For those of you who are family Photographers, you know that photographing kids is not always unicorns and rainbows. Some kids are painfully shy, while others are full of too much energy to sit long enough for you to hit the shutter button. As Photographers, we must come prepared and know how to gain credibility in the child’s eyes before we photograph them. If we don’t have a plan, we will be walking away very frustrated photographers with few acceptable pictures to present to our client.
So, I wanted to share with you five things I do that has really helped me in photographing all types of kids from compliant, to the highly spirited child!
1. ESTABLISH A CONNECTION: If I am doing a family shoot and I am meeting little ones for the first time, I never start shooting right away. I always get on their level and start talking to them. I show them my camera and maybe let them take a picture or two (with me helping them hold the camera of course).
I will ask them about their favorite things to do, favorite movies to watch and so on, I might even bring those things up later in the shoot. Sometimes I even talk about my little one’s to them and show them their picture, so they know that I am a mom too, not just a stranger with a camera.
Quick tip: Since I take the time to get acquainted first, I always make sure to schedule shoots with that in mind. So if I need them to be there at 6:30 because when sunset is that night, then I ask them to come at 6:15, so that I have 15 minutes before the shoot to connect with them.
2. SHAMELESS BRIBERY: For all of my mothering years, I have known that bribery is bad! You should never use it as a parenting method because it will come back to haunt you later. However, when it comes to getting great photos, this tasteless trick is worth considering.
One thing that is always a big hit is candy! Now of course you have to talk to the parents about this before you offer, but I have not had a parent tell me no so far. I put a pez dispenser in the hot shoe of my camera and I tell them to look at whatever character the dispenser is (like a Disney princess for example). I tell them that when they smile at Ariel, then they will get a candy, but they have to smile at her first. Works like a charm!
3. EMPOWER THE LEADER WITHIN: Some kids seem difficult, but really they are just very strong leaders. Most kids (and adults) tend to cooperated better when they feel like they are responsible for the results of something.
If I see leadership tendencies in them when we are connecting, then I will take them aside (I try to make this a big deal) and invite them to be my helper or assistant.
Through out the shoot I will ask for their help for little things here and there, depending on the age. I might even take them aside in the middle of the shoot and ask them to help mommy and daddy smile. I will even have them choose a pose or two.
4. GIVE POSITIVE FEEDBACK: Who doesn’t love positive feedback? I make sure to have a lot of energy, and tell them how amazing they are doing. When I get a great shot, I will rave about it. I even let them come and look at the back of my camera to see how fabulous they look. This fuels them to go a bit longer.
5. KNOW WHEN TO QUIT: No matter how wonderful the kids is, they can only take pictures for so long before they start having a meltdown. It is tempting to push it a little longer. However, as the professional, it is important to know when to be done. You want them to remember this as a great experience with you, not as torture.