Whether you’re taking snapshots in your own backyard or you’ve rounded up your kids to go to a professional photographer’s studio, one thing is certain: If your child is cranky, upset, or just plain doesn’t want to sit still it makes getting good photos of them extremely difficult.
Sure, a good photographer should be able to get some clear photos even if your child is squirmy. They might even be able to capture a facial expression that looks pleasant, even if the child is pouty or upset.
But if what you really want is a portrait that captures your child’s personality and style and preserves this phase of life to memory, it is next to impossible to make that happen when the child is not cooperating. As a portrait artist who has specialized in working with children for the last 10 years, I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve to make sure that children remain calm and happy as I capture their photos for portraits.
6 Tips to Get Children to Cooperate for Photos
1. Make it a fun experience.
Most young children don’t really respond well to someone standing in front of them ordering them to stand still and “say cheese!”
You’re much more likely to get them to do what you want if you make it into a fun experience that plays into their imaginations. Maybe that means you give them props to play with or come up with a story for them to act out. Make it feel like play! Imaginative play comes so naturally to children. If you can play into that, they’ll be happier and more at ease. And you’ll be much more likely to get a portrait of them that really shows their personality, too!
Nobody likes for someone else to control everything about what to wear, where to stand, etc. This is especially true of toddlers who have just discovered their little voices. Make sure you give them a few choices along the way: For example, ”Would you rather stand here or here? Do you want to wear this shirt or that one?”
3. Make sure they’re well rested.
This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many parents schedule a portrait session right in the middle of their child’s regular nap time. Trust me. It’s better to choose a different day than to take this risk.
4. Bring snacks.
There’s a reason I keep my studio stocked with chocolate. OK, there are two reasons.
1. I have a sweet tooth and I sneak a little chocolate in between sessions sometimes. (Don’t judge!)
2. I know my little subjects will be much more likely to play with me, pose for photos, and be themselves if they have something in their bellies.
5. Give yourself plenty of time to get there, get dressed, and transition into the photo session.
It’s so important to start out on the right foot. And we all know that traffic around Charleston, SC can be terrible--especially during rush hour! I can't emphasize enough the importance of giving yourself enough time to get your child dressed, hair fixed, and drive calmly to the studio.
You want a calm, playful atmosphere from the start. Don't rush. Don't stress.
Nothing ruins a child photo shoot faster than frantic, stressed out energy. Kids can sense when those around them are harried and upset and they'll respond by being uneasy at best and worst-case scenario having a melt down. Neither of these behaviors makes for a good portrait.
6. Hire a professional artist who has experience working with kids.
Just because someone knows how to use a professional camera and has photo editing skills doesn’t mean they know how to take a child’s portrait.
I say it all the time. I support anyone who makes art and I believe wholeheartedly that there's room for all of us. But I'm also the first to refer a client to someone else when what that people wants is not my specialty.
Portrait artists that specialize in children and families all the time will have some tricks up their sleeves to ensure that they capture your child in his or her best light. Children know if someone really loves kids. Kids are the most magical, intuitive creatures.
They will be much more likely to cooperate if the artist engages with them on a level that they understand. It takes experience, patience, understanding, and a whole lot of passion for working with kids to get that shot that will become a heirloom that your family will cherish for generations to come. That's nothing in this world that makes me happier than being a part of that.