Another cold day, another hot cocoa – perfect set up for blogging the fall session, and sharing few tips and tricks for getting perfect kids portraits. This year, Cyburn Arboreum in Baltimore had amazing pockets of beautiful light and flowers. Dahlias and canna lilies were magical background, together with lavender.
This session was family of four, with two little girls (2 and 4). I have been photographing them for few years now, and I remember, each session would turn into tears and runny noses – they definitely weren’t ready for posing in front of the big camera, like most of the kids that age. This is very frustrating for the parents, since they planned this day for a very long time, and of course wanted to be perfect, so some of them get very quickly in a bed mood. It’s really important to explain that kids can sense that, so we all have to try to stay calm 🙂 Luckily this time everyone came happy, so now I only had to focus on details and light.
Before I start, I make sure to introduce myself to little ones and start chatting about their school, favorite food or movie. This gives some time to warm them up and not start as a complete stranger.
I usually start with more posed portraits while the kids are still in the good mood and focused. They might not give me their best smiles since they are still confused about the whole picture thing, but they always give me calm body expressions. I already have planned few poses that I will be using and start moving the kids quickly through them. Asking them who would like to have her picture taken first, that gives me an idea of who is outgoing and who is the shy one. The kid that is shy can stand back and watch, and in the few minutes she also wants to be in the picture.
You really have to gear up with lots of patience and learn to act and think like kids. I often give them breaks and let them run around since the attention span is very short. When they start losing the focus I start making silly faces and start talking about stinky feet or whatever is “appropriate” for their age.
I often tricked them to look at my lens by telling them if they pay attention, they will see a dinosaur, or a princess, or … you get the point. That way they lean forward and give me the wide eyes.
Look for benches, stairs or big stones – they are great for posing. I usually have a crate with me, and few blankets to bring texture into pictures and protect clothes from getting dirty or wet.
Keep them busy. I usually ask them to carry my reflector around or even hold it while I photograph another sibling, so they feel important – this always works!
Also, I don’t feel shy asking the parents to step away – kids can now focus only on me.