Bribery – Do You Ever Bribe to Get Better Photographs?

Bribery – Do You Ever Bribe to Get Better Photographs?

I got to thinking today about “bribery.”  When I photograph my kids I often use bribes.  I have found them harmless – whether it is a dollar or a piece of candy or somewhere I promise to take them…  It works (well usually it does)… And they cooperate so I can get some cute shots.  This way they feel something is “in it for them.”

In terms of others besides my twin girls, I occasionally bribe all of you (to comment, to vote, etc) – ok – maybe bribing is too harsh a word, but I offer discounts, codes, prizes, contests.  And it is more effective when I do.  I get more comments and more interaction when I have a prize or drawing (as a rule anyway – let’s see what happens with this post since there is no giveaway).  Most other sites I visit are the same way. People often need a little incentive – not just kids but sometimes adults too.

So I got to thinking, do others bribe their subjects? What do they use to bribe? Do you thinking bribing is wrong?  I want to put a post together about bribes from the data I collect in these polls and comments. Please be open, honest, and blunt.  I do not expect everyone to feel the way I do.

Please vote in the poll – and then in the comment area – write why you never bribe.  Or if you do, what types of things do you use for bribes (ie. candy, toys, etc).  Do your bribes ever turn into “the photography?”  For example, “I will take you swimming if you let me take some photos?” or “We can do X if you give me a few minutes to take a few pictures?” 

Also make a note who you bribe – kids, family, friends, seniors, pets, etc.  If you never bribe, what do you feel are more effective ways to get your kids or other subjects to participate in getting their photos taken if they are uninterested?  I will share the results from this in another post in a few weeks.

[poll id=”17″]

Below is an example of my bribing my kids and their friends.  They wanted to get in swimsuits and play in our master bathroom tub (in February – middle of winter).  So I said., “sure, as long as I can take some pictures…”  Do you feel that is wrong? Is it festive and fun? The parents of the other kids were sure glad I did – they loved the shots. But I know some may feel you should let kids be kids. Speak up and let me read what you have to say.


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  1. May 6, 2009 at 9:34 pm —

    Bribe implies something devious. I prefer to call it incent. There is nothing wrong with providing an incentive to get the behavior need for the task. This is a win-win situation.

  2. May 7, 2009 at 12:33 am —

    My 3 boys are so tired of me taking there picture all the time. I don’t do as much any more. In the fall I had a fellow photographer friend take our picture and my boys were not cooperative at all. So, I took them back the next day to get just some shots of just them. I thought of the greatest bribe. I told them they could have a nickel for ever smile in a picture. It worked like a charm. We came home and looked through the pics and counted all the smiles. My middle child earned $7.50……..it was worth every nickel. I don’t always use bribery, but in some situations it is helpful. I like the term Marci Lambert used…”incentives”.

  3. May 7, 2009 at 12:48 am —

    My kids have been bribed. Let’s see, $1 sometimes more depending on cooperation, Littlest Pet shop, trip to the dollar store, candy any incentive sometimes depending on their desire or many times please works. I think the bathtub in bathing suits is GREAT! You got great shots they had fun and they have the memory. I haven’t bribed customer kids yet but was thinking of a basket of little things they could choose from after pictures…

  4. May 7, 2009 at 2:17 am —

    I always end up bribing my son, who is 4, as he never wants to pose for a professional photographer. He has no problem smiling for me at home, so it’s rather annoying, and I’ll do whatever I have to in order to get the photos I’m paying for!

  5. Brittany
    May 7, 2009 at 2:48 am —

    I bribe my photo subjects a lot of the time – but not with things, with pictures. Depending on the subjects, I’ll tell them that if they cooperate and let me take X number of good pictures, I’ll let them take some silly/fun/jumping pictures or be done with pictures.

  6. May 7, 2009 at 7:41 am —

    I think that photo is precious & since your own kids are involved, yeah I probably would’ve done the same thing. I generally only bribe my own kids, but most days they have fun getting their pix done & have their own series of poses just waiting for a camera to be pulled out. My paying clients I don’t generally bribe, but I do hear most of the client-parents bribing their kids with some reward if they’ll cooperate during the session. I think it’s just a parent thing! 🙂

  7. May 7, 2009 at 7:44 am —

    I think “bribe” is too harsh a word to use in this scenario. It conjures ideas in my mind of something negative when really, in the context that’s been described, it seems more like an early lesson in negotiating and/or compromising which are two life skills that will be sharperned, or need to be sharpened, as one gets older. Just yesterday I had a “gift” for my little client if he would sit with his parents while I took that one family shot….all the other shots were of him playing, moving, building. This one shot was for mom and the grandmom and they were very specific in terms of what they wanted…so I used a “gift” to get his attention and then reward him for a job well done. Bribe? The word doesn’t seem to fit here for me.


  8. May 7, 2009 at 11:07 am —

    i would say “incentive” before bribe, but YES!

    normally it’s a small treat or snack, or that elusive lollypop I always have in my bag, and if i get the shots I want, the lollypop eating shots end up being the bang-up of the whole session!

  9. May 7, 2009 at 4:14 pm —

    I have never used bribes… never really thought to do so. I usually just let the kids lead the shoot. In my heart I don’t agree with using bribes for my child, as I feel it sets a bad precedent teaching her that she should always expect a reward for normal behavior. Bribery makes me uncomfortable and I certainly would not want to make one of my clients- generally the ones with similar parenting styles- feel that way! I have had parents use bribery with their children during shoots and usually it’s not much help, ending up with fake smiles on tear-stained faces.

