On losing ones’ dignity for the greater good (or, how to take great kids portraits)

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Last week I got to do 9art’s ‘back-to-school’ mini sessions, and they went SO great. It was as simple as it gets… 15-20 minute sessions, one batch in the park and one batch in the studio.

I found the experience to be an interesting refresher on HOW to take pictures of children. It took me a good long time to be able to take good pictures of kids in 15 minutes.

So, photographers (and parents): I’ve compiled this short list of tips to show how I got shots like the one above, instead of shots like the one below:

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HOW TO TAKE PICTURES OF CHILDREN

 

#1: do not try to ‘place’ a child’s fingers, feet, shoulders, chin, head in any kind of preconceived way.

Misery will leak out of their soul through their eyes if you do. Or, if you do….

#2: ACT LIKE AN IDIOT.

If you can convince a child that you are ridiculous, outmatch THEIR silly faces, and surprise them in any way…

  • -sneeze so hard you ‘fall down’ (or, really fall down and scrape up your arm like I did)
    -put a tiny, tiny hat on your head
    -pretend a pebble weights 200lbs and you can’t possibly lift it
    -make as many fart noises as possible
    -squeak, squeal, scream, sing, and do mickey mouse impressions

#3: Don’t treat every child like they will respond to you like any other child.
Some kids need you to completely ignore them for like 10 minutes before you can take a single picture that’s any good.

Some kids need you to make a game out of everything.

Some kids need you to engage in extreme negotiations (if you let me take one picture of you, smiling with your sister and not moving, I’ll let you kick me in the shin).

Some kids need you to just sprint after them and yell something surprising every so often so you can use those precious milliseconds when they turn back to snap pictures.

Some kids just need you to make them laugh.

EVERY. KID. IS DIFFERENT.

#5: While, yes, sometimes you must be a ridiculous presence, you must also be a calming and patient presence– for the sake of both child and parent. If you show the slightest hint of frustration that you can’t get the shot you want RIGHT NOW, you will fail miserably at this, and you will drive the parent to try to force something that can’t be forced- only making things worse.

You have to meet the kid where they’re at. And you have to reassure the parent that it’s ok- that yes, it’s completely normal for their kid to do everything BUT pose for a picture. Because seriously, it is.

#6: don’t expect those kiddos to sit in any one spot (and be happy about it) for any longer than 5 seconds. If you absolutely must (and yes, sometimes you must), then….

#7: ACT LIKE AN IDIOT. (see list above).

So yeah. The real trick here, is humble thyself. And the funny thing about it? You walk away with the parents’ supreme trust and respect, like, for life.

Now, the pictures… enjoy, guys. 🙂

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#7: (bonus tip for scrolling all the way down!) Let the kids be ridiculous themselves. It’s the moment you tell them to stop being kids that things go downhill. Endure some outrageously silly moments (w/ pre-negotiated ‘posed’ moments in return). It’s worth it, I promise.

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