5 Foolproof Tips for Photographing Kids by Tamara Kenyon
I get asked a lot about which subject the hardest to photograph. Most often I get people guessing that it’s kids because they’re so busy and hard to direct. WRONG. If we’re being honest here, it’s actually grown men, but that is for another post.
Kids are my absolute favorite subject because they’re so real and unscripted. However, it’s not always easy to capture so I want to share some helpful tips when photographing children to really capture their personalities.
#1 – Earn their trust.
Children are more cautious when meeting new people than adults are. They’re not immediately comfortable and it will appear that way in the photos until you earn their trust.
When booking the session I ask the parents some of their child’s interests so I have a good idea of who they are. I’ll also try to find some sort of “prize” that I’ll bring with me that pertains to their interests. So essentially I’m winning them over (trying not to use the word bribe, but it is what it is).
When I first meet a new child, I immediately start asking them questions and talk to them to warm them up (way before I pull out the camera).
- How old are you?
- What is your favorite color?
- Do you like animals?
-What is your favorite animal?
These types of questions will usually warm them up and help them understand that I’m their friend and not some scary adult.
While shooting, I’ll ask the child if they want to come and look at the picture I just took of them. They are usually super excited to see that I took their picture and start to perform more afterward. Sometimes I’ll even let them take a picture of their parents with my camera. Sounds dangerous but I usually have the camera hooked onto my neck and I hold it up for them while they push the button down.
#2 – Forget traditional, always smiling, always facing the camera photos.
I think the main reason people think that photographing children is hard is because they have these expectations of photographs of the child perfectly posing and staring at the camera. You might as well throw that idea out the window because it’s not going to happen.
Don’t force the smile, it only creates strange fake smiles. Instead, photograph children in their natural environment. If you’re at the park – let them play. Bring toys! You’ll be surprised how much more of their personality you will be able to catch if you leave them alone.
Sometimes it happens and it’s great when it does – just don’t always count on it.
#3 – Shoot at their level.
There is nothing more intimidating than a big adult shooting at adult height to a child. When taking photos of children, get down on your bum, your knees, or your belly to capture photos at their level. It will also avoid any strange proportions your lens might create from being at such a different level.
#4 – Be patient.
I cannot stress this one enough. Kids are kids. Sometimes they will meltdown and that’s okay. Give them a second to compose themselves and usually it will pass pretty quick. Give them space. Sometimes they are just overwhelmed and need a break.
#5 – Be quick!
There aren’t any do-overs. Chances are, if you were to tell a child to “do that again” that it won’t happen. Don’t bring equipment that takes up a lot of time in between shots. Bring equipment that is low-maintenance and fast so that you can switch lenses or settings quickly.
Overall, photographing children can be extremely rewarding but it takes lots of practice. Make sure you’re comfortable with kids and you give them a great experience so they will want to do it again. I feel like part of the family with most of my clients because I’ve learned to really get to know their kids and their family.