1. Ask the parents to crouch to the kids’ level.
This brings everyone’s faces and bodies closer together naturally without having to “pose” anyone! Have the smaller kids sit on mom or dad’s knees, with taller kids behind.
From here, you can have the family give face hugs, which gives you an opportunity to get some cute close-up shots of individual kids!
2. The questions game.
This is one of the most fool-proof, fun things you can do at a session to get everyone’s minds off the fact that they are being photographed. Stand the family in a line, or a grouping, and tell them you’re going to ask some questions that they can only answer by looking at someone in the family. For example: “Who’s the person in your family with the stinkiest feet?” (That one is sure to get some laughs!) Or “Who is the most beautiful person in your family?” *cough cough, mom!!!
3. Tickle Fight!
This is a fun one for families with young kids, and everyone can get involved. Usually the parents start tickling first, and then I’ll encourage the kids to “tickle attack” their parents! It works no matter the “pose” – whether they are standing up or sitting.
4. Give them an activity to do.
There’s nothing like throwing leaves in the fall! Or creating a giant pile of them and having the kids jump into it. Some other things small children love to do is pick flowers, hunt for cool rocks, or play imagination games. That goes something like this: “Let’s imagine we’re on a big pirate ship! Okay, who’s gonna be the captain, Daddy? Oh wooooowww, guys do you see that big whale beside the ship? Look! Over there! I see an island. Let’s all jump out on this island together!” Encourage the parents to stay close to their kids and keep interacting with them.
They really got to work making this leaf pile, and gave them a little break from smiling for the camera.
5. Cuddle and Talk
No matter what, I’m always encouraging my families to stay close to one another. If the kids are getting restless, but you still need a few more shots, ask the parents to just love on their kids and start talking to them. They could ask them which book they want to read that night at bedtime, or if they had fun during the session. Anything to divert their attention from the fact that you’re still taking photos, and just make it feel more like hanging out.
I hope these prompts help you at your next session! They have made a huge difference in my work, and people often mention that they love how natural everyone looks in my photos – it’s one of the things I hear most in my family questionnaires!