Photo Shoot Games

As photographers, we all have a few tools in our toolboxes that we use often.

I’d like to share one of my favorite “go to” tools with you today. These are movement prompts or activities that I use during my sessions when I am photographing families with young children.

Sometimes I will use an active game at the beginning of a session to loosen everyone up.

If I am working with a new family, they may feel a bit nervous and anxious and that will come across as stiff. By playing an active game right at the beginning, I am letting the kids and the parents know what type of photographer I am. As a lifestyle photographer, I want to capture what the family looks like, of course, but more importantly, I want to capture the essence of “who” they are and how they relate to each other. Fun, active games and movement can allow this to unfold naturally.

Other times, I may use one of these ideas during the middle or end of a session.

They are especially useful if you have been asking the kids to pose for a while. They might be ready for a fun break.

Here are just a few ways that I incorporate movement into a session. If you have any creative ways that I haven’t mentioned, feel free to share them in a comments below.

  • London Bridge

    The parents hold their hands together above their heads in an arch. Their arms form the bridge. The children then run around their parents in a circle, going under the “bridge”. At the perfect moment, the “bridge” collapses and the parents grab their child as he or she is running through.



  • Blanket Fun

    Remember when you were little and your PE teacher pulled out the huge parachute? To play this game, be sure to pack a lightweight blanket, so you can play similar games. In the photo below, we were playing a game that was very similar to London Bridge. The parents lifted the blanket up so it floated above their heads, but every once in a while, they dropped the blanket and tried to capture their little runner.

    Other times, I have the kids sit on top of the blanket and let the parents swing them.

    Also, kids can run, holding a small, lightweight blanket around their necks, like a super hero cape.

    Once the family is done playing with the blanket, I ask each family member to grab a corner and then set the blanket down so they can sit on it. It looks good if they try to make the blanket “dance in the air” a few times before they lower it to the ground, as in this first image:


  • Musical Laps

    The parents sit on a blanket, chairs or crates. I play music by humming a tune. The pace of the music starts out very slowly and the children start to run around their parents in a tight circle. The music gets faster and faster and more frenzied. When the “music” stops, they run and sit on a lap. I don’t have a very good voice, (and my own children will laugh at me if they are assisting me at the shoot) but I hum so I can control the tune and allow it to get faster and faster.

    Another variation is to have the parents stand and allow their small children to run around their legs and grab a parent’s hand or leg when the music stops.


  • Simon Says

    It’s easy to get kids to do what we want when we present it as a game! Use “Simon Says” to get the children to jump, run, kiss, hug, pose, dance, etc. If they mess up and move when Simon didn’t say, then I have a parent or sibling tickle him or her, which makes a great shot, too. This game is best for kids ages 5 and up.Get the whole family involved. My favorite “Simon Says” task is for the family to create the craziest pose.


  • Dance to your Heart’s Content

    I often ask kids and families to dance. I usually don’t even bother with music. Girls can pirouette like ballerinas. Boys can break dance, jump, and spin. Dads can hold their daughters in their arms. This technique helps my subjects forget about the camera for awhile.


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  • Run Here, Run There, Run Everywhere

    Kids love to run and race. In the first image below, I asked the brothers to run towards their suitcases. I asked the brother and sister to hold hands and just run towards me. By holding hands, they ran at the same speed which kept them in the frame together.

    In the second shot below, I also asked them to run towards a tree. Little did I know that a deer would appear and photo bomb our photo!

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When people are moving their bodies they have to concentrate which allows them to “forget” about being nervous and anxious. They get caught up in the fun which elicits natural, joyful expressions and very simply, it gives the family something to do. I will often ask the family to stop in the middle of one of these games and look at me so that I can get a few classic, “look at the camera” shots. Their expressions are natural and beautiful! So next time you are doing a session with children try adding one or two of these activities!


Linnae-Harris-Bio-Pic-1Linnae Harris, of Linnae Designs, has an artsy, fun, playful style and a knack for capturing genuine emotion and expressions. She tastefully break traditional portrait rules by having a good time, trying new things and cherishing real-life expressions. She is an Award winning; Highly Creative; On-location; Natural Light Photographer for Families & Children, Maternity & Newborn, and High School Seniors Portraits. You can see her work here.

3 Responses to “Photo Shoot Games”

September 08, 2015 at 3:36 pm, Chelsey said:

Love all of these tips! Red light, green light is also a fun game for some fun pictures. I put the kids coming at me and yell out green light and they start running toward me, when I say red light and they stop they usually have a big smile on their face as they are having fun. With older kids I add things like purple light which means to stop and twirl or blue light which means stop and strike pose!


September 08, 2015 at 3:49 pm, Ever Illuminated said:

That’s a fun tip! Thank you, Chesley, for sharing it with us.


July 26, 2017 at 5:48 pm, Michelle Scotti said:

Great post! I am always looking for new games to play at family sessions. I will definitely try these out. Thanks!