Is the ultimate goal of your child’s photo shoot getting your kid to smile? Or do you want to capture their most authentic expressions while they’re immersed in play? I vote for the latter.

During your kid photo session, your older kid may not be into it, not be happy about it or simply not listen as s/he bolts to the other side of the field. Don’t panic. It’s OK. It happens, especially with toddlers. What brings your uncooperative kid back to my lens? When we let kids be kids.

Why are kids preoccupied, fidgety and quick? They’re kids. I believe they should be allowed to be kids during their photo session. No fake smiles. No awkward put-ons or heavily-staged poses. Just kids being kids as they play, climb, run, dance, twirl and ask lots of questions.

I just did a photo session for a returning client. After photographing their first child at age 2, they returned a year-and-a-half later with new baby and now 3.5-year-old boy. This older sibling said to me: “I’m invisible. You can’t take pictures of me because I won’t show up.” He didn’t feel like being a part of the family photo shoot, so we tried to distract him. That didn’t work well.

Eventually he began engaging us on the topic of farmhouses. Since the family photo session was in Charleston Park, miles away from a farmhouse, he used his imagination to build a farmhouse for all the ducks on the pond. Then, suddenly, he zeroed in on left behind dog poop. Answering “Why do dogs poop?” and “Were dogs lost since there owners didn’t pick up the poop?” helped me begin to focus on his inquisitive nature as he wandered around the park.

Dog poop, followed by boats and other nearby amusements, saved their family photo session that day. Each kid photo session presents new challenges, but they’re easily overcome if both photographer and parents are open to letting children ease into it in their own unique ways.

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