  10. May 7, 2009 at 6:52 pm —

    In my day job I am a behavior interventionist. So I like to think I have a little specialized knowledge in this – All behaviors have consequences- good or bad or sometimes both. I never “bribe” children- however, if the consequence of a good phot shoot is a lollipop for them – I am OK with it. Especially if you look at it this way… the consequence of the lollipop many times is money for me – All behavior has a consequence. On a side not it also gives me something to talk about with the child to build a relationship -“Do you like candy? Oh really what kind? What color lollipop do you like? My favorite is ….” Just my humble opinion – Unfortunately with my own kids – the lollipop consequence is no longer affective – their favorite consequence…picking their own poses – which is not always bad!!!!

  11. May 7, 2009 at 8:07 pm —

    I see it as “positive reinforcement”. Bribery is only bribery if you’re rewarding someone for doing something they shouldn’t do…

  12. May 8, 2009 at 9:56 am —

    Bribery is a win-win situation! I get the shots I want and my subjects normally get a treat too. My latest bribes were cookies with icing and a “have at it” in my closet for dress-up. Worked like a charm! Even got a few extra dress-up shots free of charge. 🙂

  13. Amy
    May 8, 2009 at 11:20 am —

    Definately! My own kids I can offer bigger bribes, but with my clients I take along some candy (ask the parents first) and use it as a “reward” rather than a bribe and only if they aren’t cooperating to begin with.

  14. May 8, 2009 at 2:06 pm —

    Overall- I’m more about logic and reason with my subjects for the few shots of younger kids- that we’ll be done in just a few if they can do what I ask of them (which by the way is generally far easier if the parents just step back and let us play and not try to control the situation….) and then I just shoot life as it happens which usually are the best shots of the session….

    With that said tho- when it comes to my kids- yes- when I do their quarterly photo updates… there is usually a trip for ice cream involved- but only if they co-operate. My oldest is at the age where she just wants to give me aditude and my youngest just wants to be the clown that she is…. and trying to get the portraits I want out of that…. is enough to possibly require a cocktail hour to follow….. it does work most of the time- but I have infinate patience with everybody elses kids but my own! 🙂

    Bottom line- the photos of my kids is fun for me- not neccesarily for them- and they need to get something out of the deal- so no- I don’t feel badly about bribing them! 🙂 (perhaps I should- but that’s the only area of our lives that we do that with- the rest is clear cut in terms of behavior and chores.)

  15. May 8, 2009 at 3:37 pm —

    I was a single person who said I would never bribe. I’m still on child #1 and I’m still not into bribing. However, I wouldn’t consider what you did bribing. More like a condition (“You may play w/ your Lincoln Logs if you clean them up afterward.”). To me it would have been bribery if you would have said, “Hey, guys, if you let me take a picture of you, I’ll let you get dressed up and…”) I voted that I only bribe my own child because I have done that when I’m trying to actually do a portrait shoot w/ him. (Boy is it ever tough being Mom and photog!) As I read through the comments I remembered something I’ve done w/ clients children that was really effective. I often tell them that if they’ll do ___ or stay sitting and let me take a few more I will let them see the picture afterward. Sometimes after they see it, they’ll want to take even more of the same so they can see it again. For the most part, I think kids today are so used to getting rewards or incentives for every little thing they do well that bribes aren’t even all that effective. I’d rather play with/talk to/relate with them, so that I can pull out the genuine person–even if it takes a lot more time than handing them a piece of candy. I do not like when parents are standing behind me going, “Come on, smile and co-operate and we’ll get ice cream after we’re done.” It’s never effective and you know they’ll end up getting the ice cream either way. I wish they’d just leave us alone and let me do the work. Sorry, had no idea this would get so lengthy.

  16. Tyra
    May 10, 2009 at 10:11 am —

    Only my own kiddo. He is 14, and HATES to have his photo taken. If you look through my photos, if it wasn’t for bribery, you would think that he fell off of the face of the earth around 7 years old. Now I am all about the bribery with him. Nothing to major… but usually just enough to get him to cooperate with me for 10 minutes once in a while lol

  17. May 13, 2009 at 12:24 am —

    I prefer “negotiations”. And they work with adults too! I just did pictures of my dh and 2 BILs and to get a couple shots they weren’t sure of I said then we’ll do some funny stuff after or we’ll try to get some jumping shots. Seriously, it works on grown men too. Not so much on 2yo boys though, candy works better. My kids get “rewarded” for good behavior and don’t get candy or other treats very often so it works for them.

  18. Renee
    May 21, 2009 at 8:24 pm —

    I bribe my students… if everyone gets their work done we can….
    I bribe my children…if everyone finishes their chores we can go to…
    I bribe my husband…if you finish then we can finally…

    I am totally ok with it as they should be doing what is asked anyway….bribery…conditions, whatever you want to call it…it works and works well for most people!

  19. June 7, 2009 at 2:44 pm —

    Just yesterday I told the bunch of groomsmen I had (who where not to enthusiastic about taking photos) that the better the cooperated they sooner they could get to the reception and drink. Of course I use bribes…not only is it a reminder to little joey of what awaits him when he gets to the end of the session…but once you mention the bribe I usually have my camera FULLY ready to see their reaction, more often then not it’s worthy of being in a frame. In the case of the groomsmen and the drinking I mentioned this and quickly shot a round of 8 shots…all of them smiling naturally, turning to each other and grinning and looking excited at the chance to spend the evening with Free drinks and pretty bridesmaids 🙂

    I only voted for not using bribery on my own family because they are all willing to take pictures!

  20. June 7, 2009 at 2:47 pm —

    p.s bribery for photos is not bad, especially if you say to Client X (who happens to be 4) you know if you can be really well behaved, take some pictures smile…and blah..then reminding him through out the session is not so much a “bribe” but a reminder!

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Bribery – Do You Ever Bribe to Get Better Photographs?