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Tips for taking fantastic family portraits 

click to enlarge The Kuchta family photographed at the Cheesman Park Pavilion in Denver.
  • The Kuchta family photographed at the Cheesman Park Pavilion in Denver.
Recently I traveled to Denver to photograph the Kuchta family. I got to know Katie and Justin when I photographed their wedding at The Broadmoor in 2011. Now they have three beautiful daughters and wanted to update their family photos.

We started in the morning before it got too hot and photographed at the Cheesman Park Pavilion. The pavilion is a gorgeous building to photograph. It offers a great view of Denver, fountains and beautiful marble columns — hands-down one of my favorite places to shoot.

Since we were there early, we beat the crowds that typically show up on a nice day at the pavilion and we had it all to ourselves.

Here are tips for photographing families with young children using my shoot with the Kuctha family to illustrate.

Work Fast

Children are almost always excited about the prospect of taking pictures, but after it starts they quickly get bored by it. Be ready. The first few minutes is really the only time you will have to nail a great picture. I like to use a wider lenses when I photograph families and I “preset” my camera exposures mindful that a faster shutter speed is needed with children.

Watch For Small Moments

With a wider lens, I can work closer to the children and I can watch for fleeting moments that happen quickly and then are gone. These small moments really help tell the story. While we’re always trying to make a one really fantastic family picture, it’s easy to miss these windows into the character and whimsy of children. These images also really help to support the story and when you look back are appreciated even more.

Play Games

When children get bored and lose interest, playing a game or two will help re-engage them. Letting kids run, make funny faces or play ring-around-the-rosy will always make for a great picture. Also, it's really important to stay animated when you're taking pictures of kids. Do funny things to hold their attention. One of my go-to's? Turning the hat I'm wearing upside down and putting it on my head. It holds children's attention and it help lifts their eyes towards the camera.

Bring Snacks

At the end of the day, kids run out of interest and get cranky pretty quickly. Typically, you have 20 minutes before things go haywire. Taking a snack break will add a few more minutes to your shoot time, and perhaps make for another great moment to photograph.



Sean Cayton is a wedding photojournalist of 19 years and operates a successful, award-winning wedding photography studio in Colorado Springs. He's also an award-winning photojournalist. Sean is happily married to the love of his life (also his business partner) and is father to three beautiful children. When he’s not working, Sean can be found outside flying kites with his kids, hitting golf balls or casting a fly rod to hungry trout.

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