How To Take Amazing Looking Photos Of Uncooperative Kids

How To Take Amazing Looking Photos Of Uncooperative Kids

Rachel Devine is a professional photographer and author who specialises in children’s photography. Earlier in the week, I attended a Tamron lens workshop hosted by Devine (who moonlights as a Tamron ambassador) in a vain attempt to capture some decent photos of my monkey offspring. Here are ten tips she shared; ranging from general photography advice to getting unruly subjects to cooperate.

Kid photo picture from Shutterstock

Pick your time wisely

The time of the day can make a huge difference to whether your kids are cooperative and sparkly-eyed or impatient and glum-faced during the shoot.

“It might sound obvious, but try to plan your shoots post-nap rather than straight beforehand. The lighting might not be the way you want it, but you’re going to get more usable shots!”

Get them involved

Kids are known to get bored fast, but a lot of this can be countered with basic parenting. Divine stresses that it’s important to get them involved in the process: let them take a few photos and allow them to turn the tables so that you become the subject.

“It’s important to make them feel part of the process instead of just being photographed,” Divine said. “They may even develop a passion for photography themselves, which can turn it into a great bonding exercise.”

Use stickers as ‘marks’

Sometimes you need a kid to stand in a very specific spot due to the lighting or background. An easy solution is to place a sticker on the floor and get them to stand on it.

“I make it a game by saying they need to cover [the sticker] with their feet and I’m not allowed to see it,” Devine explains. “You’re more likely to get them to stand still longer this way.”

You can also encourage specific poses by placing a different sticker on the ground for each foot.

Engage their imagination

Trying to direct young children into specific poses can be difficult; especially if they’re in an uncooperative mood. Instead of barking orders, try and utilize a little imaginative play to get them on side more.

“When I want a photo of my son on all fours in the grass, I’ll get him to play-act being a lion,” explains Devine. “If I want him lying down, I’ll ask him to be a snake.

“Changing your thinking about how to photograph kids can really make a difference. It’s all in how you approach it.”

Watch the background!

Outside of holidays and outings, most photos of young children tend to be taken in the home. If you don’t keep an eye on the background, this can cause your photos to look a bit too “domestic”.

“You want real life, but not that real,” Devine joked. “If you’re too fixated on your portrait, you could end up airing your dirty laundry in the photo – literally.”

Break out of the ‘portrait’ box

Sometimes a seemingly obscure shot is actually really touching and personal.

“One of my favourite photos of my daughter was taken on a train in Melbourne and it’s just her sparkly shoes,” Devine said. “Sure your kids are gorgeous, but not every photo has to be of them smiling to camera.”

Don’t be afraid of ‘wrong’ lighting

“Side-lighting can create some very dramatic effects where one side of the child’s face is much darker. On paper the image isn’t perfectly lit but the results can look really amazing, particularly when shooting in black-and-white.

Backs touching = simulated warmth

Siblings have an uncanny ability to start bickering the moment their parents get the camera out. This makes it next to impossible to capture handholding, hugs and other affectionate moments.

Devine suggests getting them to sit back to back, which is an easy way to get a loving, sentimental vibe (even if they’re actively hating each other.)

“This is also effective with teenage siblings, who usually refuse to touch,” Devine adds.

Shoot with the light behind you to get great ‘sparkle eyes’

Portraits of children really benefit from ‘catch light’, particularly if your child has dark eyes.

“This really makes their eyes come alive and adds another dimension to the photo,” Devine said.

Know when to give up

All kids have a patience threshold. Once that threshold has been crossed, there’s no point persevering.

“You need to respect when they’ve had enough or they’ll begin to dread when you bring the camera out,” Divine said. “If the light’s absolutely fantastic but they decide they’re done — too bad.”

Got any kid-friendly photography tips of your own? Share your hacks in the comments section below!


  • And please DO NOT teach your kids to put on cheesy grin, or worse – cheesy grins accompanied by thumbs up signs. A friend asked me to take photos of her kids at a picnic we were having (as she’d liked the photos I’d taken of our kids and others) but every single time they saw the camera they put on the most stupid expressions and framed/blocked their faces with their hands. I got a one or two decent candid shots, but so many potential winners were ruined by their learned response to a camera.

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