Photographer Files: Parents Bribing Kids For Good Photos

by Eric Von Lehmden | July 31, 2015

When trying to get a good photo of a child, parents will resort to pretty much anything to get them to A. look at the camera and B. not give a super fake smile. I have seen all kinds of bribes over my photography career. Some parents come prepared with bribe in hand and sometimes it is a predetermined reward that was discussed with the children before a photo shoot has started. And still there are the other times when the bribe is just blurted out from sheer frustration. I have to admit that when a child is being extremely difficult and just doesn’t want to have their photo taken…even I have resorted to the bribe.

Photographing kids from ages 2-8 can be quite challenging for any photographer. I would say the younger they are the more challenging a photo session can be. Right when they are mobile and start crawling is can be near impossible to get them to sit still for enough time to get a great shot. This is where the bribing takes place. You have no idea how many times I have heard the phrase, "If you sit still and smile you will get (fill in the blank)."

Some bribes are handed out during the photo session and some are held over the head of the child like a dangling carrot. Does it work? I don’t think it works as well as we all would hope it would. When a child is tired or doesn’t want to cooperate there is little that can be done to convince them to sit still and smile nicely for the camera.

Side note here*

As a photographer, I love photographing the true state of a child, baby or adult. So, if the kid was in a mood that day and didn’t want to smile I would rather capture that than try to force a smile on them. But, knowing what parents want I will certainly oblige their wishes to try to get a nice smile or even a laugh.

Ok, on to the good stuff. Here is my list of the most common bribes I have heard from a parent to their child as reward for taking good photos. If you have heard of or even offered anything different I would love to hear about it and maybe put out a revised list.

parents bribing kids

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Tips-n-Tricks #408

If you are photographing a subject who is pressed for time (ie bride and groom, or businessman) choose a location where you can get multiple looks or backgrounds without having to pick up and move all your equipment. By thinking through your options you don't waste time and you can get several different looks while keeping everyone happy and on time.


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