How to Photograph Shy Children

How to Photograph Shy Children

Annie Tao Photography Photographing Shy Kids girl hiding behind Legos

When you’re photographing children, you’ll sometimes encounter ones who reveal their shining personality off the bat, show lots of expressions, and overall, just love the camera.  Then there are times you’ll get a young subject who is weary of strangers or even hides from clicking black boxes that are pointed at them!

So what can you do?

Aside from rescheduling until the child grows out of his shyness (that’d be funny), there are a few things that I do during my lifestyle photography sessions that you can try out.

Introduce yourself

If this is your first time meeting your little subject, show them the courtesy that you’d show an adult.  Tell them who you are and what you will be doing.  My suggestion is:  don’t put too much focus on the photography.  Instead, focus on all the fun you’ll be having and what activities you’ll be doing together.

Annie Tao Photography Photographing Shy Kids shooting from a distance

Give some space

When there are shy children, I start my sessions with a long lens (usually my 70-200mm f/2.8) so I can have some distance from them.  That will allow me to get some shots from a distance while giving kids time to warm up.

Annie Tao Photography Photographing Shy Kids toddler hiding behind moms legs

Show interest

No matter what the age of your subjects, treat them with respect.  Talk to them.  Ask them questions. Engage.  Interact.  Kids are incredibly in-tune to genuine interest.  If they see you having a good time, they will more likely join in.

Annie Tao Photography Photographing Shy Children comfort

Let them be themselves

As opposed to children who are temporarily shy around strangers, some children are naturally quiet and introverted.  There is nothing wrong with capturing who they are!  If they are hiding behind mommy’s legs or quietly sitting by a tree, why not capture that?  Not every photo of a child needs to be of them smiling or laughing.  For more tips on this, read “Don’t Wait For a Smile”. Sometimes kids will open up after they feel the pressure is off of them to perform in front of the camera.

Annie Tao Photography Photographing Shy Children being themselves

Let them have a comfort object

If you find out your young subject is shy, allow the parents to bring a comfort object to their session, like a lovey, blanket or favorite toy.  Sometimes just having that well-loved object can put the child at ease.

Annie Tao Photography Photographing Shy Kids holding lovey

And lastly…


Simply put, if you don’t look friendly and approachable, children won’t warm up to you very easily.

In my photography career, I’ve had several clients contact me to warn me how their child is shy, hates the camera and will literally run from me when they see my camera!  I am happy to say that I’ve never had a shoot where a shy child didn’t warm up and do wonderfully during the shoot.  (Knock on wood!)

My love of children is transparent, so making kids feel comfortable comes naturally.  Now I am sharing my tried-and-true formula that has worked for me for many years.  I hope this will work for you too!

What tips would you add for photographing shy Children?

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Annie Tao is a Professional Lifestyle Photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area who is best known for capturing genuine smiles, emotions and stories of her subjects. You can visit Annie Tao Photography for more tips or inspiration. Stay connected with her on her Facebook page

Some Older Comments

  • Sandra Cullen May 3, 2013 02:49 am

    Very good tips, thank you. Love Rona's idea of having a kid's camera for them and add the pictures to the package.

  • Jill August 18, 2012 01:32 pm

    Great article. I also wear funny giant glasses if needed and if in a playground play on the swings with them for 10 minutes, let them take a photo of someone and see its not really that bad, oh and the big tip tell the parents not to keep saying "stand still" 'smile' "look at the camera' as that just makes it worse and I prefer to capture natural shots rather than forced ones.

  • JacksonG August 17, 2012 07:20 am

    Great post, how about doing one on photographing teenagers. Seriously, the teen years present a special challenge to parents that like to carry a camera around.

  • Jon Bromley August 17, 2012 03:22 am

    Very interesting and helpful guys and girls, thank you.


  • Betty August 12, 2012 02:04 am


    I found this to be very informative.
    What are your thoughts on doing more photo sessions in a shy child's natural environment, such as their home or favorite playground?

  • Ram August 9, 2012 10:21 pm

    Good Tips!

  • Starrain Gallery August 9, 2012 04:53 am

    Thanks Annie! For choosing my question and your efforts for writing!

  • Alexander Catastroff August 9, 2012 03:44 am

    Cool post. Thanks.

  • Tod August 8, 2012 04:52 pm

    Another good one is to use a remote for the camera so then you are not hiding behind that strange black box

  • Anton August 8, 2012 04:02 pm

    And physically get down to their level! A lot of adults tower over children, so crouch down and you'll be less scary!

  • raghavendra August 8, 2012 01:16 pm

    smile with them and make them comfortable is indeed nice tips :)

  • Bill Spaight August 8, 2012 11:46 am

    I love these tips :)

  • Tasha August 8, 2012 09:12 am

    Love your articles!!! Thank you again.....

  • Rick meryman August 8, 2012 07:08 am

    ah yes, the annual photographers spelling bee: how do you spell That word??? Hint: it's leery, not leary....thanx for the photo lesson anyway.... i usually try to get kid photo's with zoom and a fast shutter... or the auto mode...they move so fast i rarely have time for any other way... rick

  • Lily August 8, 2012 05:37 am

    Great pointers. I also like to use props to distract them and get their attention off being so nervous.

  • Kiran @ August 8, 2012 04:51 am

    Great tips! I always have my camera ready and never expect them to pose for me. The candid shots are usually the best :)

    [eimg url='' title='DSC_0024.jpg']

  • Rona August 8, 2012 04:46 am

    I just purchased a kid's camera - wow! The kids love it! We "take" turns taking a photo - it works great, I also include some shots (4x6) the child took in the final packages. It helps keep them interested, and it makes it fun. So many kids want to see/touch/feel my camera - well..... Not anymore!

  • JackieG. August 8, 2012 04:41 am

    Good tips here, especially treating children with the same respect you'd give an adult. Take them seriously as people and they will do the same for you.

    One thing I have to comment on though, as I see it more and more often now and it's making me kind of crazy. The word you want is either WARY or LEARY, not WEARY. Weary means tired or worn out.

  • Steve August 8, 2012 02:10 am

    Relax and get them to relax with you. Catch them when they least expect it but if you do that you are only likely to get one chance.

  • Mridula August 8, 2012 01:28 am

    Wonderful tips will someone do a how to photograph hyper children?

  • Jane Bell August 8, 2012 01:26 am

    Showing them the photos on my camera or camera gear has helped! It helps open up the conversation and get comfortable with the idea of being in front of the camera.