For a lot of parents, photographing your kids or taking them to a portrait studio
can be one of the hardest jobs you'll ever do, but there are a lot of things you can do to make the experience less traumatic for everyone. It's Not About a Photo
To begin with, don't make taking pictures about taking pictures. Very young children really won't understand why a picture is important. To them, everything is a game. Or if it isn't, they think it should be a game. That's why the most successful photographers of children always make the photo session seem secondary to another fun activity that children love. Playing with toys, reading a colorful picture book, or blowing bubbles should be what's foremost in the child's mind, not getting their picture taken.Yelling "Smile" Doesn't Help
Never, ever tell a child to smile. Smiles that are worth preserving in a photograph rarely happen on command. The best smiles happen spontaneously - a natural byproduct of a fun activity. Containment Is Key
Mobility is one of the biggest threats to a photo session with a youngster. Often the fun activity you engage in will do the trick. In fact, if that doesn't do the trick, there's a good chance you haven't found the right activity
for that particular child. Of course, playing with a ball might invite movement, so you may need some sort of stationary prop to help keep your subject in one spot.
But there are times when some other restraint is needed. Portrait studios usually have child-friendly sets that are designed to restrict movement. It may consist of nothing more than a table with a children's chair on it. The height of the table will discourage the child from getting up from the chair. As long as mom and dad are close by, it's a safe technique to use. Of course, if you try that approach at home, you'll want to make sure you have someone within easy reach of the child, just in case he or she gets brave and decides to dive off the table! Rule #1 when using this technique: Never let your assistant take their eyes off of the child! If the eyes come off, the hands go on! If You'll Just Sit Still I'll Give You....
Should you try bribes? Most photographers say bribes should be the last thing you pull out of your bag of tricks. Properly timed, the promise of a special treat like a balloon can give you just enough leverage to get those last 2 or 3 exposures to complete your photo session. Of course, the nature of a successful bribe will vary from one child to the next. What works for a 2-year-old may fail to motivate a 5-year-old. And a 16-year old? Let's not go there!Just Relax
Last, but not least, relax! Bright, young children are incredibly sensitive to their parents' moods and tend to get nervous and apprehensive right along with mom and dad. Your mood should be as carefree as possible. One way to do that is to focus on the fun activity that you're using to distract your child. Yes, that trick can work on you, too!
Don't get discouraged! Lots of people head to the pros for the best portraits and there's no shame in that. Want to talk about it? To discuss great children's portraits, visit our Photography Forum
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