It was WC Fields who’s famously been credited with the maxim ‘Never work with children or animals’. As far as small children are concerned, taking great photos can certainly be a challenge. They won’t do as they’re told, they won’t stand still and pose for the camera, and they’re prone to messing about and pulling silly faces when you least want them to. So, what do you do to get those cute kiddie shots that everyone can coo over?
As most parents and Early Years educators know, children between 1 and 5 need careful handling, and not just for photography. At this stage of development, they’re discovering the world around them, keen to experience everything at their own pace and in their own time.
To get the best results out of a photoshoot with kids of that age, you need to learn the subtle art of directing them without letting on that’s what you’re doing. Quick thinking, a flexible approach and a kind, child-focused attitude are essential in getting what you came for.
Here, independent content writer Dakota Murphey shares 7 tips to get great photos of toddlers and preschool age children. Award winning photographer Boggio Studios were consulted for some of the information provided in this article.
- Build a good rapport. First off, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. The first meeting with your little models will usually determine how things are going to go. If they are apprehensive or just shy, take your time. Wait for their natural curiosity to kick in and show them that you are fun to be with. Build a rapport and be their friend.
- Give them choices. Choose favourite outfits together with the children. Let them be part of the process, so you get more cooperation later, when you need it. Be cunning if you must: ‘Let’s wear the pretty pink dress first, and the dinosaur PJs and purple wellies later.’
- Everything’s a game. Make everything a game; it’s what keeps kids children interested. Instead of asking them to pose for a photo (which they most likely won’t want to do), work with bribes or give them predetermined choices. Simple strategies such as ‘Let’s play this game first (which involves you taking pictures) and then we’ll go and get a biscuit’ or ‘Which dress do you want to wear first?’ may be all it takes to get the little darlings to comply with your plan.
- Join in . If you can feel the children relate to you, you can direct them more confidently and get them to include you in their play. Ask for a volunteer to show you their playroom, Wendy House, or dressing up box, and explore new photoshoot locations together. In this way, you being there feels normal not staged.
- Let them play. Give the children a ‘job’ to do – making a cake, building a Lego house, dressing a doll, painting a picture. This will slow them down and keep focused on the task in hand – a good opportunity for you to take lots of natural looking shots. Ask probing questions about the activity and when they look up at you to answer, take a direct shot.
- Waste no opportunity. Remember to shoot quickly and snatch every photo opportunity that presents itself. Keep moving around to take full advantage of the pace of play, different locations and props. Take short breaks more often than you think you need.
- Take partial shots. There’s no need to wait until the whole child is in shot, which can be tricky if they won’t stay still. Close-up facial shots, zooming in while they’re sitting on Dad’s shoulder or Mum’s knee, holding their favourite teddy bear or whatever can yield beautiful results.
Disclosure: Collaborative post