Child Photography: Hints and Tips for Photographing Kids
March 11, 2014
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Even the most seasoned pro can get a case of the jitters when staring down the viewfinder at a cranky five-year-old. While many of the standard rules of portraits apply to child photography, knowing how to relate, interact and work with kids can make the difference between a forgotten snapshot tucked in a scrapbook and a treasured family photo, or a portfolio piece and a client for life. Here are some helpful techniques to get kids to flash those natural smiles and put their "picture faces" away.
Do Your Homework
Interview the child's mom and dad before the session starts to find out about your subject from the people who know him best. Ask about likes and dislikes, what he finds funny, and how previous portrait experiences went. This is also a good time to establish what the parents goals are for the session.
When the session gets started, let the child's parents know that you've got things under control and you'll ask for help if you need it. When too many people are trying to get smiles out of the child, he can become confused and end up looking in the wrong direction. Spin this positively and say something like, "You just relax and let me do the hard work today."
Embrace Your Inner Child
How you relate to kids should be based on their age. Babies love high pitched voices, big smiles and laughing. Young kids love silliness, funny faces, silly jokes and hearing funny words or phrases. Also with younger kids, physically get yourself down to their eye level. It makes them more comfortable with you and they're less likely to regard you as an authority figure as you give them direction.
Preteens and teenagers can be more difficult. Spend a little time talking with them to find out things they like and things they don't, such as sports, video games or other activities. Get them comfortable, and give genuine compliments on their clothes, jewelry, hair and the like. When all else fails, self-deprecation can go a long way — never be afraid to make fun of yourself.
No matter what age range you're working with, eliminate the word "cheese" from your vocabulary, unless you want fake, forced smiles. Kids hear that word and put their "picture face" on, which is never a natural smile.
Go With the Flow
Once the session starts, be patient, take your time and work at the child's pace, not yours. If they're getting tired or worn out, don't keep pushing. Let them have a break or end the session if you've accomplished your goals.
Speaking of goals, while you have your ideas for the images you want to get out of the session, don't be afraid to let the kids be themselves. Give them a little free rein now and then, and don't try to rigidly control and pose them, otherwise you're likely to get forced smiles and stiff, unnatural poses.
On that note, be ready to capture those "unscripted" moments during the session. Hands over their face in embarrassment, making faces back at you, dancing and coming up with their own silly poses all make for fantastic natural portraits.
It's All About Fun
It might seem stressful up front, but photographing kids is a blast. It's an excuse to be silly, make fun of yourself, and still do a job. If you aren't having fun, chances are the kids aren't having fun, and it will show in your photos. Having fun is the key to successful child photography, so it's okay to enjoy yourself!
Photo credit: Morguefile