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Photographing Children

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 Working with Kids

Working with children can be a very challenging task, but it also can be very enjoyable and entertaining. To be able to produce the best photos you will need to get to know your subject and their temperament. The better you understand them, the better you will be able to make them feel comfortable and allow them to have fun during your session. Some kids will need a little warm up time to get used to you and the new surroundings, while others are ready to jump right in. To help a child feel a little more at ease with you, get down on their level. Sit on the floor with them and play a short game of catch or something that will get them interacting with you. It is also very important to know different milestones that your clients will be going through. You need to have an idea of their limitations and interests.

Newborn to One Year Old                                                           

There is not a whole lot you can do to entertain a newborn. Many times they will sleep through your session. The best you can do to prepare for a newborn is to avoid having a cold studio, especially if you are doing naked shots, and be ready to be flexible. Many times you will need to stop for a diaper changing or feeding. Around 6 weeks you will start to see their first smiles, but they will still be hard to come by until they are a little older. Around 3 months babies start getting better head control, getting ready for some cute tummy shots.

At 6 months when babies start to learn to sit up independently, things will get a little bit easier. If your subject if not fully sitting up on his/her own, have mom put her hand underneath the backdrop to give them that little bit of support they need.

Starting around 8 months some babies start to develop stranger anxiety. This age can be difficult to photograph. During these cases it is usually best to step back and let the parent do some of the work placing the child the way you would like them. If you are having a hard time getting started, place a back drop over mom and have her hold her baby to get a few close ups. You can also forget the back drop and do a few connection poses with mom in the picture. Even if mom is not too crazy about being in the picture, you can still do a close up of the baby cuddling up to mom’s shoulder and avoid capturing her face. Around this age some babies are already crawling, which also tends to make things a little more difficult. If you have a little chair for them to sit in or a prop for them to hold, it can distract them temporarily from wanting to move.

One Year and Older

There are many ways to get a child’s attention, the hard part is finding out what works best for your subject. Younger children might love to play catch, peek-a-boo or you play with the child with a stuffed animal. If you find something that works for one kid, stick with it, it is amazing the things kids can do over and over again.  As children get a little older you can have them say silly phrases like “stinky feet”.

When working outside of a studio, find a fun place for a child to be able to explore.  Many times it works out better if you don’t plan on certain poses, but just place the child in an environment that has been set up by you and let them have fun with it.

General Tips

- Always be ready to that special picture. Kids are always finding fun poses or giving you different facial expressions that are great to capture.  Some of your best photos will be unplanned.

- You need to develop a good relationship with the child from the beginning. Meet them first without your camera, letting them get to know you just a little bit before you start your session.  Be careful not to come on too strong. Pay close attention to the child’s reaction to you and adapt you interaction with them as necessary.

- If you have a tripod or an assistant it will make your job easier. Using a tripod will allow you to focus more on the child and less on the camera. Having an assistant can also make things go by a lot easier. An assistant can help entertain the kids while you can focus your attention on capturing good photographs.

- Show the child that you are there to have fun and involve them as much as you can. Let them help set up a prop or two and make sure that they feel important.

- Kids have a hard time sitting still, so be prepared to work fast when they are ready.

- Don’t ask your younger subjects to smile. This will usually create a forced smile that isn’t too attractive. Your goal is to capture a natural smile, a smile that shows that they are having fun. Capture their smile by playing with them or having them say silly phrases.

- Feather dusters are a prop you can use to tickle a child’s foot or arm. Just be careful not to shove it in their face and know when to stop if they seem to be frightened by it. You will be amazed at how many people continue to do things that the child does not enjoy. They will be out of ideas and hope that the child will warm up to their tactics, but it usually just gets worse.

- Change your props and locations (if you are outside). This will help keep the child interested.

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