Before I had kids I had never thought about photographing children. Really.
Fast forward to present, I actually ended up photographing lots of children. Totally unplanned. It just happened.
Shooting kids is fun, exhausting, but fun, if you chose to think that way.
I’m talking about toddlers here, about children who can’t pose you and understand that they need to stay still because their picture is about to be taken.
First to tell you is that I’m not a children person at all. Everything is easier if you get along with them, without the camera in your hands. I don’t get along well with children (it’s not that bad, don’t get me wrong) but I don’t understand that species. They’re everything I admire and everything I’m not. That dosage of simplicity, honesty and energy is simply too much for me. I don’t know how to play with them and my take in imagination in playing and explaining something to them is purely realistic and for learning purposes. The area I’m good in is teaching children something.
Somehow, when I have a camera in my hands, things in my head completely change and I become a children person. I laugh a lot, I’m goofy, I’m clumsy, I’m funny, I’m talking their language, I have lots of energy and I’m likable to them.
There is much more to be said about photographing children and it can’t be done in one post. However, here are some practical pointers from my experience with a camera and children.
You, as the photographer, have to find a way to be their friend in a very short amount of time. This below is a documentary photograph. I met those kids about 5 minutes before the picture was taken. In Gallery, Real life for some there are more children and documentary photography about them, if you’re interested to see.
I show them my camera, explain how expensive and heavy it is and tell them that I don’t know yet how to operate with it.
I’ll show him/her the photo I’ve just taken, just to be sure that I’ve done it right. I’m serious and really worried about that picture. I ask: “Do you like it?” “Are you pretty on this photo or should we do that again?”
I ask them for their opinion on numerous things, explaining them that I don’t know exactly what am I doing and need some help from them. I engage them and make them want to be photographed.
I’ll make some funny noises, I’ll fall wherever I’m standing in that moment, I’ll do almost everything silly in order to get their attention. What was I doing in the time I took the picture doesn’t show on that picture.
I think that that’s the only time I don’t mind being completely silly. Photographing children. I’m on the mission to get the picture done and that’s all that matters!
Sometimes I just let them be and follow them around.
I have to mention one other important element here, the parents. Maybe I’ll write about them and their behavior in another post, but now I’ll just mention this.
Make sure you tell their parents that they need to be feed and don’t see them when it’s their usually nap time.
Ask parents if you’re allowed to give them a candy when their attention starts to fall of and don’t actually give them the candy but make sure that they know that they’ll get it when everything is over. I usually don’t use that candy strategy because bribing children doesn’t go well with my beliefs but sometimes you just don’t have any other option.
Tell them in the beginning that you need them not to interfere when you’re shooting, they need to give you the full control in your and child’s interaction. You’ll handle the situation and ask parents to react when you feel they should. Note that this is not simple at all! In most cases parents can’t keep themselves from interfering.
Never be an adult with toddlers! Never! Be one of them and they’ll cooperate. Be an adult and you’ll lose them.
Get down to their level!
The most important advice I could give you is that if you manage to have a sincere smile or laugh or any kind of sincere emotion, doesn’t have to be a happy one, just take the shot! Take it as quickly as possible, because the moment will be gone! Don’t stress yourself about technicalities in those moments. If you capture a true feeling, technical things you did wrong just doesn’t matter any more! Mom and dad won’t certainly say “Oh, look, you blown out the sky.” They only care about the smile.