Answer the following question. A child photography session is?
A. Full of energy and excitement
B. Full of fits, tantrums, and uncooperative children
C. Full of bribing and pleading for smiles
D. Amazingly fulfilling and fun
E. All of the Above
F. Answers B & C
Of course the answer is All of the above. I just threw that last on in there to throw you off. I always hated those multiple choice answers when I was in college. Yes, photographing children is all of the above and that is why you need to go into the photography session with a laid out plan of what you want to capture. I will share with you the 10 things I always try to capture in my 13 years of photographing families and children. Now I emphasize TRY because sometimes...ok most times you won't get all 10, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't have this plan of action in your head when you photograph a child...even if it is your own child.
Before we get into the first 5 of my 10 things, I will start with the beginning of the session. If the child you are photographing doesn't know you then put the camera down for a few minutes before the session starts. Get down on their level and introduce yourself and ask them some questions about them. This will help them relax and get to know you a little. Also, let them get familiar with the space they are in if they are unfamiliar with it. It is ok for them to do a little exploring, but don't let them get too distracted with playing a game so that when it is time to get started you aren't tearing them away from something that could cause a tantrum.
Ok, so you have a little rapport going with the child and you are ready to begin your session. Here are the first 5 things on my list that I try to capture. I will get you the other 5 things in the next post. This is in no particular order because I will take whatever the child is giving me at that moment.
1. A natural laugh or giggle - This can be the hardest one to get. Especially if they don't know you. So get ready to get in touch with your inner child and goof around with them. Sometimes Mom and Dad can help and sometimes they end up causing it to go the other way. BE PATIENT. Unless it is a really bad day (which happens) then you will eventually crack them. Be ready though because it can be gone in a flash.
2. A serious or non smile look - My personal fave. We get soooo caught up in everyone smiling for photos. I am a firm believer that you get a different glimpse into that child's personality with a non smile (natural) look. This doesn't mean an angry or upset look, but it is a look that is as equally beautiful as that good laugh or smile photo.
3. A close up. Get in tight. That doesn't mean you have to be in their face. Your lens selection has a lot to do with that. If you have a good zoom lens (ie 70-200 f2.8 or f4) then you can be further away from the child so your not invading their personal space, but you can still compose the photo as a close up. As a note, taking close up portraits with a wide angle lens is not flattering for anyone...even kids. Use at least a 50mm focal length for close up portraits.
4. Playing. I know this is broad, but when you let a child play with...well, whatever then you are letting that creativity and spirit take over in them. If you shooting in a studio environment you may have to get creative, but you can still keep some type of game on hand that can be turned into a fun portrait. Bubble, jump rope, fire trucks, a few dolls. You might even find a good deal somewhere so that each child can walk away with a toy at the end of the session. Another key note...I usually end the session with play time. It is pretty hard to reign them back in once you have let them off to play, but it is also the best time to grab candid portraits as well as a few other ones on my list.
5. White Space - Or negative space as some people like to call it. Basically it means that the I am including more of the child's surrounding or environment. These photos can often tell more of a story. They aren't front and center in these photos, but they are the central focus.
With just these first 5 types of portraits you can rock a child portrait session. I will follow up with the other 5 photos I want to get every portrait session in the next day or two. This list works for me. Create your list based on your style and what you want to get out of each portrait session. It may look nothing like my list, but if you want to deliver consistent results to your customers or even for your own growth then go into each session with a plan in mind. See you soon with shots 6-10.