Let’s face it, when it comes to kids sometimes they just don’t have the same plan as we do. When parents are looking for beautiful portraits of their children it’s our jobs to quickly break the ice, build trust, get them to smile, and produce a lasting memory, even if the child is mad, shy, running like the wind or an uncomfortable teenager.
The first thing that I arrive with to any shoot is a large smile and a warm personal greeting.
When meeting a family for the first time a calm friendly greeting goes a long way in putting both parents and their children at ease. No matter what age the child, they sense their parent’s comfort level so breaking the ice with a large lasting smile is key.
When I’m working with children under the age of 5, I start with the family all together.
Children usually don’t want to be held. They want to run free, so posed family shoots are difficult. Their natural attention span at that age is short so I use this to my advantage.
Next I ask for a toy, a word, something that they will react to when I’m shooting.
If mom and dad want all of them staring at the camera then it’s important they don’t talk to the child. Children, especially toddlers will look at their parents when they hear their voices. While this is extremely helpful in some situations getting the child’s eyes on the camera mean mom and dad need to stay quiet while you jump, laugh, sing and dance to get juniors attention.
After that, let them play! When you have children who want to run around use that. Have them pick a flower and smell it or give you their best superhero pose. If they feel you’re on their side they’ll be more apt to negotiate. One serious picture, then one silly face!
If it’s a teenager who’s uncomfortable in their own skin I’ve found that you shouldn’t try too hard or draw too much attention to them. Be genuine and reassuring and keep that smile going so they don’t feel like they’re doing it wrong and get self conscious.
Patience and smiles are the key to making it work with children! And remember if every trick fails capture their defiant moment anyways. Sometimes it’s still a memory mom and dad will cherish!
Sarah Rocca Vento is a Massachusetts based wedding and portrait photographer at Sarah J Photography. When not taking photos Sarah enjoys spending time with her husband, 2 small dogs and 1 large cat. Follow her journey on her website and Facebook.