The Sun has got his hat on hip hip hip hooray. The sun has got his hat on and he’s coming out to play.
I have been photographing families and kids since I was 18 years old so in reality that’s 10 years. (almost 5 professionally) You could say I have seen it all. I have seen the temper tantrums I have seen the embarrassment on adults faces “why is my child acting this way?” I have seen many moments which have made me smile, made me cry, I have seen parents make very different choice to others. The truth is we all have different views on how things should be done and that’s totally fine. I have watched, I have observed I have learnt so much from observing children and families during sessions about what works when it comes to taking photographs and what backfires. I am even surprised sometimes too! I became a mum almost 2 years ago and I have learnt even more through this about kids. So today I want to share my 5 top tips with you.
Photographing kids can be an adventure. They are squirmy, usually really fast and sometimes cranky and uncooperative but guess what?
I think kids get asked to do too much. Often when they see a camera they either run away or pull out their funniest face and say “cheese” If your lucky they might actually want their photograph taken and comply with what you ask. Not to mention that every child has a different energy which you have to look at differently too so it’s about getting down to their level of understanding.
The truth is my first top tip really is the most important for me. Don’t ask too much of them– Kids are constantly being talked at whether its asking them to do something, or telling them not to do something and the many moments where you are trying to get something over to them, telling them how they should be acting or what they should be doing. Or they are not doing something the way you want them to. Adults really are too controlling. You might want the child to do something so you start telling them what to do then they are not doing it right so the other parent starts telling them how to do it as well because they are just not listening. Why are they not listening to me (the parent thinks) The child then gets completely confused and you are frustrated. Who’s fault is it? The child’s because they are not listening? and they are not following your directions? No it’s you the adult- asking too much of them throwing out directions which startles them. By this point the moments gone and the child is just confused. How can they follow instruction in this way? Believe me when I say asking too much of them will not create good pictures and you will feel like you are fighting a losing battle. Keeping yourself calm is really important. if you have any anxieties or stresses children will pick up on that energy and it can make them feel uneasy.
Stop with the bribary.
When you allow a child in their own time to do things with no rushing or scrambling and allow them to be who they are you change the way they act. They want to listen to you and they want to cooperate and there is not an alterior motive. Why should they “get” something in return for acting a certain way?
Bribes and sometimes even rewards – can send unspoken, but powerful, messages like these to kids:
- You don’t want to have good behavior.
- You’re not capable of good behavior without bribery.
- Good behavior is only important to adults.
The child gets the following message: “That activity must not have any intrinsic value you must have to pay me to get me to do it.”
Kids do play up and don’t act the way the want them to. They have tantrums and shout and scream and can do things that make us sad, embarrassed and even upset- but controlling them is not the answer. What you need to do is put yourself into your childs shoes and think about why they are feeling a certain way. It is better to get to the bottom of the situation rather than cover up with a short term solution to make them do what you want or make them be quiet. There is no shame in a child shouting out for help or having a frustrating moment. Is has never bothered me on a session when a child has a tantrum- its how you deal with situation with humility and gratitude and helping the child and their needs that is important. I don’t rush my sessions with families and there is lots of time to feel comfortable. Time is important, rushing is not good. They might need a little chat, a little snuggle or a snack, whatever they need- they need you.
3.Get down to their level.
Ever think about just putting the camera to the side and just connecting with the person you are photographing? Get to know them, ask them questions. Kids love to talk and interact. So talk about their favourite toy or tv show or sing a song with them. Or if they can’t yet talk sing them a song or clap your hands, do something silly to get them to connect with you. When you get down to their level of understanding and talk about something they are interested in you have their complete attention even if it is for a short window, It doesn’t matter if it’s your own child or not. Yes you may know them better than anyone else but getting into someones personal space is still a priviledge so treat your child with respect or the child you are photographing. It’s not about YOU and getting the picture YOU want. It’s about the child and who they are, if they feel comfortable with you in their space then pick the camera up and then photograph them. Connection between a photographer and the person being photographed is THE most important part of taking photographs. I have realised how great a priviledge it is to be in someones personal space when photographing them and how vulnerable sometimes that can feel for some people. First and foremost it’s how you make someone “FEEL” that matters. You make that person feel valued and special and wait for the right moment to photograph that. Getting into someones personal space (no matter how well you know them) and not making them feel comfortable with a camera in their face blasting orders at them, only thinking about yourself and the images you want to get is selfish and disrespectful to the person.
Kids need to let out steam. So if you do need to request them to sit down together for example (which may not even happen if for a short moment!) Then think about what their needs might be? Do they need to have a good run around and play, go exploring and do something fun? Kids need to feel free and open with the world around them. We all need time to relax and get out that energy. So allow them as much time to run around and just be kids! Being a child is beautiful, wonderful and extraordinary. Allow their inner beauties to come out. Alot of trantrums and frustrations come from not allowing the ability of those inner energies to be explored.
Find the light
Lighting is really important in photography- It can make the images look so diverse from early morning or late evening to harsh shadows in the day or overcast so be creative and capture your kids in various situations whilst out and allowing them to enjoy the world around them . This will allow the child to be happy doing something they enjoy whilst also allowing you to be creative and try and make new and interesting pictures.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post and found it helpful. Have a great day and enjoy taking photographs. Dont make it a chore- make it a moment.