How to get children to participate and laugh naturally in a photo session

Posted by Stacie Jensen | July 25, 2012 5

{By the way, I’m baaaaccckkk and I’ve missed you all!}

I’m using this post to talk about this dreadful illness that has been making the rounds with my little clients recently!  I’m sure you have seen symptoms of it too in your shoots:

  • Constant frowning
  • Tantrums
  • Absolutely no desire to pose…or, worse than usual
  • Not wanting to stand next to siblings
  • Not wanting to be with Mommy…and then Daddy…and then Mommy again
  • {and the worst offender}…the inability to laugh


I have read a lot on the internet, and like most people, I trust that everything I read online about symptoms is completely true and accurate…{raised eyebrow}.  The diagnosis is clear.  Pediatric Poutitis.

I have had a rash of kids sick with this lately.  What is going on?!?  What happened to my sweet little friends…the ones that use to run to me with open arms and make up their own poses and laugh happily as I followed them around with my camera?  {Okay, so maybe my shoots didn’t happen quite like that, I mean, I would oftentimes have to suggest at least a few poses to them.  But the rest is true.  I swear.}


Once I WebMDed this issue, I decided that I was going to need to come up with some heavy-duty meds to combat this problem.  The bubbles and chalk were just not cutting it.  This thing was like a super bug, and my usual methods of creating childish happiness were blowing up in my face.


The following drugs have been found incredibly effective in creating smiles and reducing the drama associated with pediatric poutitis:

1.  Singing off key…and I don’t even have to try hard to do this, I’m that good naturally.

2.  Make up words to songs while you are singing off key…Magic.

3.  This one is hard-core, but it does work…remove the attention and get on with shooting individuals, or Mom and Dad.  Eventually no child wants to be excluded.  {Of course, I am not talking about babies or really young ones here}

4.  Whoopee cushion app on your phone…get it.  NOW.

5.  Candy.  Get the parent’s permission first.  Or try to slip that dang child something!  M&Ms or jelly beans work well.  They are small and can be concealed.

6.  Pretend that you really really want to shoot different faces.  Give me sad!  Give me angry!  Give me crying!  Give me shy!  Give me funny!  Give me happy!!! {and get that camera on burst mode for that one}

7.  Ask for just a tiny smile.  Just a little itty, bitty tiny smidge of a smile.  And then when they burst out grinning…you got it, burst mode.  Snap it up!

8.  Say the funniest word for kids of all ages…Poop.  That is all.  But whisper it like a secret.  Poop is funnier when you aren’t supposed to be saying it.

9.  Engage the tickle monster.

10.  Have Mom and Dad bribe them.  If you get to this point, you usually don’t care what the bribery entails.  All you can do is hope.


You will almost certainly leave the session wondering if the heavy-duty meds worked their magic.  Usually what happens is you get little snippets of genius mixed with a lot of poop.  Tons of poop.  But you know what?  All it takes is a handful of special moments captured.  Emergency code red situation averted.  You, Mom, and Dad can breathe a huge sigh of relief.  And then go and promptly drink your medicine.



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