Many people baulk at portrait photos of children saying the smiles are fake. A lot of the time they are beautiful, and easy to do; smiles aren’t always fake when you ask a child to smile, particularly if they’re smiling because you cracked a joke, or made a funny noise. These are precious keepsakes for parents/relatives etc to look back on at the beauty of their child. It is far more challenging to make ‘action’ shots work. This involves following the kids around in the environment where they’re most comfortable and be ready for anything! Get down to their level physically and emotionally – and make it fun! Let them feel they’re running the show and the shoot will deliver in spades!
Helpful tips for photographing children:
Work different angles. Take photos from above – position yourself up high, get down on the ground for very little ones, or for a child who is older, put them up high – kids love to be standing at the top of a ladder looking down at the grown-ups! Every day shots taken at very different angles can be extremely effective – give it a try!
Pick your time. For younger subjects make sure you catch them in the morning, when they’re fresh and fed. Their attention span is very short and so get yourself, your camera and your backdrop set, including toys or other props to help with keeping them interested. For older kids – bribery works at any time of day!
Make it fun. No child will look happy, carefree and innocent if you shout at them to cooperate! Depending on their age group, play games or do activities to help the process along. Toddlers love peek-a-boo, older children might like to play dress up – its fun for them and your pictures will show this. For older kids too old for peek-a-boo and dress ups – put on their favourite music and play statues – have them dance and jump about, then when the music stops, they have to pull a face/strike a pose etc and keep perfectly still until the music comes back on. Kids do some random things when they are having a lot of fun and if you have a camera at the ready, you can capture this on film – ready to re-visit at their 21st birthday! Young kids love it when adults are silly, have a silly face tournament to see who can make the silliest face!
Give praise! Kids of all ages love to receive praise and positive feedback. If they are giving you great shots, tell them so and more than likely they will try even harder to cooperate and give you more!
Know when enough is enough. Especially for the younger kids, when they’ve had enough, respect it and either have a break or pack up for another time, you don’t need to turn being photographed into a bad experience. Accept it and reward them for a great shoot! Include them in the editing step, they will tell you which photos they really like and don’t like and have fun laughing at themselves.