Try These 5 Simple Tricks to Distract Kids and Get Great Photos

5 simple tricks, how to distract kids and take great photos.

You want to photograph your child, and he’s not cooperating. This is a frequent problem for parents, and a nightmare for professionals who photograph children. Thankfully there are reliable ways to keep kids distracted. Take a look at how to make photographing children stress-free for everyone involved.

If you’ve ever tried to take photos of a kid, you know how hard it can be to get them to stay still. Unlike grown-ups, few kids under ten want to participate in your plan. The motivation of “having beautiful photos” doesn’t come up until their teens. For boys it can be even later. So if you want to convince children to cooperate, take the shoot as a game and take your pictures as if you were just passing by.

How to distract kids: play with bricks.
To capitalize on the magical light from the window, I had to move the blocks out of the corner of the room. Canon EOS 6D, Canon EF 35 mm f/1.4L USM, 1/400 s, f/4, ISO 200, focal length 35 mm

Bear With Me

For kids, toys are the best companions. For you, they’re a guarantee that the child will more easily forget the camera.

You can for example sit their favorite doll or teddy bear onto a chair you’ve found. It’s likely that they’ll sit on the chair as well, or at least pick the toy up. You can set out blocks and other construction toys on the ground wherever the best light for photography is.

If livelier photos are more up your alley, try balls of various sizes instead of a doll or blocks. Also, join the child in their play. Not only will you get unaffected, lively pictures, but also, you’ll show the child that camera time doesn’t have to be boring.

How to distract kids: ball will help you.
Here the camera was in one hand only. The second hand threw the ball. Canon EOS 6D, Canon EF 35 mm f/1.4L USM, 1/1000 s, f/2.8, ISO 160, focal length 35 mm

Props Aren’t Just for the Studio

When you think of props, don’t just think of the famous studio props such as bubble blowers or angel wings. When photographing children, any object that is not primarily a toy can be considered a prop.

From my own experience I can say that the simpler the prompt, the more it awakens a child’s fantasy. Good examples here include large paper boxes, clothespins, and even ordinary pebbles on a path.

Your choice of props is up to your taste, but all the same you should avoid props that are clichéd or aren’t a good fit for the given child. For example a little girl who’s worried she’ll get dirty won’t be too thrilled by greasy props. Let the child choose what they’re interested in.

How to distract kids: even stones could be a great toy.
For many young ones, plain old pebbles are excellent entertainment. Canon EOS 6D, Canon EF 100 mm f/2.8 Macro USM, 1/160 s, f/4, ISO 200, focal length 100 mm

Playgrounds—Heaven for Kids… and Photographers

Always carry a camera with you when you head to the playground. Swings, merry-go-rounds, etc. are more than just excellent entertainment for your children. They’re also an opportunity for you to practice photographing quick motion. You can freeze motion with a short exposure or do the opposite: amplify it using a long exposure.

Panning is another interesting technique with impressive results. Try it out for example in a photo of a child riding a bike. You can also use selection tools and blurring to simulate panning in e.g. Zoner Photo Studio.

Capture a Relationship

You can amuse children with more than just inanimate objects. Ask someone close to the child to “assist” with the shoot. And then photograph a loving relationship between parent and child, or a sibling rivalry.

If the child has a pet that they’re used to, that can help likewise. Photos where a boy and his puppy pal share the scene are sure to capture hearts. Don’t make these photos too sugary sweet, though.

Not a Director

The next time you despair that a child will never let you take the shot you’re dreaming of, try a different tack. Stop wanting them to amuse themselves your way. Involve them in the play. Leave the prop you’ve picked somewhere near the child, but don’t tell them what to do or where to stand. A child who’s the boss of their situation and who’s having fun acts so naturally—they’re such rewarding subjects. Join them and have fun too.

How to distract kids: play with an old sweater.
Playing with Mom’s old sweater. Canon EOS 6D, Canon EF 200 mm f/2.8 L II USM, 1/800 s, f/2.8, ISO 200, focal length 200 mm

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