Saturday, April 25, 2009

Child Photography 101

Eventually I would like to get to the point of offering general camera tips for SLR cameras as well as general composition tricks, but I want to continue on with the hints to fully engage children when attempting to take their photos.

The first thing to remember when taking portraits of kids is that kids generally expect adults to be, well, on the boring side. Adults can be so serious, but when we can let our silly side out we shall be rewarded with smiles and delights of glee from the little ones.
When I meet a family for the first time I try to create some kind of bond with the children I will be later photographing. I try to make a certain level of contact with them that can sometimes be just between us. Silly faces work great and taking an interest in what the child holds important also creates a greater level of understanding. I try to find out from the parents if the child(ren) is interested in a certain animal or character. It allows a conversation to begin. When I start shooting I do have a few tricks up my sleeve. Some of the techniques that can work are playing peak-a-boo. I may have to be patient with this one, but I can guarantee smiles do emerge and they are some of the most natural. I cannot imagine what the child otherwise thinks of the black box I am holding in front of my face, but if it is a tool that I can hide behind and peak out from with a very silly look on my face who would not smile.
I also keep with me a few little silly finger puppets that also like to play peak-a-boo. As seen in the above photo this little guy is trying to spy where my little felted friend will appear next. I captured some great smiles when he did find it and when the child smiles so freely the parents naturally break out into grins as well.

Dancing, (dare I say it) and jumping up and down also have a remarkable affect on kids. It may feel a little strange, but when everyone is acting a little silly laughter comes naturally. Showing kids that this is not a serious affair allows them to play more and become more involved in the shoot. Bribery works too, but it can often add stress to a situation and in the end will bring out resentment in the child.
One young child I photographed was a whiz at math. Numbers fascinated him. He was not willing to sit with his grandparents and the more they tried to get his cooperation the more he shut us out. I tried to engage his 'assistance' in helping me count out the shots and I promised him that once we reached that number he could do what he wanted. We agreed to ten (10) perfect images and he did his very best. He knew when it would be over and he was in control. I loved what he gave us and even after the ten were finished I was able to capture a few more without any direction as he played and lounged about. He was much more relaxed and a willing participant.

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