I personally enjoy family photography sessions more than couple photo shoots - mainly because of the interesting things that kids get up to.
However, working with kids and making them participate in the shoot is not an easy task. You need to be able to work fast and efficiently before interest starts to fade.
Here are my 5 tips to photographing children
Tip 1: Be prepared - have a plan
Family photo shoots are mostly interesting for parents but not the kids. So in order to make sure that you have full support of the kids; plan the well in advance.
- Know how many shots you're expecting to take at each individual location.
- Get to the venue beforehand and set up the lighting and test the lighting in a few different scenarios
- Have some examples ready on your smart phone that you can share with the kids and the family to let them know what you expect them to do in terms of poses and facial expressions.
Tip 2: Make the time fun - break the ice first
Kids feel the need to be kept involved and one way to do that is to make them part of the photography process. Start off by breaking the ice and introducing yourself. You need to come out as a fun person and it will help them to listen to you more. You need to channel the entertainer within.
Then during the shoot, I tell them to give me alternatives to the word "Cheese" when taking the photos and try to say those words while smiling - some words don't get the effect (i.e. potatoes or bobo) but others do e.g. macaroni, bubbly, etc.
Tip 3: Make them directors of photography
Although a great way to empower kids, just remember that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. If you give this responsibility too quickly to a child during the shoot, they would want to do this on every photo afterwards and if you say NO to them, things could get ugly. So balance this approach and use it wisely and remember "With great power, comes great responsibility".
Tip 4: Be supportive - High fives all the way
Some kids, just like grown ups are a bit shy. They also have insecurities about the smallest of things (due to peer pressure) and it is your job as a photographer to make it easy for them and to help them feel comfortable during the session.
I normally take some test photos of the kids and compliment every aspect of it. I show them the review screen and tell them that they did a great pose or that they looked really awesome. I sometimes point at a particular feature and tell them that this looks cool.
Never underestimate the power of a high-five. It gives kids confidence and makes them open to trying new things.
Tip 5: RESPECT - You know it!
Kids may be hyper or timid, active or quite, but at the end of the day each and every one of them is smart enough to know when they are being overlooked or under appreciated.
If you want to really get the best out of a child, then let them know that they are respected. Treat them like you would any other adult or client.
Bring some sweets with you (but give it in measure, you don't want them too high on sugar).
Overall, remember to have loads of fun and be patient. Some days are just not perfect and you have to live with that. Give the kids a breather in between and let them do their own thing.