Every parent wonders how to take great photos of your kids. As you scroll through your various social media, you inevitably see your friends and fellow parents sharing bright and gorgeous photos of their kids where no one is crying, everyone (mostly) is looking at the camera and the kids look happy to be in the frame. As a mom, and a former professional wedding photographer, I’m going to let you in on a secret.

It’s not impossible to take great photos of your kids.

In fact, with these 5 tricks up your sleeves, you are guaranteed to walk away with awesome shots of your little ones every single time you whip out that camera. This is unless your kid really hates being photographed and then I have nothing but a hope and a prayer for you. This is kids photography made easy.

So let’s get right to it. Here are my 5 tips on how to take GREAT photos of your kids.

1- Timing is EVERYTHING

Most parents know when they’re kids are the happiest. Generally, this is when they’re well-rested, well-fed and not distracted by the prospect of something exciting like a new toy or their favorite T.V show. The first step of how to take great photos of your kids is to make sure you time is just right. This will ensure that your kids are happy, not whining about wanting to be somewhere else and most importantly, not crabby or hangry. I try and time my photos with my kids around mid-morning after a snack when they’re their happiest and we generally get really great results.

Another important thing related to this is to make sure you have everything ready before the idea time. This includes having a blank memory card and the right lens on the camera, having all the lighting stuff figured out and any props on hand.

2- Keep it Simple

As a photographer, I often compose a shot in my head. I want the lighting to be just right, the shot framed a certain way, my kids looking in a specific direction etc. I learned VERY quickly after becoming a mom that children are some of the hardest models to pose. A big part of it is that the big gap in language and their ability to understand really detailed and complicated directions. I remember getting so frustrated with A when he was around 2 because he didn’t get what it meant to look away in the distance. “But what’s distance mama?”

The second and very important step in how to take great photos of your kids is to make sure you’re keeping your directions super simple. Lately, I don’t even give them directions except to go play. Then when I’ve framed the shot, I’ll just ask them to look over at me. This often gets me beautiful candid shots where they’re both happy and looking natural.

3- Perfect Poses are Boring

Do you remember doing a mandatory Sears or Wal-Mart photoshoot while growing up where this photographer would pose you in stiff and weird positions with a random prop to get that boring posed shot? I don’t because my parents refused to pay for it but I had plenty of friends who did have those awkward photos as mementos scattered about their homes.

Thankfully, our definition of great photos has evolved over the years. Remember this when you’re trying to figure out how to take a great photo of your kids. You don’t want to capture your kids posing in a manner that you’d never otherwise see them. Try your hand at capturing them as they are normally. Having a photo of that mischievous smile, the messy face and the natural expressions on their little faces is a much better keepsake.

4- Make it Fun

Yes, I admit it. I bribe my kids with fun things to get really great photos. The best bribe, and the one that gets them the most excited is taking a silly picture after taking a proper one. I always promise them that after we get a really great “normal” photo, we’ll pose together for a silly photo. The excitement of doing something silly gets them to cooperate and I almost always get that winning shot. Best of all, some of my favorite photos of my kids are in fact the silly shots.

For photoshoots where I’m short on time and can’t really take a ton of silly shots, I always keep candy or their favorite treats on hand. The deal is that they give me 10 minutes and at the end, they walk away with the treat. Giving them a specific time frame and setting an alarm gives them a sense of control, leading them to cooperate.

Finally- if one of the kids isn’t in the mood to cooperate, I’ll try reverse psychology and very nicely tell them that, “hey, it’s ok. I’ll just take a photo of your brother.” Nine out of ten times, this will bring them running back to the photoshoot, because you know, FOMO.

5- Be Flexible

This is perhaps the most important tip on how to take great photos of your kids. Unless you’re shooting for a magazine or doing a professional photo shoot for someone, you’re likely taking these photos as mementos for yourself and your family. So it’s really important to be flexible. The reality is that our kids are people too. Just like us, they are days when they’re just not going to want to do something, including pose for you.

If you’re finding that your kids are just not in the mood, don’t stress yourself and them out by forcing a photoshoot. Let it go and try it again at a later time or another day. You will be much more likely to get the money shots and not be in tears yourself (or have sad, miserable kids).

So here they are. My tips on how to get great photos of your kids without stressing yourself or them out. I’m working on another blog post where I’ll share my favorite camera settings and lenses when I’m shooting photos of my kids. If you’re not already part of my email list, make sure to join!

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I really hope this post was helpful for you. If there are tips and tricks that you use to get awesome photos, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.