It’s easy to get anxious or frustrated over a photoshoot with children, since they can be unpredictable and difficult to direct. When you have less control over a session than you’d like, you may worry about the quality of the photos you’ll be able to get out of it.
Having the right approach and the right mindset makes all the difference in a situation like this. The whimsy that children naturally bring to the photoshoot can actually help you take some beautiful photos, if you know how to work with them.
These four important tips will make all your future photoshoots with children infinitely easier.
1. Be Prepared
Preparation is critical when children need to be somewhere or participate in something for an extended period of time, and photoshoots are no exception.
Kids should come into a photoshoot well-rested, with no risk of needing a nap before it’s done. There should be more snacks available than they will end up needing during the session, and ideally these can be eaten in the car on the way without creating a mess.
Water is important, too, especially when shooting outside or in warm weather. Depending on the location, you may want to have supplies like sunscreen, bug spray, and a change of clothes. Extra clothes may be a precaution, in case of accidents or getting excessively dirty, or a necessity, if your location is somewhere like the beach.
If you’re photographing your own kids, you’ll be able to take care of all of this pretty easily, but otherwise you will want to communicate with the parents about how to prepare.
It’s a good idea to have something for the children to play with or to set up an activity that they like. (You can get ideas for this from the parents if necessary.) Hopefully, they’ll become totally absorbed in what they’re doing, and you’ll be able to take some great candid shots of them having fun.
2. Be Playful
This will make a photoshoot with any children easier, but it’s especially important if the children don’t know you well. Saying silly things, singing or dancing, playing games, and asking them about things they like will make them more comfortable and help you get a smile from them instead of a scowl.
Encourage them to play, with toys, the environment, or each other, and follow them as they do. Sometimes this is even better than the games or activities you prepared for them, since this will be all their own; nothing is staged in photos of children playing however they want to, without direction.
You can also ask them to show you their talents, and you’ll get bonus points for mentioning something specific. For example, if you know a child has just learned to do a cartwheel in their gymnastics class, you can make their day by asking to see one.
Inviting kids to show off something that they’re proud of lets you photograph their performance in a way that shows what makes them unique.
3. Be Patient
You should be ready to take breaks as needed, at any time. This can mean a break for everyone, or it can mean giving the children a break while the parents or older siblings are photographed, if it’s a family photoshoot.
In the latter scenario, most kids will get bored or jealous when the focus is no longer on them and quickly decide that they do want to keep going, after all.
Don’t push too hard for anything in particular, even if you have a perfect image in mind. You can try to lead things in that direction, but if the kids aren’t interested in participating, then let them go their own way.
They may end up doing what you wanted, or they may not, but you will always get better photos from waiting for the right moment than from trying to force it.
And don’t just pretend to be patient; really make an effort to stay relaxed and avoid worrying about the minor details. Advise parents to do the same. As soon as the grown-ups get stressed out, the children are likely to follow suit.
4. Be Inquisitive
When it comes to photographing children, especially if you don’t have a ton of experience in the area, it’s important to be open to new ideas.
Most parents will have useful tips that are specific to their child’s idiosyncrasies, so you should always ask about this before a photoshoot, no matter how much experience you have; every kid is different.
Other photographers are likely to have developed some tricks of their own through working with kids, so feel free to pick your peers’ brains, too. If you’ve heard all the advice your friends have to offer, you might want to get online and learn from the pros. You can even gain a lot from watching experienced professionals as they work on their own shoots and deal with challenging situations. Quite often, they can provide insight that would have taken years to discover on your own.
Having a large knowledge base to draw on will make it easy to handle even the most unexpected obstacles, so always aspire to keep learning! Once you get the hang of using these tips, we think you’ll find that you enjoy capturing priceless memories in photoshoots with children, and you’ll be able to accomplish it with ease.
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