While working as a children’s photographer, I developed a keen sense of how to handle a child before I ever put them in front of the camera. As I filled out the paperwork with their parents, I would simply glance over at the child, and could tell, by the child’s reaction to me, how I would need to interact with them.
Basically, there were three types. There were the easy ones. With these kids, you could put your hands on them to arrange their head, shoulders, arms, etc., then walk back to the camera and say “now look up here and smile”. And click!
Then there were the kids that were basically outgoing, but still had their boundaries. With these kids, you would give them a little space, but stand in front of them and make silly faces and silly sounds and just generally act goofy, putting on a funny show for them which would get them to smile. Click!
Then there were the “stranger danger” kids who, when you first glanced at them, moved closer to their parent’s leg and looked down or away, while tightening their grip on mom or dad’s hand. This “type” is pretty much a given with 2 year olds. With these kids, I would instruct mom or dad to put them on the seat, turn them this way or that, and then sit down nearby. I wouldn’t make any eye contact with these kids at all. I would turn towards my big camera and focus on it, as if fixing something. While “fixing”, a stuffed animal (that I had conveniently placed on top of the camera earlier) it would suddenly fall off and hit me in the head. This is when my silly, goofy act began, but it was between me and the stuffed animal; I would never look over at the child. This almost never failed to produce huge belly laughs from my subject, since they were able to react as an observer and not as a participant.
All in all, children can be a fun, yet challenging, subject to photograph. Besides their reaction to the photographer, every child reacts differently to the camera. Some love it and ham it up at every opportunity, while others want to get away from it as quickly as possible. Here are some ideas to help your kid shoot go as smoothly and as quickly as possible.
It’s easy to get nervous before photographing children because they can be unpredictable. If you’re anxious, the child will pick up on it. Relax and let your happiness show through. That way both the parent and child will be calm around you, and you’ll all be pleased with the results.
Even if the child misbehaves or cries, you can get some great photos if you’re paying attention. If you’re fun to be around, the child will be too.
You may end up with a child who wants to do nothing more than play with his monster trucks. Go with it. Let him play and take action shots of him scooting across the floor saying, “Vroom!”
Brush Up On Your Repertoire of Goofy Faces and Funny Noises
Kids love unusual noises and funny faces, and they are great for getting the best giggles and big smiles. Let your goofy side out when photographing kids. The shoot will go faster and smoother, and everyone will be happy and laughing. Be sure to adjust your “act” to the child’s age.
Let the Parents Pick the Time for the Shoot
Parents know when their children are likely to be less tired, have full tummies, and be in a good mood. And that’s exactly what you want—a child who is feeling good and will be ready to be photographed.
Take Some Time to Get to Know the Child
You don’t want to be a total stranger to the child. Whether you do it at booking or right before the shoot, take a little time to get to know the child. Cultivate his or her trust and show how fun you are – as long as the child is willing. If they absolutely are not, focus on something else, your camera (if in your studio), their parent (if in the home), or anything that will take the pressure off the child and allow him or her to relax.
Have Plenty of Props Handy
Ask the parents to bring the child’s favorite toys, dolls, books, and stuffed animals. The more familiar the surroundings, the more the child will relax. Be sure to have your own props, too. Kids love to explore new things, and you’re sure to get some good pics from it. And of course, you can use props to act silly with, like stuffed animals.
Lots of Clicks
Especially if you have an active child as your subject, you may need to take 20 photos to get one good one. Let the child do his or her thing and just click away. You’ll have plenty of pics to choose from, and the parents will treasure the action shots you get.
The best advice for photographing children is to roll with the tide. The best children’s photos are those candid shots where they’re just being their happy, magical little selves. If you can step back and let them do that, you’ll be the most sought-after childrens photographer in town.