I'm a writer, Youtuber, photographer. and old-fashioned romantic in love with celebrating the simple joys of daily life. I appreciate timelessness, the natural world, and a slow life lived with simplicity and intention. When I'm not photographing families or  slowly traveling the world and writing about it in a little notebook, I'm happily grounding myself in nature and cozying up with my sweet husband.

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Whether you’re a parent looking to capture some fun photos of your child at home or a family photographer looking for more creative ways to capture naturally honest and joyful photos of kids, here are my top 10 family photography prompts that I use during my family photoshoots. 

kid laughing from a funny family photography prompt

Are ya ready? Get ready for some giggles, and let’s do this!

Here are family photography prompts that actually work…

1. Do You See What’s in my Camera?

I find that when photographing children that are more sensitive or shy, and they just don’t really feel like being in front of the camera at that moment, asking them to look for the item in my camera lens helps me get their attention. Even if it’s not a laugh or smile, capturing their unique, soulful personality is most important. 

Example:
Simple prompts like, “Do you see the rainbow in my camera? What colors does that rainbow have?” or “There’s a _____ (school bus, dinosaur, firetruck, etc) in my camera! Look inside and tell me what color it is!”

 

2. Silly Secrets

This family photography prompt is a no-brainer because kids just love silly secrets! I find that by asking children to either A.) tell me a funny secret they have or 2.) whisper to their brother/sister a goofy secret in their ear brings all the candid, joyful giggles!

 

kids laughing from a funny family photography prompt

3. “Serious” Photoshoot

This family photography prompt works for me every time, especially at the beginning of a session! Announcing to everyone the “seriousness” of the photoshoot and then having someone put bunny ears behind my head informs kids of the tone of the session…a.k.a. we’re going to have some serious fun! Family photos is a time to be silly and play!

Then, proceed with pretending that you can’t see the bunny ears and quickly, capture those snap reactions of surprise, laughter and joy on your child’s face.

Example:
“This is a serious photoshoot! Noooo one put bunny ears behind me, okay?”

Bonus Prompt: Dinosaur!

Another prompt that works great with little boys, is saying there is not a dinosaur behind you! Have someone pretend to be a t-rex or another animal behind you, and then pretend not to see it. Playing a game of not seeing the animal is always quite fun and helps get those natural, joyous emotions.

family laughing in New York City Central Park with family photographer Helena Woods

4. Tasty

Eat something silly and say it’s tasty! Pretend to eat grass and make dramatic munching noises and then declare loudly how tasty and delicious it is! Pile a bunch of leaves on your head and pretend it’s a hat! Your kids will love this.

5. “What if…”

Get hypothetical with your little ones. “Let’s think of something really silly…what if_____?”

Pairing two unlikely scenarios cause kids to erupt into laughter!

Example:
“What if…..mommy slept in your baby sister’s crib?”
“What if dad wore Princess Elsa’s dress?”

kids laughing at Gantry Plaza State Park in New York City with NYC family photographer Helena Woods

6. Pair food + a body part

One prompt that works really well with children is pairing a body part with food. Anytime you use a word where you combine the two always makes for plenty of giggles and laughter.

You can even ask the child a simple question such as “What is your best friend’s name? Let me guess…..______”

Examples:

“Hotdog – Head”
Pepperoni – Face
Mac & Cheese – Toes

7. “I’m soooo embarrassed”

Pretend to be really nervous and embarrassed about showing the child your embarrassing dance move. Then when you have your child’s full attention, dance your silliest moves! Commit and go full out, and then quickly press your shutter and capture your child’s reactions.

kid laughing from a funny family photography prompt

8. Can You Show my Camera?

For those quieter moments when you’re not seeking those laugh out loud shots, get on your child’s eye level and quietly talk to them. Ask them questions about their day, their favorite character or song. Better yet, ask them to show you (and your camera) something….

Example:
Can you show my camera your dress? That flower?
Can you hold up your fingers and tell me how old you are?

9. Games Using Imagination – “The Bug”

One of my favorite imagination games for natural, emotive portraits of kids (ages 4-5 years old) is “the bug” game. The goal is to excitedly get them interested in the bug.

Saying, “look there’s a ladybug…do you see it??” and then quickly switch directions. “Oh! Is that…..is that a spider??”

10. Siblings – Action Shots

With your little one in your arms or holding hands – spin! Spinning always gives younger children, who are upset during a session, the giggles. For infants, swinging them on your hip and bouncing them while singing loosens them up.

Other fun activities that work well with siblings: ring around the roses, freeze dance, have a race! Prompt the children to race, then document the one child wildly celebrating, and the other pouting. It is key to give your subjects space to react authentically.

kids laughing in New York City Central Park with family photographer Helena Woods

11. Family Photography Prompts for Older Kids

For older kids, the way to their hearts is through their stomachs! For older kids, I find the following prompts work great.

  • First, ask them to show you their favorite Fortnite dance moves! They will immediately relax, smile, and if they are feeling confident, show you!
  • Ask them what their favorite meal is that their parent makes. After they respond to your question, ask them to run up to your spouse/ their parent and thank them for making that meal with a hug. Those sweet moments – running towards their parent, surprised look from mom or dad, the actual hug and moment of connection are all precious moments to capture on camera!

family laughing at family photography prompt with Helena Woods photographer

Final Note on Photographing Kids

Change Technique Often

When photographing children, it’s important to shoot quickly. Kids lose attention fast, so you have to keep moving and always be talking. As a family photographer, I use a lot of energy and my sessions with families and their children often feel like a giant burst of high energy and then a steep cool-down. Whew! There’s a lot of energy needed with family photo sessions.

The Challenge 

Remember that the trickiest part of getting amazing photos of kids is…

1. Getting their attention
2. Holding their attention
3. Quickly switching directions and photographing their expression

Some words to help you get their attention…

“uh oh…”

“is it broken?”

“what’s in there?”

“do you see that?”

“Woah! Look!”

Finally, when the kids are done being photographed, and you’ll know when that is, they are done. Give them a little treat at the end for a job well done! They deserve it!

I hope these family photography prompts help you get amazing portraits the next time you’re photographing kids. Whether you’re a parent looking to get some shots at home or a family photographer looking for more ideas for your next family session, I hope these prompts help you on your next shoot. 

If you’re curious for more photography tips, I have loads of blog posts I’ve written over the years such as wardrobe advice and location tips and other practical tips I’ve learned as a family photographer!

Much love!

Helena

Book a Family Photo Session with Me!

Are you looking for a lifestyle family photographer? Please inquire for session details and more information on booking. I look forward to documenting the love and joy between you and your family! While we all don’t know when it will be completely safe enough to travel internationally again, my session calendar is open for new and existing clients.

Be the first to know about any upcoming session openings!

If you’d like to join my newsletter and be the first to get on my session calendar, you can join my email list here! I only share these coveted dates to those on the email list and will share on social media only if there are last-minute available slots.

Helena Woods photographer and blogger of Simple Joys

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What family photography prompts do you use for photographing kids?

10 Family Photography Prompts to Get AMAZING Photos of Kids – Guaranteed Results!

October 7, 2020

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I'm Helena! As a creative storyteller, I document magical, emotionally honest family and children's portraiture. A lover of childhood, fairytales and natural light, I photograph families across the world. I'm the ultimate Disney nerd, and I'm obsessed with cats and expressing my love for the simple joys of slow, daily life.

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Helena Woods is a destination newborn and family photographer based in France and New England and travels worldwide. She is known for her natural light, modern classic, and emotive photography style.

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