In the years since I started Marmalade Photography, photographing primarily children and families, I’ve come to figure out some tried and true techniques that I do session after session to create expression filled, fun and interesting children’s photography.
Because my clients tend to seek a more emotive style of photography and being a bit of an observer in life I find that this type of photo style suits me very well. However I do love giggles and smiles, silliness and playtime so I will share with you a few quick tips on how I operate before, during and after the session to create really fun and expression filled captures with the littles set.
Most photographers (at least in the child/family photography genre) can relate with this scenario: meet a family at a location and the mom looks stressed out, the dad looks like he’s checked out, their 3 year old is acting up pulling on mom’s pants and wanting attention, the 5 year old is running around totally hyper, and the 6 month old, while adorable is screaming his head off. What do you do here? I mean it’s so easy to get frustrated because the harsh emotions of stress do rub off on everyone that comes in contact with a stressed person. Add a screaming baby, recipe for disaster, right?
Not necessarily so. You need to arm yourself with some basic knowledge of how to interact with adults and children and you need to plan ahead.
Whether it be in person or over the phone (I choose the latter), use this time as a pre-session consult and spend about 5-10 minutes getting to know your client and more specifically your subjects.
Simple questions like everyones’ names, their ages and their interests and personality type are all it takes to arm yourself with being ready to take on a session. Ask about any little quirks, are they shy or outgoing, etc.
Go over and review the information you obtained during your pre-session consult as a sort of “refresher”. I have a client dedicated folder that I take with me to every session and I go over the information from the pre-session consult immediately before meeting the family.
Before shooting I take a few moments to get on the child’s level (literally bend over and look at them face to face and chat!) and interact with them before the camera comes out. With more than one subject I get the kids to interact and really pay attention to how the children interact with one another. The simple act of chatting with the kids for 5 minutes before shooting can mean the difference between a beautiful and fun session and a session in which we spend our time struggling to find our happy mojo spot.
I keep in mind the information that I garnered pre-session during our pre-session consult and I use those suggestions and information from that I obtained from our conversation.
Things like: “Susie is 3 years old, is outgoing, likes her dogs and her stuffed animal” is enough information for me to start a conversation.
“Susie, do you see this doggy in the camera? What sound does this doggy in my camera make?”
Prompts Susie to pay attention to my camera and elicits direct interaction with me.
I encourage parents to bring things that have a lot of meaning. In this scenario Susie loves her stuffed animal and I encourage it being brought to our session together. If Susie’s stuffed animal is with her I ask her its’ name and talk about it a bit. Instant interaction, instant emotion which ties Susie in with being age 3 at a time when her stuffed bear was the center of her universe!
I know we discourage parents offering up bribes during a session (they often backfire) but at the session sometimes just saying you have a surprise for the child at the end after you’re done is enough to keep their interest. Think about it: dentists and pediatricians do it all the time!!
Great gifts can be individually selected pre-session or you can carry a “treasure chest” (or bag!) in your car or camera bag. The bribe gift can be something as simple as a roll of Lifesavers or a bag of chips (make sure it’s ok with the parents!) or something as complex as an age appropriate book works wonderfully.
Kids sense stress. So do adults. If you let your hair down, talk to the kids on their level and express genuine interest in your littlest of subjects that is enough on its’ own to create beautiful, emotive and expression filled photos!!