There are so many moments you want to document forever as a parent. Your kid's first steps, holiday gatherings, crazy hair day at school. But getting energetic children to stay still long enough to actually take a good picture of these moments can be a struggle. Luckily, these tips from wedding photographers for getting kids to pay attention can make a huge difference the next time you're trying to get your little one to pose.
Getting a decent photo of your children can be difficult no matter how old they are, though it's probably a bit simpler to snap a shot when they're infants and can't move. Advances in camera technology have increased the quality of at-home photo shoots; taking frame-worthy photos from your iPhone has never been easier, and things such as self-timers and cameras that work underwater are game changers for family photos. But even with all of these developments, it can still feel like you have to take a hundred pictures before you can get one where your kid is actually looking at the camera, and that just gets more difficult when you add more kids to the mix.
So it couldn't hurt to get some tips from the pros. Read on for the go-to tricks of professional photographers for getting children to pay attention during a photo shoot, and get your camera ready.
1. Talk To Them
Although this suggestion might seem obvious, you shouldn't underestimate the importance of building a relationship with kids as you conduct a photo shoot. As Jamie Davis Smith explained to SLR Lounge, he advises photographers to "establish yourself as a playmate as soon as possible after... meeting the children. Get down on their level, introduce yourself directly to the little ones, and tell them all about the fun you are going to have." You won't have to introduce yourself if you're taking pictures of your own kids, but talk to them about why you're taking pictures and why it's going to be a good experience for you all. The context will help them get excited.
2. Let Them Get To Know The Camera
"Children are so curious and you with your big camera are subject to their curiosity," explains Ralf Czogallik of Eppel Photography to Romper via email. If you don't satiate this curiosity, the kiddo might be so distracted they can't focus on actually taking a picture, which is why taking a few minutes to show them how your camera works can actually make the entire process easier. Czogallik says "I often let them make a picture first or let them press the button on my camera," as it will help them understand what is happening and prevent them from getting distracted throughout the session.
3. Location, Location, Location
Using a studio space or a room you have set up in your house for taking pictures might be good for controlling things like lighting, but it isn't going to help you control your kiddos. Picking a setting that lets kids play and explore will prevent them from feeling too cooped up, and you might even get better pictures because of the way they explore a larger space. "Ideally, it’s a place with a few activities to provide a break (feeding ducks is good), has access to toilets, and has loads of open shade," photographer Max Bridge wrote on SLR Lounge. Use the space to your advantage.
4. Affirm Their Efforts
Kids and adults alike thrive on praise, and you can easily make use of that human phenomenon in a photo shoot with a little one. As photographer Laura Palacios explains to Romper via email, "I'll say something like 'Can you give Mommy the biggest hug ever?' After they go over and hug her, I'll enthusiastically praise them right away. Nine times out of 10 the praise will make them look over at me." You can apply this to your own shoots by having them hug their siblings, or even just praise them for posing.
5. Use Their Toys
Although you might think of toys as a source of distraction for your kiddo, they can actually help you get the shot you want. Palacio says she'll often tell kids that their stuffed animals or action figures want to be the photographer, and then she'll bring the toy behind the camera and use a character voice to help create the illusion the toy is in charge. Turning a photo shoot into an opportunity for play makes a lot more sense than attempting to get a kid to pause their natural instincts.
6. Props, Please
Toys aren't the only thing you can bring to the shoot to keep kids engaged. As photographer and blogger Natalia Robert wrote on Expert Photography, "Having props on hand will ensure that there are options for entertaining the child." It's even better if said props are based on the child's actual interests, she explained, as familiar objects will make them feel more comfortable. Kids are familiar with and typically love animals, balloons, confetti, and cars, so you can go wrong if you stick to those themes.
7. Give Them A Job
Anything you can do to make children feel like they are an active part of a project is a good move, and Czogallik thinks giving them a job is the best way to go about involving them. "That makes them feel important and they are more willing to cooperate," as they feel like their presence matters. Whether you have them hold a sign, say "1, 2, 3, cheese," or take a picture themselves, any kid will feel more invested in the shoot as a whole after you give them a role.