2014 Best Tips on Working With Children

Children’s photography can be a really fun time – they’re adorable, and energetic. But getting them to cooperate for you can present a challenge that you don’t get when photographing other age groups. Working with children can be a good experience for everyone involved with these tips.

In this article we’ve compiled our best tips on Children’s Portrait Photography that we’ve received in 2014.

Making Kids Feel Comfortable

Remember, kids don’t always really understand what’s going on when you shove a giant lens in their face, and it can make them really nervous and clam up a bit.

A good idea to get them warmed up to you is to put the camera down and just play with the kid(s) at the beginning of the session. That will help you earn their trust and make them less likely to get nervous once you do get out your camera.

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This can also make it easier on the parents – once they see their kids having fun, they’ll be less anxious and worried about the session as well.

It’s also important too to remember that kids are kids (sounds obvious right?), so they’re not serious all the time. Sometimes a great way to get them to loosen up is to loosen up yourself!

Let go a little bit, and don’t hesitate to be a little silly to get them to smile and relax.

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Directing Children

Once you get them to relax, the next challenge is getting them to (at least sort of) do what you want.

A great way to do that is to think like a child – if you were a kid, what would you want to do? What are fun things you like to do?

One of our featured photographers, Sarah Parker, used this idea to get the kids she was photographing to behave the way she wanted.

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For this session (above), she had the older girl pretend she was reading the book to the younger girls, which gave them a task (that they enjoyed) that the photographer used to distract them and capture their natural facial expressions.

Working with Children to Keep Their Attention

Once the session has started, you’re not necessarily racing the clock so much as the kids’ attention spans. But there are a lot of tricks and ideas that our featured photographers use to help combat this that you might find useful as well.

If you’re using props in your session (like Sarah above), you can use those to distract the kids and help keep them still long enough to take a good picture.

seekjoyphotography-13-of-15 If the session is taking place somewhere where toys aren’t readily available, bring some of your own!

Baskets, dolls, games, etc. – all of these are great things you can bring that will entertain a child.

And a lot of times once they’ve started to play with the toys and relax a bit (instead of thinking they have to ‘sit still and behave for the photographer’ you can remove the toy and get some shots of them without it.

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Sheets of fabric are even a cheap, fun item that can inspire play.

If you have older siblings present, sometimes they can help you out with the younger ones too. One of our featured photographers suggests ‘telling the oldest kid a secret,’ which is telling them to tickle their younger sibling(s) when you say ‘three’.

If you’ve got little girls in the crowd, you can get them to play by telling them to pretend they’re their favorite movie character, like Elsa from Frozen.

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Little girl pretending she’s Elsa during a family session.

But at the end of the day – let them be kids.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you can’t get the kids to do what you want.

And that’s ok.

You can use their energy to your advantage and capture natural interactions with the kids playing with their families and siblings.

If they’re wanting to run around and be active, have them run to their parents and be caught to capture those moments of fun between parent and child.

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Mommy catching her active, energetic little boy.

If you’re able, sometimes it’s best to just step back and watch the kids as they are. Camera settings can help with this too, and one of our photographers, Jennifer N., uses a Canon 5D MKIII and 135mm lens (for example) and sets the aperture at its widest possible setting.

The MKII can handle the high ISO, but will give clearer images of busy-body kids with ants in their pants.

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Jennifer stepping back and watching her kids do what they do best.

Watch Their Moods

Kids can be a bit unpredictable, but they generally wear their mood on their sleeves. So pay attention to this.

Kids have short attention spans (as we’ve mentioned), so try to keep the session moving at a good pace and try switching up your location regularly.

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If you see them getting bored or antsy, take the session somewhere else – outside, nearby park, upstairs instead of downstairs, etc.

If you’re trying to get pictures of each kid separately, do the younger children first. They get sleepy, hungry, distracted, etc., faster, so work with them first in the session so they can be let go sooner.

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Another idea is to try and schedule the session in the morning. Kids will have woken up not too long ago, so will be less prone to be tired or cranky.

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Or talk to the family and see if there’s a better time of day for their little one(s).

Sometimes though, it doesn’t matter how many of these tips you try – the kids just won’t want to cooperate.

If that happens, just take a break. It doesn’t have to be a long one, but take a few minutes and let the kids do some running and get a little energy out of their system.

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What Are Your Best Tip for Working With Kids?

Leave them in the comments below!

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