How To Photograph Children
Updated: May 1, 2018
A lot of people have asked for tips on how to photograph children. Photographing little munchkins can be intimidating, frustrating, and an all around DISASTER. Here are some tips on how you can capture beautiful images without having to bribe the kids with ice cream.
1. Make friends with them
The chances are, when a child comes along to a shoot with their parents, they're thinking that it's going to be incredibly dull and the adults are going to chat whilst they stand there and wait for it to be over. Most parents will even bribe their child beforehand, which usually goes something like "If you smile and pose for some nice photos then Mummy and Daddy will let you have pancakes for dessert tonight!" This bribe already makes the child think they're going to be having a dull time before the shoot has even begun. So whenever I meet a child on a shoot, I say hi to them and ask them if they're ready to have some fun to try and erase any weariness they may hold about having their photo taken.
2. Get to know what they like
This is something you can discuss with the parents before the shoot, or on the day when you meet the child. You want to capture them in a true state of joy, not just forcing a smile, and the best way to do that is by incorporating their hobbies and interests into the photoshoot. I've met kids who really like running, and so I challenge them to a race whilst photographing them (Continuous Autofocus is a savior in times like these!), and kids who are obsessed with Marvel superheroes, who I ask to show me their best hero pose. Asking the child to do something they love excites them and fills them with real joy, and by doing this, not only will you get beautiful photos, but you'll make the day a fun and memorable experience for the whole family.
2. Play games
The best thing you can do in a session is to get the child so wrapped up in playing about that they forget about the photoshoot entirely. You can play tag, blast each other with your invisible powers, or even have a snow or leaf fight if its the right time of the year. So long as they're using their imaginations, running wild and just being kids then you're going to get some incredible shots that really capture the essence of their spirited personalities.
3. Time to be immature
Asking them to say "cheese" isn't really the most effective way of capturing a true, gut-rumbling giggle. To get that, you have to make them laugh, and the quickest path to doing this is to let them be a bit gross. Most children are asked by their parents to always be polite and not talk about poop and slime to other grown-ups. So if you ask them to make a list of the smelliest things they can think of, the excitement of being allowed by a grown up to be as disgusting as they can, will shine through, and you'll undoubtedly be rewarded with the truest and cheekiest of laughs you could hope to capture.
4. Let them take a picture
This is for those untrusting kids, the ones who seem a bit wary of the camera and that strange person behind it. I usually let the kids on my shoots take a photo of me or their parents so that they can see there's nothing to be afraid of. Not only does this remove their fear, but they usually get a burst of confidence from being allowed to play with a grown-up toy, and confidence always photographs well. Needless to say, letting a five-year-old with mucky fingers play with your expensive equipment isn't always the best idea, so make sure you have a hand on your camera at all times whilst they press the shutter button.
5. Bring back up props
If all else fails, it's great to get a little outside help from props. Bringing along bubbles or sparklers can do wonders for those impossible children who just don't want to know. Bringing a blanket in case the child gets cold is always a good idea too, and will be extremely photogenic.
6. Relax and have fun
The most important thing to remember is to relax and enjoy yourself. If you're a child/family photographer, chances are you like kids. So relax, play about, forget you're working and have some fun. Children are highly sensitive to other people's moods, so if you feel anxious, stressed or uptight, the children will notice and it will reflect in your photographs. If you can take the pressure off and adopt a mindset of "let's see how much fun we can squeeze into this session" then you're much more likely to make some magic.