the close-ups (after the kids have run around and released all that energy) I get the parents to stand behind me and I get them to dance around. This always gets the kids smiling and laughing – seeing dad do “gangnam style” dance is hugely entertaining for the kids. It’s also a lot of fun for the parents.

Mistake 3: Standing Tall

Have you ever had someone stand over you and talk down to you? How do you feel? Inferior, small & insignificant? This is what kids feel like when someone photographs them from high-up. They feel intimidated and it’s not fun for the kids.

Also there is nothing special about the images captured from high-up, they are more like snapshots.

Kid photography mistakes 5

Solution – Get Down Low

When I first get to meet the kids I’m about to photograph, I get down low, and introduce myself. “Hey kids, my name is Brent and we are going to have so much fun today! What is your name?” I connect with the kids in a very enthusiastic voice. From then onwards the kids know that I’m on their side.
When I photograph them, I kneel down to their level, sometime I lay down flat on the ground to get a very different angle of view. Parents love these images, because they have never seen their children from this low angle, and the kids do not feel intimidated so they relax and play along with me.

Kid photography mistakes 6


So, next time you go out and photograph kids keep these 3 tips in your mind. The photo shoot will flow and everyone will have much more fun – including you!

  1. Let the kids run and play.
  2. Be the clown and get the kids to laugh naturally.
  3. Get down low to their level.

Hope you enjoyed these kids’ photography tips. If you want to find out more then checkout my “How to Photography Kids – Naturally” course which is currently 50% off at SnapnDeals.

Who is Brent? Brent is an award-winning professional photographer who runs a successful portrait photography studio near the beach in Australia. Brent also teaches photography and has a free mini-course here, as well as
other photography training courses here.

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