Photographing children is no easy feat, trust me I know. I started out photographing my child and friends children, I didn't take a shot unless they were posed and smiling because that is what I thought was right and it's not totally wrong, but if you want the kids to have fun getting their photos taken then that is not the path to take.
I am going to touch base on the ages I photograph the most and that is 1-7 or 8. First things first, you MUST gain that child(s) trust. You will not capture the true spirit of a child unless they trust you. Imagine for a second yourself going to get your photos taken, lets even break this down to a boudoir session, something even more uncomfortable than normal, never met your photographer and you show up to have your clothing brought down to quite a bit less than what you are use to, you then get into position, maybe having not created a relationship with your photographer and then a camera is shoved in your face. This is kind of what a kid feels like. I never limit my sessions to just 1 hour unless I know the kid and have worked with them before. Kids need time to warm up to someone they don't know, kids DO NOT do well under pressure and so rushing them because you have a time limit is not going to fly, you will not be successful in photographing younger children.
HOW TO BUILD TRUST:
For starters you introduce yourself to mom and dad, right?! Why not do they same to the kids. Get down to their level so you are less intimidating, ask them some things they like to do. Ask them about their day, let them know something about yourself ( I have a little boy who is the exact same age as you, I bet you both like the same cartoons). What is your favorite ice cream? "Chocolate" ooo mine too with rainbow spinkles on top. All this is really great to get started before ever picking up the camera. I have found that little girls are really great at sitting down and talking where little boys really want to run and play and get dirty, you really need to understand how to hone in on each child as they are all different, especially siblings. When the kid(s) has made their way over to you and a way from mom and dad that is when you know they are comfortable with you. This is all really great with 3 and up.
2 AND UNDER
For this age you really have to go with the flow, you have to be really gentle with your introduction, this age is less talk and a little more action. Bubbles, balloons, lovies, tickles. They don't quite understand the power of conversation and their attention span is extremely low.
GETTING THAT SHOT!!!
Now this requires quite a bit of ninja skills and lots of running and playing. I really try hard to not get shutter happy, however sometimes it's required. The point of having portraits done is to remember how your kids are at that specific time in their life, so if that means their hair is wild and crazy, scrapes on the knees, they loved to be silly, or snuggle on their lovey, then that is the photo that should be captured. Also remember that kids need a break from time to time so if one minute you are having fun and playing and the next they are done, give them a break and find something NEW and EXCITING for them to do. Another question that always comes up from time to time is how do you get that genuine smile?? Well I know how I do it and it works well for me so give it a go and see if it works for you. I tend to ask quite a bit of questions, and not just any questions, you have to really remove your age from the equation and turn yourself into whatever age the kid(s) is that you are photographing. Does mommy feed you worms instead of cereal?? Do you think your beautiful dress will fit me?? Why not am I too small for it?? and so on, get creative, they will love it.
RULES FOR PARENTS
Now parents really have a hard time throwing the parent card out the window (I know I do). You know what makes getting photos even harder for a kid? When mom and dad are correcting them to do what the photographer says. This can really close a kid down and make them absolutely uninterested in having photos done at all. Now this is not saying that this is mom and dads fault, because it's not. They are just being mom and dad, it's what they know how to do, so as a photographer of children you need to let the parent know what is okay and how you work with kids. Now hitting mom and dad and overall negative behavior in that way, I do not condone, that is not okay, but this is when as a photographer you try something new, separate the child and mommy or daddy and just do portraits of them for a bit and revisit that set up later.
SO WITH THAT BEING SAID, REMEMBER KIDS ARE KIDS AND SAME GOES WHEN THEY ARE BEING PHOTOGRAPHED. I HOPE THIS WAS A VERY HELPFUL READ. I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR FEEDBACK AND ANY QUESTIONS YOU MAY HAVE.