Every school and nursery photographer has been there. It is all going swimmingly with each child on a shoot. But like everyone, kids can be unpredictable. Maybe one throws a tantrum, maybe another refuses to get in front of the camera. For these situations, it’s useful to have a few hidden tricks up your sleeve to make sure you still get great shots even when faced with fussier kids.
1. Take the Child Seriously
More often than not, there will be a reason behind difficult behaviour. Try and see the situation from the child’s perspective – they might be missing an adult who empathises fully with their feelings. Is there something in the environment that could be disturbing them? You can give the child the feeling of being taken seriously, something that is perfect for building a reciprocal relationship with a child even in a short space of time.
Before starting to take photos you can try asking the group of children whether they know what you are doing today and what they are about to do. Again, this puts their experience into consideration, allowing them to get more involved and alleviates any confusion or worries they might have about being put in front of the camera. Remember, the camera is normal for you, but might not be for every child.
If you need the child to do something in particular, like trying a new pose don’t be afraid to state this outright. In the same way as respecting their feelings makes children feel at ease, clear and direct instructions help them feel at least partially in control of the atmosphere.
Above all, be genuine. If you really mean what you’re doing the child will notice and feel the truth behind your actions. You will reach the child far easier with feelings rather than platitudes.
2. Build A Connection
Some kids love to be involved and made to feel like they are in control of things. And at ease, of course. If a child begins to get fussy, lose concentration, or shift around a lot, take a step back and engage with them.
This can range from something as small as waving, smiling or asking questions. Make sure your questions are interesting. Ask what they like, their favourite memory and not just the dreary how is school question. It is about forming a bond and then the magic will flow in no time.
Every child is different, so try and have something unique to that child to comment on. From a hairpiece to their favourite hobby – every child will have something special they will want to talk about, no matter how fussy they might be behaving. Find your connection point and work from there.
Get some more tips on how best to interact naturally with children with this useful blog post on capturing a natural smile.
3. Remain Patient
Perhaps this is an obvious one, but you should not underestimate its importance. Sure, you have a heck of a busy day and many kids to get photos of, but getting frustrated will not going to help anybody.
Stay patient, make the child, along with the teachers or other kids, comfortable, and you will eventually get that perfect shot. Patience really is a virtue and if you can remain calm, you will thank yourself in the end.
Keep a positive face but don’t laugh too much or be over the top. As above, staying calm is more important than entertaining an uncomfortable child. Remember also that not every photo needs a big smile from the child; what’s more important is capturing the child in a relaxed and happy state, rather than with a huge grin.
4. Use Props
With younger children in particular, getting them to sit still for just a few seconds can sometimes be difficult. A quick way around this is to provide comfortable seats, rocking horses or anything for them to perch upon.
Equally, getting them to look at the camera can also be tricky; this is where holding toys in another hand can help grab their attention. You can even attach a visual aid to your camera to catch their eye. Once they are looking in your direction, get snapping!
Additionally, if you are photographing children using the QR code sheets from GotPhoto, you can get the children to strike a silly pose holding their sheet. This will break the ice quickly and help the child to relax prior to getting their photos taken.
5. Make Kids Part of the Process
Kids often want to feel like a part of things. Keeping them engaged and involved is paramount to getting great shots. If you are falling short here, turn the camera around and show the child their own photos. This is an instant path to success as you are involving the child in the photo process directly. When you show them their images, it can help to elicit some excitement and energy. By showing the child their own images, you are inviting them to play a role in the whole shoot.
You could even ask them their preference on sitting vs standing or other small variations in the process. Be sure to stay in control of the session, but fussier kids can often work better if they feel respected and included in the process. If they are proving fussy, getting them involved could be the key to making them happier to sit and have another go.
6. Focus on the Positives
If a child is making it particularly difficult to get a good image of them, be sure to celebrate when you do get that ideal shot! Compliment a certain action they did, or even cheer them on. So long as it doesn’t come across patronising, whatever seems natural and suited to that child is perfect. Even if you’re coming to the end of your time with the child, it will instil an idea of what is expected of them for the next time.
Positive reinforcement often works far better than getting annoyed or disappointed – and a sensitive child can tell you’re not happy even when you don’t intend to show it. Focus on the good parts of the session and they will be more likely to recreate the positives in future.
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7. Make The Day Fun
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But sometimes there are so many technical factors to consider when you are on a photo shoot that you forget this vital aspect. If you aren’t having a good time and making sure that your subjects are engaged, then your photos are unlikely to stand out from the crowd.
A lighthearted and pleasant atmosphere will ensure you have the best chance of every child enjoying photo day. There are easy ways to make this happen such as getting down to their level, so you don’t tower above them, and simply engaging directly with them.
Remember: keeping a child focused doesn’t mean making it boring for them. Especially with fussy kids, keeping it as calm as it is enjoyable is a great balance to find for a productive photo shoot. Try not to make it feel like a stressful photo shoot, distract the kids with one of the methods mentioned throughout this article, without losing your authority as a photographer. If you get this, then the photos will flow naturally, the children will be happy, you will capture the child perfectly, and the parents will be even happier!