Create a High Production DIY Photo Shoot with Kids

Creating a DIY photo shoot with a high production value—meaning costumes, lighting, the right location, etcetera—is a fun way to stretch your photography skills and make unique pictures. Have some family fun by incorporating your kids into the process, then snap mega-memorable pictures of them. Here, we’ll take a look at how to get a high-production look without shelling out big bucks.

The big idea

First of all, you need an idea for your shoot. Start with a simple concept, like a character from your child’s favorite story. I know my daughter is crazy about fairy movies right now, so making a picture of a fairy might be enough to entice her into participating.

The DIY part

For kids, making the costumes may be even more exciting than taking pictures. Once you have an idea for your photo shoot, enlist your kids in the costume creation process. Supervise, but let them tie a knot, use a glue gun, or tear a newspaper. This will get them even more into the idea of posing for photos later. You can raid the dress-up box, or make an all-new (but still interesting) costume from materials you find at home.

There’s a lot of snake grass growing by our house, so I decided to use some of it to make skirts for the fairy photo shoot. My daughter and I gathered the grass, and then our neighbors (who also have fairy-loving little girls) came over and we had a skirt-making party. They didn’t come out exactly as imagined, but we had fun.

You can make your own costumes out of garbage bags, paper cups, newspaper or magazine pages, palm fronds, or whatever else you see around you. Pinterest is a great resource for costume ideas made from repurposed materials.

Plan lots of extra time, and know that you’ll need patience. If you think this is about making an incredible picture, you may be disappointed. But if you set out to create a fun experience for your child, you’ll be 100 percent successful.

Getting ready to shoot

Creating a high-production shoot shouldn’t only stretch your costume-making skills and patience—it’s also a good time to expand your photography skills. Practice new techniques and use the opportunity to get used to planning shoots. This skill will come in handy if you’re thinking of going pro.

Find a great location and remember to find out if there are rules about taking pictures there. Many city parks require a permit for photography, even if you’re shooting your own kids. Telling a police officer you didn’t know about the rule won’t get you out of a ticket, so make sure it’s okay to shoot there.

For this shoot, the goal was to make it look like the sun was shining down through trees and illuminating my fairy in the forest. I live in Oregon, where sunny days are few, so I planned to use a flash to imitate the sun. If you want to make a faux-sun shine through the trees, try this:

  1. Shine a small light or flash toward the camera.

  2. Try using a warming gel on the light if you want to make it look more like the light at sunset. Warming gels can easily be found online and taped to the flash or light.

  3. Shoot with a small aperture (such as f/16) to create a starburst.

Time to shoot

If you’ve ever spent a day trying to do an activity with 4-year-olds, you know that not everything goes exactly as planned. You should be prepared to have everything go wrong—be ready for rain, tears, and to smile right on through it all.

The best way to get great shots while photographing kids is to not take the shoot too seriously (no matter how hard you worked on it!), make it fun, and capture those instances of joy. Have your kid models run, jump, and of course laugh.

Levi Sim

Levi Sim is a full-time photographer and dadtographer in Portland, Oregon, who travels way too much while shooting for clients and teaching other photographers. He excels at making meaningful pictures with just about any subject and digs all styles of photography. You can read more of his educational articles on