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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?

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Annie Tao
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

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