When it comes to photographing children at portrait sessions, most often it’s not the gear that gets them to enjoy the session or has them laughing. In this article, we are going to share the best tools for photographing children that are not gear related and useful for every portrait session with children.
1. The squeaky chicken (rr any noisy toy)
When it comes to tools for photographing children, there is nothing more fun than a toy that makes noise. A weird, interesting, noisy, and curious squeaking chicken is all of those things and more. They come in various sizes and offer lots of ideas for getting the attention of smaller children and laughs from older children.
Use the toy as a way to get the child’s attention toward the camera. A great tip is to bang your head with it and pretend that it hurt in a fun and interesting way. Children love unexpected reactions, and you’ll definitely get big smiles using the chicken.
You can also play hide and seek with the chicken popping it from behind you in a different direction each time. The child won’t know where it’ll pop up from next! A huge hit!
When the children are a bit older, you can plop the chicken, or any other noisy toy, on your camera and ask “Hey, where did my chicken go? Have you seen it?” This can get a great reaction out of the child and also keep their attention as a fun way to look at the camera long enough to shoot off a few frames.
This one is a staple for all children at portrait sessions, but first, make sure you consult with the parents before the session to know if bribery is okay.
Ask your clients if you should bring candy or if they can bring a favorite treat for the child when its time for the session. Only use in emergencies since children can lose interest if they have to continuously work for it.
A small lollipop or chewable candy works wonders when you need them to smile. You can bribe them with a taste or piece. Make sure to work quickly, though, because they’ll want that bribe instantly!
3. Play games
Games are probably not going to get you many of those photos where the children are looking at the camera, however, they will bring about some smiles and great photos of the family interacting. Luckily, you don’t need much for this other than some interesting games for all ages!
One that works great with children is to pick them up, especially for the younger age group. Have mommy and daddy tickle them too.
Another one is to ask the family to look at each other and make some silly faces! Children love to make silly faces. You can ask them to do one with silly faces and then one where they smile big at the camera!
Chase is a great game, just make sure you focus fast and can capture the motion! Children are pretty quick and mommy and daddy will also get a kick out of chasing their little one around while getting big laughs!
Peek-A-Boo is a great game to play with smaller children under the age of 3! They know it so well from playing with their parents that when you do, it will seem familiar. They might even want to play along! Play peek-a-boo from behind your camera or use a toy to hide and pop out. Both work really well to grab the attention of the child.
A game that gets the biggest laughs is also when you get close and tickle them and then back away quickly. Only, the next time you go in to tickle you don’t actually tickle. It’s good to say “I’m gonna get you” as you play this game so they anticipate the game!
This trick works best when you have an assistant so that you don’t miss any shots. If you have to do this yourself, try and put your camera on a tripod with a wireless shutter release so you get the smiles even if you’re not at your camera. That works wonders! If the parents don’t want contact, have one of them play the game with their child and it can also work to get lots of laughs!
Also, children are great at making up games. So when they start to play, have everyone play along and then ask them to smile or look your way! Sometimes you’ll get the child looking at you and other times you will get great interaction among the family members. Both make great additions to the final gallery of images!
4. Children’s playlist
When it comes to tools for photographing children, consider music. Children love music. So it would be a good idea to have a playlist on your phone of all the classic favorites like Wheels on the Bus, The Ants Go Marching In, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and others.
Also, ask your clients what the child likes to listen to as far as music goes and create a specific playlist for that session.
A good plus would be to have a small external speaker so you can have it on location. That way, you don’t really have to move or hold onto your phone for the songs to hear the songs. External speakers also sound a lot louder than just your phone, which can grab the attention of the child.
5. Mommy and Daddy
One of the best tools for photographing children is Mom and Dad! Using mom and dad as a way to get the attention of the child can help because the children can recognize their voice and identify them quickly, even when they are very young!
Have the parent stand behind you or at least very close to the camera. That way, when the child looks at them, it’ll seem like they were looking at the camera.
It’s also fun to play games while the parent is close to you and have them bonk your head or act like daddy farted. That one works best when the children are around 4 years old and usually gets a laugh out of them.
Getting the parents involved in the fun makes the child feel more comfortable around you, who is new to them or maybe not so familiar. Have the parents toss the child up into the air or just raise them up high and smile.
They can also go exploring, dig in the sand, and walk hand-in-hand with the parents if they’re willing to participate! It will get a lot more laughs and more authentic expressions from the child.
This tool works great, especially when the child isn’t cooperating, or it’s difficult to get their attention. The parents know their child best and can help get those smiles, and they’ll be glad to help!
6. Using the Uh-Oh method
When a child is small, typically around 3 years and under, the sound of “uh-oh” can get their attention much more than a solid “no”.
Using “uh-oh” can be a great way to get a child’s attention and stop them from doing something that is not allowing them to look at the camera or follow instructions. Of course, they’re young, and sometimes won’t follow instructions at all, so using “uh-oh” can divert them much better.
Props work for various reasons as they can help with the session set up and overall look. However, when it comes to children, props help keep children engaged and, most often, in one spot.
Speak with your clients and see what props will work best for the age of their child(ren). For little ones perhaps cars, blocks, and plush toys work. For a bit older children, perhaps a kite, picnic set up, or game works best.
Look for items that add to the session rather than take attention away from your clients. Choose toys or props that are neutral in color or go with the color scheme.
While your gear is important during portrait sessions, especially with children, adding in games, toys, and noisemakers to your set of skills and gear can really change the way they experience the session. Your clients will thank you for providing a fun experience for everyone, all while capturing great images of their children!
Do you have any other tools for photographing children that are not gear related? Share with us in the comments!