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Five Tips You Must Know for Your Next Shoot With Kids

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Children?! Say it ain't so! How in the world can I come out of this session alive? Actually, you may find that children will become one of your favourite subjects once you try. You'll feel energized and invigorated! Children carry such life in their little bodies. With these tips below, I hope you’ll be fully equipped to conquer a child model photo shoot with a giant "yippedy do!"


1. Pack Light!

I carry my camera, a zoom lens, a reflector, and a flash. This might even be too much for some people. The thing to keep in mind is that you're going to be moving around a lot. This is not the time for monolights.

Photo by Grace Salzer
Photo by Grace Salzer

For example, I love my 50mm lens, but I find myself running back and forth and all over the place, chasing the children around. Now I use my trusty 17–55mm to take advantage of the zoom. The images still come out clean and crisp, and I don't get as worn out. Win win! It’s sometimes nice to leave a shoot not looking like a complete workout failure.


2. Shoot in the Late Afternoon

There are a lot of variables to choosing times to shoot. We all have schedules to deal with and other commitments. However, in a perfect world, here in Hawaii, I shoot outside between 4pm and 6pm If it's a shaded locale then sometimes as early as 3pm.

That's just my preference, and doesn't take into account any possible nap, school or extracurricular activity schedule. However, I always preface any booked gig with the fact that the afternoon allows for much better lighting, ultimately providing the optimal conditions for photographing the children. What parent wouldn't want the best photos? It usually works in my favour.

Photo by Grace Salzer
Photo by Grace Salzer

You're also catching most school-age children at a good time. They're used to being active between the end of school and dinnertime. This is when kids usually play. So even if you're shooting on a weekend, their bodies and minds will still know that the afternoon is time to play.


3. Let the Kids Be the Wardrobe Department

When you’re a child, clothes can be either fun or the last thing on your mind. In my own experience, I find that if the child is interested and particularly caught up in how they look, then their outfit can boost their confidence. This in turn is a bonus for me the photographer who is trying their hardest to suck the confidence out! The grandparents will like the photos regardless of creases, and stains can be edited out if absolutely necessary.

Photo by Grace Salzer
Photo by Grace Salzer

The major concerns come with multiple, complicated outfit changes and the time it takes to complete them. The only time this works out is when you're photographing more than one child in a single session. Outfit changes give one child something to do while you concentrate on the new baby or a big brother. If this is the case, use it to your advantage.

Just try to steer the parents away from trapping their kids in clothes they don't like. Although "Sunday Best" is adorable and proper, a flowy dress or shorts and a tee allow for more freedom. You can’t jump, run, roll or squat in a suit and tie! Well maybe you can, but my Mum didn't allow it.


4. Kids Getting Bored? Get Yourself in the Scene!

I have two go-to tactics to deal with fading interest. First, it's important to know that children are sponges and absorb the attitudes and behaviors of those around them. We expect unadulterated and shameless silliness. Sometimes to help the kids understand what I need them to do I act it out myself! In front of other parents at the park and beach-goers on the beach. It's a lovely sight. Try to get the parents involved, too.

Photo by Grace Salzer
Photo by Grace Salzer

Second, I give the children a task or challenge. If there's more than one child, maybe have them run a race, and put yourself at the finish line. Have the kids jump as high as they can, or as wide as they can. Would the child like to climb like a monkey up the flagpole? What about across the monkey bars or slide down the slide as fast as they can? You get the idea.


5. Cranky Kids Need Distractions

A tired, cranky child is definitely a potential issue! One would hope that the parents know how best to encourage their child. But even if they become completely uncooperative, take some photos anyway. Don't waste a chance!

When it's time, I tend to try to correct these situations with distractions. Ask the child to show you how to do something like a cartwheel or the like. I have also asked parents to chase their children around the playground while I stand in a specific spot waiting for the child to approach me round the corner. The key here is fun play with lots of distraction.

Photo by Grace Salzer
Photo by Grace Salzer

Hopefully you can get your shoot done in about an hour, so you can really go full force with the action. Run and jump along with them, then pass out afterwards and be happy you don’t have kids yet... unless you do!


Don't Be Afraid! They're Only Kids!

Photographing children can be an incredibly fun experience. They’re young, and have loads of energy. Sometimes they love the camera, which makes our lives as photographers wonderfully easy! It seems to me that all that may be required is a little skill in drawing the occasional shy child out of their shell.

Reducing your IQ to that of a five-year-old is also very helpful, so dance like an orangutan if you need to. In case you haven’t realized it yet, being a photographer is so much more than just taking photos!

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