Are you a parent who has experienced the struggle of trying to get your kids to cooperate for a photoshoot? If so, you're not alone. From squirming toddlers to moody teenagers, capturing the perfect family portrait can feel like an impossible task. But fear not, because I'm here to share some expert tips on how to bribe your kids for photos effectively.

2 year old girl smiles in purple dress and jean jacket at Norton Commons family photo session

To Bribe or Not to Bribe...

First things first, let's address the elephant in the room: is bribery really the best approach? Some parents may argue that bribing kids sets a bad precedent or teaches them that they only need to obey if/when a treat is involved. While this viewpoint has merit, there are times when a little incentive can go a long way in achieving a desired outcome. In the end, the final decision lies with you as the parent. This article is meant to offer tips for any parents who choose to utilize this approach and if bribing is not for you, that's okay too!

dad embraces young son and both smile in blue button down shirts
dad and 4 year old son compare arm muscles at sunset photo session in Norton Commons

The Key to A Good Bribe

Instead of resorting to bribing as a default tactic, consider the specific circumstances and the temperament of your child. In some cases, offering a reward can motivate them to cooperate and make the experience more enjoyable for everyone involved. The key is to strike a balance and use bribery strategically.

Now, let's delve into 3 different types of bribes and when to use them:

little girl takes jelly bean from brother's hand as a treat during a photo session

Immediate Gratification Bribes

These are the most common types of bribes I see at my photo sessions. And there is a reason for it as they tend to work really well for most kids. Offering an immediate treat, like a marshmallow break, can be a quick and effective way to gain cooperation from younger children. The promise of a tasty snack can help hold their attention and encourage them to stay engaged. I recommend small treats that can be eaten quickly and leave no mess, such as marshmallows and smarties. Avoid anything that might stain teeth or clothes.

brother holds out a jelly bean for little sis from the bag he is holding as they sit on bench

End of Session Bribes

This type of bribe generally works well for the older kids. An end of session bribe can be a new toy that you've brought with you and is waiting in the car or a special outing right after the session, such as going to get ice cream or do something fun as a family. Some children may even enjoy choosing their reward by going to the store to pick out their own toy. This approach provides an incentive for the children to stay focused and behave throughout the shoot without needing multiple breaks for quick treats between shots.

big brother holds bag of jelly beans and tries to give one to little sister as a photo session bribe

Delayed Gratification bribes

Another option is to promise a treat or reward for some time after the session but not necessarily immediately after. This can be like going ice skating on the weekend or having a friend over for a playdate the next week. A general rule is that the further out the child must wait, the better the reward should be to match. This can be especially effective for children who are motivated by delayed gratification. Knowing that there's something fun waiting for them can help keep them on track during the photoshoot without a constant barrage of questions asking when it will be over or frustrated sighs that it’s “taking too long”.

What Type of Bribe to Choose?

When choosing a bribe, it's important to consider your child's individual preferences and what motivates them the most. Some kids may be more motivated by food, while others may prefer toys or experiences. Take the time to understand what makes your child tick and tailor your bribe accordingly.

Additionally, be mindful of setting realistic expectations and not relying solely on bribery to get the perfect shot. While incentives can be helpful, they shouldn't be used as a substitute for patience, creativity, and good old-fashioned communication with your kids. I do everything in my power to make your photo session fun and engaging so that no one feels bored or uncomfortable. Many times my families leave their sessions saying "wow, it's over already?" and "I can't believe how quick and easy that was!"

young boy and girl hide behind a plant and hedge to pop out and surprise mom and dad as they walk by

Kids hiding to "surprise" Mom and Dad.

mom and dad pose for photo together while son and daughter eat jelly beans on bench off to the side

Kids enjoying their bribes while we get some photos of just Mom and Dad.

Bribing for Success

In conclusion, bribery can be a useful tool in your parenting arsenal when it comes to getting great photos of your kids and having an enjoyable photo session. By offering the right incentives and understanding your child's unique needs, you can turn a potentially stressful experience into a fun and rewarding one for the whole family. So go ahead, give yourself permission to embrace the art of bribery, and capture those precious memories with ease!

It doesn't hurt to have an awesome photographer who happens to be great with kids either... just saying *wink*

Want to keep reading?

Check out this related blog post!

7 Essential Tips to Prepare Kids for Successful Photo Sessions

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I hope you enjoyed this article and that it is helpful to you as you prepare for any upcoming photo sessions you may have, either with me or another photographer.

I am a family photographer based in Chattanooga, TN but I travel to the surrounding areas fairly often. These photos were taken on a recent trip to Louisville, KY and if that's where you call home, I'd love to photograph you there the next time I'm in town!

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Check out more from this sweet session at Norton Commons in Louisville, KY