Not looking forward to your child's photo shoot? / by Justin Duff

Not looking forward to your child’s photo shoot?

 

When photographing children no matter their age, it is completely different from any other type of photography. Whether they are newborn, toddler, teenager, or even during a family shoot. It’s important to plan ahead to make your experience the best one possible.

The most important thing to know about most children (even your own), is that they don’t want to be photographed. To them it’s boring and not fun. Any child can tell you a MILLION things they would rather be doing than be at a photo shoot. So how do you handle this?

It’s very simple, make your photo shoot fun! There are a lot of simple steps that you can take to ensure that your child has fun during the shoot AND look great in their photos.

·         Hire a kid friendly photographer: You need someone with patience and knowledge of how children work. Having two children of my own I know how to get the reaction I want from most children. Often times I have parents who want their children to “behave,” just sit still, and “look pretty”. In my experience, that doesn’t work. Parents who let me direct usually get happy faces, why? Because I let the kids be kids. I tell them to jump on mom and dad, run around, throw a rock into the water, whatever it takes for him/her to feel like their having fun and then they give me good smiles. In the end that’s what you want right? Happy beautiful photos of your child.

·         It’s going to take a lot of shots with only a few positive results: Be prepared that even though you may have spent hours on your shoot there may only be a handful of good photos to show for it.

·         Bring along toys and things that your child likes to play with: Yes, even teenagers bring their phone, iPad, skateboards, or bikes. Incorporating things that your child already likes will get them involved and make for happy photos. If you want a photo without the gadgets and toys, have them put the iPad down, take a couple photos, and then back to the fun.

·         Sunset or sunrise is by far the best time of day for photos: However, that may not be a good time for your child. Keeping them up late, adjusting nap schedules – probably not a good idea… (I know) it’s challenging. So you want the best result? Consider sacrificing the perfect setting so we can get that happy face.

·         Let them pick a couple poses to try: They may be goofy, and you might not select them, but your child feels involved.

·         Dress for the weather: Children’s faces are often very animated. If you got that cute little dress for you daughter or that awesome suit for you son, and it’s too cold or too hot, you child’s photos will reflect just that. Nobody likes grumpy face photos, especially mom.

·         Reschedule: It happens, if your child is having a really rough day, ask your photographer if you can reschedule. Some photographers do charge a fee but there is no worse feeling then knowing you have to reshoot anyway because your little one was just having a tough day.

I will give you a couple examples of success and failure with children shoots. Both of these are my shoots and although in some cases I cannot be blamed for what happened, I still consider them ‘my failures’. I could have advised parents better or simply asked to reschedule the shoot.

My first example was for a single mom and her daughter. Let’s call the mom Lynn and her daughter Sue. It was Sue’s birthday. Lynn really wanted to have the shoot take place on her birthday, very specifically. It was an unusually cool summer and on that particular day it was 55-60 degrees outside.  Lynn had gotten her daughter a beautiful spring/summer dress. And as you’ve probably guessed, this session did not go very well. Sue was cold and grumpy, and it showed in every photo. When she did smile, it looked forced. After the shoot I set up a viewing for Lynn and as expected she did not like the photos.

The next example was on a family shoot. I had told the family ahead to bring some toys for entertainment. As with almost every child he did not want to be there, acted out, and just wanted to go home.  I used a couple of different tricks. While checking the settings on my camera, I had the little boy push the shutter button on my camera aimed at his dad. The photo was clearly too dark, but to further involve him I asked his opinion and he agreed. Instead of telling the boy about my camera settings, I told him to get in the frame with his dad and took another at proper exposure. Again, I showed him and told him “look the picture turned out better by just having you in it.” It then turned into a game for him. Finally I was set-up and it was time to pose for the family photo. The boy again became grumpy and didn’t want to participate. Little did mom and dad know, I had a solution! I had him stand by me then run and jump on dads lap. Once again it wasn’t a photoshoot it was a game. It took several shots and about four takes but we got the phot they wanted for their wall.  

All it takes for a successful shoot with children is a little planning, patience, and creative thinking. Their clothes might get a little dirty, you might have to sacrifice a little lap jumping, but your photos are forever. You’ll also have a little story to tell about the photo that hangs on your wall… to boot!

Justin Duff