Common Pitfalls of Preschool Photography and How to Avoid Them

child sitting on the floor

From crying newborns, to fidgety toddlers, to camera-shy preschoolers, photographing children at different ages comes with its own challenges and requires different strategies to overcome them. Read on to learn what pitfalls to avoid when trying to capture the fleeting beauty of a five-year-old about to embark on their first kindergarten adventure.


Photographing babies is hard. We get that. Photographing toddlers is hard. We get that, too. But did you know taking pictures of five-year-olds can be just as difficult? Sure, they are way more cooperative, but they are also more self-conscious around the camera, which usually results in them either shying away from the lens or oversmiling every time you click the shutter. On top of that, they are still only children and will probably tire of the whole process within a relatively short period of time. So, if you go into a photo shoot thinking you’ll get these kids to do exactly what you want with little to no effort on your part, you may come out of the session sorely disappointed. Unless, of course, you address the challenges we outline.

1. Overcoming photo shoot nerves

child covering her eyes with her hands

As early as age three, children start to become more self-conscious when the camera comes out. You can tell this from the way they now become immediately bashful in front of the lens. Since getting the most out of your shoot means making your model feel comfortable and relaxed, instead of just going in and firing the shutter straight away, you should always take your time and try to break the ice first. In order to do so, put the camera down for a minute and talk to the child. Introduce yourself and try to get to know them a little better. For example, ask them what they like doing or what they like eating. Young children are incredibly attuned to genuine interest. Once they decide they are more familiar with you and know that you’re truly interested in them, they will be more likely to open up in front of the camera. Also, kids tend to relax when they feel the pressure is off of them to perform in front of the camera. So, chat with them like it’s the most natural thing in the world and when you feel the moment is right casually start taking snapshots. Be nonchalant about the whole thing. If they realize you’re laid-back about the shoot, they will be too!

Remember, while some children are only temporarily shy around camera, others are naturally quiet and withdrawn. There is nothing wrong with capturing who they are! If they are hiding behind daddy’s leg or quietly scribbling in their colouring book, why not capture that? 

2. Capturing candid shots

boy with garden hose

While smaller children are completely incapable of smiling on demand, the older ones are perhaps too good at it – and no wonder! With their parents constantly peering at them through cameras and cell phones, starting at the very moment of their birth, children nowadays begin to pose much earlier than the generations before them. This makes it a bit tricky at times to elicit a natural expression from them. In fact, if you’re photographing a preschooler, chances are they have already been trained to smile at the camera and you’ll spend the first half hour of the shoot trying to actually get them to forget you’re there. So, how to get a genuine grin from them? By diverting their attention from the business at hand: playing games, running wild in muddy puddles, singing songs, you name it! Anything that requires movement and concentration should make them lose their staged smile at some point and let the true personality show through. Be prepared to put the camera down for a few minutes, goof around with them, and only pick it up again once they are happy and engaged in their task.

Remember, you want to be part of the fun, but you should remain unobtrusive. Let them busy themselves with play while you disappear into the background. Keep your camera handy and start shooting when the moment is right. Most candid photos are usually taken at the end of a photo shoot, when the child has forgotten all about the camera.

3. Making it fun

girl playing with soap bubbles

Preschoolers may be more verbally advanced than toddlers, but don’t forget they are still only kids, and all they want to do is have fun. So, think of ways to make the whole experience more entertaining to them. To that end, get in touch with your inner child and come up with a list of activities that you could have them do to keep the fun factor high. Let them be wild in the grass, hunt for bugs or blow dandelions. If you’re indoors, dare them to jump higher than you. Or see how fast they can run towards the camera. How about having a tea party or dancing to their favourite music? If their energy seems to dip, you may give them some of those props you brought along. Hand them a teddy bear or a funny hat, let them create their own poses, and snap away! Every now and then, you may also consider rewarding them with a small treat. Perhaps a Smartie or two each time they strike a nice pose for your picture?

Remember, making sure that the child is entertained means that they’ll be happy and comfortable. This, in turn, increases your chances of coaxing a big smile and getting a really good picture. If you engage them in fun activities you might just be able to capture the true joy and spontaneity of childhood.

What to do with your photographs

child holding a camera

From their first bike ride to the first day at kindergarten, photos of preschoolers are absolutely heart-melting and a family keepsake for generations. Here are three ways to display child images that never go out of fashion.

  1. Create a canvas print. You can start with one or a gallery (3-4 smaller images from a scene). It is sure to become a timeless family heirloom and a talking point on any wall.
  2. Make a photo book. Put together a baby’s milestone book that showcases their first years in photos. Easy to make and fun to look through, a photo book is a perfect gift for proud parents, grandparents and other family members.
  3. Have your images printed. Sometimes the easiest way to get those photos off your computer is to print them out and compile in a good old-fashioned photo album.

Preschool photography is not a piece of cake, but it’s not impossible, either. If you’ve encountered any other challenges when photographing preschoolers, let us know in the comments!



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