One of the most fascinating and exciting subjects to photograph is arguably a child. Children can also be one of the most challenging little people to photograph! To really grasp them, in their element, and get more than just a smile can sometimes be a work of patience, cleverness and quick wits. The following tips from Véronique da Silva will help you get those images that stop time, that bring tears to parents’ eyes, and that really tell a story.
First things first – the prep! Remember to advise the parents accordingly. Always plan for enough time; i.e. you might need 2-3 hours for very young children (nursing / snacks / breaks), and anywhere from 1 to 2 hours for older children. It is not fair to assume that a child will participate and collaborate in the same way a grown-up would. You must adapt to them, and not vice-versa.
I always tell parents to make sure the kids have napped and are well fed before the session starts. Always pick a time for the session that is suited to the child’s schedule and you will avoid one of the most common pitfalls.
Proper clothing is essential! Remind parents that the children will collaborate much better if they are a) comfortable in their clothing, b) if they were given the opportunity to pick out their own outfit. This does scare some parents who might think picture time = take out the Christmas outfit. Gently assure them that the images will be much more telling and less contrived if the child feels comfortable and confident. I love a child who shows up proudly wearing a tutu!
I strongly suggest starting a session in a familiar place for the child/children; i.e. their home, a favorite beach or park, and then moving locations if desired. When you show up to the session, do not immediately start taking pictures. You will have to gain the child’s and the parents’ trust before anything truly magical happens. I usually sit and chat with the grown-ups for a few minutes and then gently start interacting with the child/children.
Remember to slow everything down. I usually ask the parents to step out of the room or of immediate sight (not in back of me…) as I start interacting with the children, camera in hand. Avoid at all cost the mom or dad standing in back of your telling their child to smile and look at the camera! This is another major pitfall! Talk to the children, but most importantly, listen to them (you will inevitably come away from each session a little bit wiser if you do!). Let the magic happen!
- Get down to their level and you will understand their world: crouch, lie down, sit, etc. They will also feel more at ease if you are looking at them from their height.
- Ask them questions and get them talking or thinking. Ask them to tell you their favorite story or show you their favorite toy/rock, etc.
- Let them guide you through the photo session and don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s the other way around. Suggest ideas and encourage things but be flexible.
- Patience, patience, patience.
- Have fun! I assure you, you will!
About the Author: Véronique da Silva is a Portrait & Lifestyle Photographer.
Visit her site at www.dasilvafoto.com.
Table of contents
- ADVANCED GUIDES
- Lifestyle Photography – Photographing Children in their Element
- CREATIVE TECHNIQUES