Having a successful shoot with a child can start a while before session day. When planning a shoot , I encourage the parents to talk to their kids about picture day. The parents can have fun with their kids, practicing making happy and goofy faces, or have the kids practice making up poses. Anything to help the child get excited about pictures, as opposed to being nervous or not knowing what to expect.
If a child (or adult!) is particularly nervous about being in front of the camera, you can keep the focus of the day on something other than photos. You could plan a family picnic, or nature walk. For example, If we're doing a shoot in the woods or at a park, parents might want to let the kids help pack a snack for their adventure. If the shoot is in an urban area, you could plan an "i-spy" game. In my case, I would tell my two year old daughter that we're going to see how many puppy dogs we can spot and she wouldn't be able to get to the car fast enough. As a lifestyle photographer, I want to capture the natural family interactions and candid moments. Having fun activities planned with the child for that day, can help create much more relaxed and intimate photos. I also love it when the child participates in planning their own outfit. It can be fun (and shocking) to see what they pick out. Their choice outfit may only be used as backup or extra clothing, but its great to let the child wear something that they feel like a rockstar in. Even if only for a few pictures. Imagine how much funthey will have reflecting on their choices 5-10 years down the road!
Once the client arrives at the shoot, I want to spend some time getting to know the child and letting them warm up to me before I start shooting. This may not always be a good thing, but I rarely pay attention to the time when I am working with kids. I don't want them or the parents to feel rushed or stressed. It will show in the photos. I want them to feel comfortable with me & their surroundings before I start getting them into poses, or sticking a camera in their face.
Note to parents! It is ok to hang back while the photographer works with your child! In fact, sometimes the child (and photographer) will feel a bit more comfortable without mommy & daddy telling them how to sit or how to smile. This can depend on the child's age, some little ones may not want to leave mommy's arms during the whole session, and that's ok too.
I am attempting to streamline this post, as I could go on forever! Here is a short list of a some tried & true tips for working with young children:
Most kids love listening & dancing to music. I try to have a playlist ready ahead of time, made specifically for that family. It works well to play it on a bluetooth speaker during the session. The right music can go a long way in helping someone feel comfortable enough to have some fun in front of the camera.
For babies especially, having a bell, clapper, maracas, etc. can help to grab their attention. Usually, I accidentally leave those items at home and resort to jumping around, singing, yelling or making animal noises. That seems to be pretty effective as well.
When I am working with kids, I am hoping to start a relationship with a life-long client, or at least until high school graduation! I want them to leave the shoot feeling excited & happy and talking about how much fun they had with me. A good way to leave a lasting impression is to send them home with a little gift. A new book, some stickers, or if mommy & daddy say it's ok (I always ask during the consultation) some cookies. Bonus tip, kids also love to look at their pictures on the back of the camera. They get excited about seeing themselves, so all the more reason to get the photos edited and back to the client as quickly as possible…while they're still pumped up about the session. That subject deserves a whole other post.
During the consultation with the parents, I'll ask the them what the child is currently in to. All children like different music, most likely have favorite superheroes or princesses, a favorite animal, and have at least one favorite movie they watch 5 times a week. That information can be very helpful when relating to the child during a shoot. If you can start talking about their favorite characters, they're going to be interested in what you have to say, and you will be able to hold their attention longer. Another example: Lately, I've noticed the teachers in my daughters classes constantly referencing Elsa or Anna from Frozen. It is completely lost on her, because she couldn't care less about them! However, if you mention Dave or Gru from Despicable Me…you have her full attention.
I like encourage parents to bring their child's favorite toy to the shoot. Or sometimes, the child will choose to bring it on their own. If possible, try to pick a "photogenic" toy. It may be less than perfect, but I think it's a great way to document one of the child favorite things from that age. For example, I wish I had more photographs with this absurd, brightly colored, hamburger bag I used to LOVE and play with every day when I was about four years old.
I love doing whimsical shoots. It's so much fun to create an environment where a child can let their imagination run wild, while I shoot away and capture some of that magic.
I don't have any tips related to this photo, I just absolutely love it and wanted to include it. Oh, but notice how they both have hands full of "photogenic" objects. It's the only thing that was keeping them from hopping up and waddling off!
I hope you enjoyed this post. If you're an aspiring photographer in the Houston or San Antonio area & want more tips like this, you could join me on a shoot. Contact me for inquiries & details.
I'd love to hear from you! What are your tried and true methods for working with little ones?
What do you want to see in my next blog post?