Maternity + Family

5 Tips for Photographing Children

April 10, 2019

By Sandra Coan

© Sandra Coan

I’ve been a newborn and family photographer for 20 years, and before that I taught kindergarten, so between my two careers I’ve been working with children most of my adult life.

Working with kids can be incredibly fun—they are full of energy, hilarious and not afraid to be 100 percent themselves. But it also has its challenges. Children, especially toddlers, don’t always want to do what we, the adults in their lives, want them to do, and this can sometimes cause problems when you’re trying to photograph them for a shoot.

Still, there are ways to make sure you’re getting the best out of your little clients. Here are my top tips for working with kids.

1. Make sure they are well fed.

Let’s be honest, we are all happier with a full belly! This is especially true for babies and small children. I advise parents to make sure their child has a good meal or healthy snack before coming into their session. I also tell them to bring extra bottles, snacks and water with to the studio just in case. A child with a full stomach is a happy child!

2. Make sure they are comfortable.

If an adult is uncomfortable, they can generally push through it long enough to have a portrait made, but this is not the case with children. If a child is uncomfortable, they will let you know.

If you are working inside, make sure your temperature is set to a good level. Babies and young children tend to prefer warmer temps to colder ones. If you are working outside, remember to advise your families to dress their children in weather-appropriate clothing. No 3-year-old is going to put up with standing outside in a sundress in 40-degree weather!

3. Don’t force a smile.

I never ask children to smile for the camera. Instead, I engage: I sing songs, I play peek-a-boo, I talk to them. They will naturally smile and laugh when they are comfortable and having fun. And their parents will love the genuine emotions you capture.

If despite all of your playing, singing and merriment they still don’t smile or laugh? Well, that’s okay too! Some of my favorite images are the serious ones.

4. Give them something to do.

Let them read a book. Put a sticker on the floor in front of them. Let them hold their favorite stuffy. Giving them something to do will keep them happy and engaged.

It will also give you the time to zoom in for some detail shots of their little hands, feet and eyelashes. And believe me, parents love the detail shots.

5. Be patient.

When working with kids, it’s natural to feel like you have to be quick in order to capture everything your little client is doing, but feeling the need to rush can be stressful. Allow yourself time to slow down. Children are gifted at picking up on your energy. If you feel stressed, they will too.

Take your time. Set up the shot. Engage your little model and wait until the moment is right to take the photo. If you miss one smile or laugh, it’s okay. There will be more.

And remember to have fun! If you are having fun and enjoying yourself your clients will too, regardless of their age.

Sandra Coan is an industry educator and award-winning newborn and family photographer specializing in studio portraiture, artificial lighting and fine-art film photography.


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