Photographing small children can seem like a big task for many photographers. Each child you encounter comes with their own little personality. Some children can be super outgoing, others may be very shy and timid. A child’s mood can also affect their attitude during the session. This can range from super hyper and curious, to just plain ill or grumpy. Here are some tips to help you not only prepare for the session, but how to interact with children to ensure you get the most of the session and end up with good shots.
Preparing For The Session
A little bit of preparation can go a long way when it comes to photographing little ones. Not only preparing yourself, but also preparing the parents can make a huge difference.
You need to let the parent(s) know ahead of time what game plan you have in mind. Granted, it may (and most likely will not) go as planned. Let them know what type of shots you are going for, show them examples even. This will give them the opportunity to have a discussion with the child beforehand and give them an idea of what to expect.
You may also want to suggest that they wear things that are comfortable. For example, if you are shooting outdoors during the summer months, you don’t want them dressed in something that will cause them to overheat or get too hot. The more comfortable they are, the better chance you have of keeping them patient and cooperative during the session.
Encouraging the parents to bring a change of clothes is also a great tip. The last thing you want is for them to somehow ruin their outfit and you have to reschedule the session.
Also, suggest that the child isn’t too tired or hungry before the shoot. Make sure they have a full belly and a nap beforehand if necessary. An exhausted hungry child is not the best combo to try to get good “happy” photos.
Small children are curious. It’s just in their nature. Keep that in mind when choosing a location (if not in studio). A busy park with many other small children running around may not be ideal for a child’s session. If there are too many distractions, it will be hard to hold their attention for long enough to get good photos.
Keep safety in mind when choosing your location as well. Try to steer away from any potential dangerous areas. For example, a rocky cliff or an area near a large body of water either needs to be avoided altogether, or you need to take extreme precautions to ensure that the child does not get harmed. If you feel the location may have potential risks, maybe bring on an assistant or two to help keep the child out of harm’s way.
Interacting With The Child
You may encounter some children who have a bubbly personality and have no problem warming up and getting comfortable with you. But, the reality is, that’s not always the case.
If you have a child who seems shy and distant and would rather hide behind mom and dad than interact with you, there are a few things you can do to help ease their anxiety and fears. After all, to them, you are just a stranger with a camera who expects them to just do as you want. This can be extremely intimidating for a small child.
When you are first introduced to the child, keep your camera put away. Talk with the parents first. Try not to be too pushy to get them to talk to you, instead show them that you are harmless. Seeing that mom and dad trust you will help them trust you also.
When it is time to pull out the camera, start taking photos of other things around. Take photos of the trees, flowers, and even other people in the background. Have the child look onto the screen and show them what you are photographing. The goal is to show them that the camera is more than just some big black scary machine being pointed at them. Maybe let them take a photo or two.
Also, whether mom and dad are participating in the session or not, take a few photos of them. If the child sees them being comfortable and enjoying the process , they are most likely to want to get in on the action as well.
Take Advantage Of Candids
Posing children can be a challenge on it’s own. It’s harder for young children to take direction than it is adults. Children’s attention span is also shorter. So when you do get the perfect pose or expression, you need to act quickly to get the shot before the moment is gone.
While there is nothing wrong with getting at least a few posed shots, you should really take advantage of the candid moments. Candid photos are a great way to capture a child’s real true expressions and personality.
Encourage them to run and play, dance, and explore the environment. Keep your distance and snap away as you capture their personalities perfectly!
I highly recommend you have a good zoom lens that allows you to stay in one spot, and just follow them with your camera. This will make you less intrusive and you will find they most likely, will forget you are even there.
Keep your shutter speed fast so that you can freeze the moments that may happen when they are most active.
Photographing small children can be intimidating for both the photographer and the child. But, with a little preparation and patience, you can capture wonderful images that will be cherished by their family for years.
Practice with your own children, the neighbor’s kids, nieces and nephews, etc. This will help you to get an idea of what to expect when it comes to photographing other children.
Don’t allow yourself to get frustrated. Children feed off of the moods around them. Stay calm and put these tips to use and you’ll become more and more comfortable with each child session you have.
Do you have a tip you swear by? Let us know in the comments!