3 stress-free ways to photograph family portraits with children

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Have you ever felt like you were fighting to get the little ones to cooperate when photographing family portraits with children? Rather than swimming upstream, try going with the flow instead. Just like bowling with a child, you cannot control the trajectory of their ball but you can set up guardrails to prevent their ball from falling into the gutter.

The same is true when photographing family portraits with children. Establish boundaries and structure, then let them bounce freely within those boundaries. This way they become themselves while you are still able to shoot.

[Read: 5 Tips to Posing Families Together for Natural-Looking Portrait Sessions]

I created a system for taking and posing family portraits with children called Pick Up Points, which allows you to enter your shots with a general structure without being limited to an exact shot list that could conflict with the interests or energy of the child. You have the freedom to tailor these prompts to your specific shot and have fun with them!

[Read: Caroline Tran’s Posing Pick Up Points for Family Portrait Photography—Free Webinar]

The older brother loved his toy camera and wanted to “take pictures” of his little sister! I asked the parents to lift the kids up and let him do his thing, and we ended up with this sweet moment.

This skeleton of a structure gives you enough guidance to move smoothly while allowing enough flexibility for each client to bring their own personality and flair. The results are cohesive portraits across all of your sessions, filled with authentic emotions and authentic moments.

Do you have family portraits with upcoming children? Here are three tips to help you on your next shoot:

1. Give the children a platform.

Photographing children is a bit like photographing pets… There is limited attention span and a lot of movement!

The older brother was eager to move, and his younger sister wanted to follow in his footsteps… Creating a family portrait with two children on the move can be difficult! I asked the children to guide their parents through the log. Having the family lined up here gave me a few minutes to capture them all on the same plane. As you can see, the older brother is still moving around a bit, but in a smaller space. I love how the slight movement makes the photo more dynamic.

Finding a platform that kids can sit on and stand on saves you time to snap your shot before they jump. It could be a chair, a stone, or even a tree log. Be ready to act fast!

[Read: 5 Tips for Photographing Children]

2. Go with the flow.

family portrait with children in a pile by caroline tran
Smiles everywhere! I had a vision of the four kids lying together, and after some fussing we found this look cute and comfy.

When we come up with preconceived ideas about what we want, we end up fighting kids when their actions don’t fit our mold.

Rather than going against the grain and forcing kids to do something they don’t want to do, look at their best interests.

[Read: 5 Tips to Shooting Unposed Lifestyle Newborn Photography]

photograph a family portrait with a stray child by caroline tran
Baby on the move! This little girl was so adventurous and kept exploring. Rather than trying to hold it down, I asked the parents to stand where the background looked good – with them perfectly framed by the tree branches – and then let their baby roam around , leading to this beautiful moment.

Now, I’m not telling you to go into your session unprepared, with no idea what you want to accomplish. Instead, have a loose structure of where you want to go … Be open-minded, play with the kids, and see where it goes.

3. Frame your photo, then get the kids to step into the frame!

maternity portrait with little child by caroline tran
I wanted to capture a moment between the future Big Brother and the belly, so I put mom down first, making sure she was perfectly lit and framed. I then made mom play hide and seek with her son to make him run under the veil with her. How beautiful and sweet is this moment?

I know, I know, it seems counterintuitive to go with the flow. Listen to me, however:

Sometimes we see a vision of family portraits with children and would love to see it executed. I encourage you to frame this photo first and then find ways to have the kids run to your photo! This is where prompts and games with the kids come in handy.

Caroline tran, named 2021 Creator of the Year by Rangefinder, is an internationally published, Los Angeles-based photographer and educator who has helped other photographers work smarter, not harder. It offers online Small group business coaching and mentoring. Want to learn more about effective child photography? Discover its installation system, Pick Up Points!

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