Photography Tip - Getting Kids to Sit Still And Smile for photos AKA The one you’ve all been waiting for

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were just some magic ‘sit still and smile’ beans for photographing your kids? 


Wouldn’t that be easy.


But alas, there aren’t! (Unless you know of some blue genie with Robin William’s voice who we can make some wishes to?)

My BIGGEST tip for getting kids to sit still is to BE PREPARED. Seriously. It sounds totally dumb but preparation for the ultimate shot is so important.

So, WHERE are you going to do it?

Can you SAFELY do it? (Please don’t put your newborn in your 3 year old’s lap without supervision!)

HOW is the lighting? If it’s high noon and the sun is shining it’s NOT ideal to put all your kids together and expect them not to squint or be bothered with the light. 

How are the kids moods? Is your 1 year old about to go down for a nap? Make sure, especially if you have kids that are at more difficult ages, that they are in good moods!

Is your camera set up and ready to shoot?

After you’re set up and prepared, it’s game time.


I’m not about to tell you that there’s an easy way to have your kids all sit there and smile at you like the little angels they aren’t.


Getting a sitting and smiling shot with little kids takes time and PATIENCE. Stop saying “smile!” and “Cheese!” It doesn’t work when you have a 9 month old crawling around and your 4 year old getting bored and wanting to play with his Legos.

You need to be quick and ENGAGE.

What can you say to engage your 4 year old while keeping your 9 month old still (and happy)?

Can you sing a song together? Clap hands? Go in for tickle attacks? 

How can you engage them in a positive and fun way? (Yelling and scolding doesn’t work with kids and getting happy photos. If you’re happy, they’re happy. If you’re yelling at them to smile, they sure as hell won’t do it.) Engaging them positively also gives them a positive association with photos so that next time, they aren’t expecting a time out along with a photo, they’re expecting to sing a song or have fun. They’ll look forward to it and maybe even have some fun ideas of their own for cool photos! 

Good luck!


This is just one of the solid, easy to implement tips and tricks for photographing kids that I talk about in The Authentic Portrait: A Parent’s guide to Documenting Childhood, an ebook perfect for parents who want to learn the basics of photography and improve their photos without spending hours and hours taking classes. Find out more here!


After implementing these tips don't forget to share your photos on instagram tagging #TheAuthenticPortrait