You might have some ideas in mind when it comes to your child’s photo session. Perhaps you’re picturing a perfect little lady or gentleman, sitting quietly with that beautiful smile, taking direction like a highly-paid fashion model.

Have you met your child?

No offense. I know he’s charming most of the time. But let’s be real: kids have their moments, and it just might happen that she decides to have a moment during the session. Or maybe he just doesn’t believe in sitting still. Maybe there’s tornado in her DNA.

redheaded child portrait

It’s okay! We’re still going to get some incredible photographs.

Children live life on a different level, and it’s a lot to ask them to come on up (or down?) to ours just so we can get some photos. Seems kinda boring for them. So if they’re not really on board with our photo session plan, I simply craft a new plan on the fly.

As a photographer, it’s my job to create situations where your child can relax and have fun. It might look like pure tornado nonsense to an outsider, but I know what’s really happening: your child’s personality is shining through. When that happens, we get gorgeous candid photos that truly reflect who your son or daughter is at this time in his or her life. Truthfully, I prefer candid shots over posed shots a solid 97 percent of the time.

Here are my not-so-secret secrets for mastering the art of candid child photography. This is how we ensure the type of photos that you will love for years.

  • Going With the Flow: There’s nothing that must happen. The more we try to force an idea (stand tall! tilt your head! bend your elbow!), the less likely it is to happen–and the more likely we are to cause anxiety and frustration for your child. We can offer suggestions, but if your child goes in a new direction, we follow.

Cowboy Child portrait

  • Patience: Maybe your child wants to face away from the camera. He’ll come around (literally!), but in the meantime, we wait. Like a nature photographer who lies in the snow for days to get that award-winning shot of an eagle landing on a polar bear’s head. No big deal.
  • Silliness: If I’m not having fun, the kid probably isn’t, either. But good news: I’m having fun. This is my job, but it didn’t happen by accident. I’m a photographer because I love it! And I love the opportunity to be the kind of silly that gets kids excited about having their picture taken.

Silly Child Portrait

  • Creativity: Here’s something you’ll never see: me, throwing up my hands, saying, “Whelp, I guess we can’t get any photos today.” That’s crazy talk! There are photos in every smile, every giggle, every frown, every tantrum. (Maybe not in every tantrum. There are some things we might not need to remember.)
  • I’m Always Ready: You never know when the most precious look is going to cross your child’s face, so it’s my job to be 100 percent on point during the session. I get in the zone, ready to click, so I don’t miss any opportunities.

The first step is making your child as comfortable as possible. When you arrive early, the child has an opportunity to get to know me before we begin. We can use snacks, toys, music, games, and more to create an environment that is familiar and comfortable for your son or daughter. You’re welcome to be as involved as you need and would like to be.

Here’s the real secret: candid photos of your child are the best. Adults are always worried about what they look like: shifting to their good side, smiling just so, and already looking forward to examining the photos with a magnifying glass to make sure everything from their hair to their clothes is absolutely perfect.

And that’s fair. Looking good is pretty awesome, and looking good in a photograph is even better because it lasts forever.

But kids don’t have those concerns. Whether they’re feeling tornado-y or not, they just light up, the way they always do, and we’re lucky enough to be there with a camera.