There’s not much more adorable than great pictures of kids. Unfortunately, getting those pictures can be a real challenge. Kids are moody and unpredictable. They also may not understand why snapping these heartwarming photos is so important in the first place.
Then, there’s the issue of you, the photographer. Who is this person and why are they putting this camera in my face, the child might think. Why do I have to pose holding this stuffed bunny? I don’t want to smile.
Fortunately, the tips below will help you to interact with kids of all ages during a photoshoot. You’ll learn ways to connect with kids quickly, to get them to listen to you, and to make the process fun for all.
Introduce Yourself to The Kids
Before you start snapping pictures take a few minutes to get down on each kid’s level and introduce yourself. Tell kids your name, and a few interesting things about you. Let them know that you’d like to take some great pictures of them and that you want them to have a good time.
This is a good time to ask them if they’re excited, nervous, or grumpy. Let them know that they can tell you if they’re tired or need a break as well.
Get Kids Photos Done First
It can be very helpful to everyone involved if kids get their photos done early. This way, they can be sent off to interact with other family members and friends, while you take other pictures. There’s not much worse than trying to get a heartwarming picture out of a frustrated child who is simply ‘done’.
If the schedule won’t allow for that, ask caregivers to have a designated child handler. This is someone who can take the kids away from shoot in progress to play or otherwise be occupied. This way kids don’t have to be bored while everyone else’s photos are being shot.
Bring Props and Toys Encourage Parents to do the Same
Not only will a child’s favorite toys and fun props keep them occupied while they wait their turn to be photographed, they can also be a fun part of the photoshoot itself. Keep a box handy that’s full of fun toys and props for all ages. Superhero hats, kid-sized sports equipment, and masks are all great fun.
Better yet, ask parents to bring along some of their own. There’s not much cuter than a kid posing with a sentimental toy or dressed as their favorite character.
Ask Parents for Kids Hobbies and Interests ahead of Time
The more you know about kids’ hobbies and interests the faster you’ll be able to build a rapport with them. If you know what they like, you can come armed with getting to know you questions, and comments that will help break the ice quickly. That means you will be much more likely to get them into the photoshoot and cooperating right away.
It’s also has a bit of a magic trick effect on the little ones. Greet a toddler with, ‘Hi Jeremy! I hear you like Paw Patrol! My favourite is Marshall. I bet you like Rocky.’ Then watch their eyes light up.
Don’t Treat Kids Like Babies
Make sure your interactions are age appropriate. Nothing is going to turn off a kid more than being spoken to in cutesy language or babied. Although, assumptions that they are into things that are too young for them come in a very close second.
Tell them Not to Smile
Do you have a little one that just won’t smile? Tell them they aren’t allowed to smile. Make a big, joking spectacle of it. Tell them they are absolutely not allowed to smile! When they inevitably do, because kids can’t resist this kind of ridiculous challenge make sure reactions are big and exaggerated. Oh no! You aren’t supposed to smile! What are you doing?!?!? Stop that!
Ask Weird Questions to Get Serious Poses
How many sharks can fit into a swimming pool? What’s the best way to move 1000 popsicle sticks from one side of a lake to the other? If you’re looking for a serious, pensive pose, ask kids the kinds of questions that make them stop and think, even get a bit baffled. You’ll get some very serious looking poses out of them as they ponder their answers.
Have a Pun or Two Ready For Fun Poses
Taking things in another direction, come armed with some puns, rhymes, and silly riddles. The more ridiculous the better. You might be at the receiving end of some eye rolls, but eventually, most kids can’t help to smile and laugh. This will put them in a perfect mood for silly poses.
Give Older Kids a Behind the Scenes Look
If you’re taking pictures of kids who are ten or older, they might be interested in your equipment and how it works. Heck, some may even be budding photographers themselves. Remember that by late grade school a kid may have experience as an essay writer, science wiz, or budding athlete. If they seem interested, take a few minutes to explain why you’re using a certain light, or your reason for changing from one lens to another. If they feel like you’re treating them like an adult, they’re more likely to relax and cooperate with the process.
Let Kids Take Frequent Breaks
The best way to deal with tantrums and meltdowns on picture day is to avoid them altogether. Have age appropriate expectations for kids. Know that they’re going to need to take breaks. This is especially the case for infants and toddlers, but don’t overestimate the endurance of grade schoolers either.
Use Games to Get Kids to Pose
It really is true that turning things into a game can make almost anything go better. Photoshoots are no different. Do you need a kid to pose in a very specific way? Start with a silly game of Simon Says. As kids get more and more into the game start giving very specific instructions on how to pose. They may just comply.
Another great game is ‘Red Light Green Light’. Yell green light and have kids walk, skip, or run. Yell red light and have them pose in place. It’s surprising how many cute shots you can get like this.
Encourage Caregivers to Give Some Space
It’s frustrating for parents, but the truth is sometimes kids behave better for others. When taking pictures of uncooperative kids, parents’ attempt to intervene often makes things worse. Talk to parents about this ahead of time. In fact, you might even put that in writing in the paperwork you give parents before the shoot.
Simply state that you know that kids often act up during photo shoots because it’s a new experience with lots of stimulation. Remind them that misbehaviour is not a reflection on them or their parenting. Then explain that you have lots of experience dealing with kids in these situations, and ask that they let you take charge.
Use Stupid Human Tricks
If you’re old enough to remember the early years of the ‘David Letterman Show’, you know what stupid human tricks are. These are silly, sometimes bizarre stunts and tricks that people are able to do. For example, the trick where you make it look like you can pull off your own finger is a stupid human trick. Another stupid human tricks might be handstands, cartwheels, licking your own elbow, or writing two different sentences with both hands at the same time.
If you’ve got a stupid human trick of your own, show it off to the kids. Then ask them if they have anything they can show off. It’s a great way to break the ice and elevate the mood. It can also lead to the opportunity to take a few candid shots.
Be Free With Compliments
Kids thrive on positive feedback. Compliment them when you meet them, and as the photo shoot continues. Just be sure the compliments are specific and relevant. You look pretty or you look handsome are generic and mostly meaningless. Instead, compliment a hairstyle or a pretty bracelet.
As the photoshoot goes on, keep the compliments coming. During action shots, tell kids how fast they are or that they’re stronger than superheroes. Compliment them when they smile nice and big, and draw attention to them when they manage to hold poses.
Ask Kids who they’ll Give the Pictures Too
If kids don’t want to smile or pose, it can help to speak with them about the people who will be getting the pictures. A child who is grumpy, overstimulated, or just being a tad rebellious will often cooperate when they think about the people who are going to see the final pictures. The interaction can look something like this:
Photographer: When your mom and dad get these pictures, who do you want to get them?
Kid: Grandma and Grandpa and Uncle Kenny!
Photographer: Is Uncle Kenny a lot of fun?
Photographer: What about Grandma and Grandpa?
Kid: They take me camping!
Photographer: Then let’s make sure we give them lots of great pictures with you smiling!
The next time you’re working with a less than cooperative kid, try out a few of these tips. Before long, they’ll be smiling for the camera.