In all honesty, lifestyle and headshot photography can be far more intimidating than it appears. This is especially true for kids. When they’re the center of attention with someone they don’t know, they tend to act out or shy away. So before I talk about the keys to capturing a child’s personality, understand that familiarity is key.
Every single one of my clients are different. Each of their comfort levels vary. When people are anxious or nervous, it’s really tough for them to be themselves. This is why photographers ought to get to know their subjects, or at least discuss expectations, prior to taking pictures. So let’s talk a little bit about my personal touch.
Solo Portraits Can’t Be Uncomfortable.
When it comes to children’s portraits, getting kids to smile naturally is easier said than done. It’s even more difficult when a photographer waits until the day of the session to meet everyone. Little ones are taught, “stranger danger”, right? So I always encourage parents to schedule a formal meeting or video call beforehand.
The Benefits of Communication.
Talking to kids (and their parents) about hobbies, interests, fascinations and dreams is also a great way to come up with some amazing ideas! Participation honestly makes the experience a lot more fun! It even gives you something to talk or laugh about during the session. I’ve been known to bring a surprise prop along that will surely make them laugh or lighten the mood.
As a mom of 6, capturing a child’s personality kind of comes natural to me. I just love me an authentic smile! But they don’t always come easily. I have to be willing to tailor the photography experience to the child so they feel special.
Things to Say to Boost a Child’s Confidence.
When certain poses or settings get a little tedious (or there’s an awkward silence), I like to affirm their discomfort and tell them how great they’re doing. Encouraging children and reminding them the moment is “all about them” really does wonders. Most kids want to take good pictures! You don’t have to cave into their demands, you just have to lead them.
Saying, “I can tell this position isn’t fun for you”, allows them to be seen and heard before they complain. It can even help them hold a pose a little bit longer. If a child becomes uneasy, I try to reiterate how “stunning they look” or that they’re “doing a great job”. When I explain my intentions, I also like to ask them how they feel or if they have any questions.
Efficiency Starts with Understanding.
When children have a voice, they’re a lot more confident and cooperative. If we need to take a break for a few minutes, no problem! But we have to be able to work together. Unless they’re relaxed and motivated, capturing a child’s personality is nearly impossible.
Example of a Confident Capture.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of photographing a young lady by the name of Alyssa. She was looking for some professional portraits to highlight some of her recent accomplishments. Her parents let her pick out a photographer and I was so honored that she chose me!
Over the course of a few weeks, we worked together to develop exactly what she had in mind. I could tell she put a lot of thought into it and I was rather impressed with how confident she was throughout the hour-long session. When there’s a plan in place, capturing a child’s personality is a breeze!
Settings Can Bring Out Personalities.
A Good Plan Eliminates Concern.
After reviewing a few last minute ideas, Alyssa was ready to go! We started her photo shoot in an open tunnel that offered just the right amount of light. This helped us capture some candid shots as she warmed up to the camera. From here we worked our way outside into more light – just in time for golden hour.
Capturing a Child's Personality Better.
1. Use Simple Backdrops, Props.
During my shoot with Alyssa I incorporated a shabby chic black stool. She was able to sit and relax as I danced around her with my camera. The color of the stool blended well and it allowed her bright personality to shine!
This also allowed me to capture a bit of the beautiful greens in the background. The natural lighting brought out her great tan complexion, pretty purple tank and big beautiful smile! I like to focus on the little things when capturing a child’s personality.
2. Think of Meaningful Settings.
I’m so glad there was an area in the park with a big brick wall. Alyssa’s mom wanted to remember how her daughter was laying a foundation for her future. So I placed her in front of a cornerstone. It’s always a lot of fun when the parents and the child are involved.
Bricks add great texture to any background and they don’t draw away attention. It made Alyssa’s colorful shirt and smile look great! I love the above angle.
3. Identify Natural Positions.
Have you had one of those Ricky Bobby moments (Talladega Nights) – where you just don’t know what to do with your hands?! Kids can be really awkward when you try to force them to frame their hands around their head, face or neck area. Observing how a child holds themselves can really help you place them in comfortable positions.
Capturing a child’s personality is kind of tough when they’re acting out of character for the camera. You’ll want to find a pose that allows their hands to fall naturally as you ease other parts of their body against them. If they have to hold a position, forget about it.
Throughout several different poses, Alyssa did an amazing job using her props, surroundings, and hand placement! Her ability to act natural, showcase her gorgeous smile, and keep eye contact was refreshing. I never know what to expect when capturing a child’s personality.
Some of her best pictures were the first one’s we took. This shows how comfortable she was from the get-go. We both agreed the communication beforehand was helpful. I’m so glad I met Alyssa. She really encouraged me as a mother and I’m proud of her for not holding back!
A little more about Mrs. Alyssa 🙂
Alyssa is a dancing queen. She enjoys dancing so much, that she takes up to TEN classes a week! Yay for her! Her experience and maturity was impressive for an 11 year old. Don’t be surprised if you see her on Dancing With The Stars in a few years! She has no problem being herself and her her smile is so contagious!