Shooting very young children can be one of the most challenging things to do as a photographer. They are too young to follow directions, easily tired and bored, reactionary and don’t stay focused. Sometimes it seems they just don’t want to have their pictures taken. So how does a photographer deal with this type of portrait.
First of all I prefer to actually shoot these in the client’s home. This eliminates the travel time which can often tire out the youngster. Being in their home also gives them a comfort level as they are not in a strange new place. It easy on the parents to provide additional clothes or props as needed.
When shooting I watch how the child is reacting to the shoot. Typically the shoot is done in several short runs of 3-10 minutes, allowing the child plenty of breaks to just have fun. If possible during some break time try to play with the child to allow them to find you a fun and safe person.
Be silly. Little ones respond to different things so try a variety to see what type of things the child likes. Funny noises or faces, classic peek-a-boo, favorite toys or just being on their level. I find that if I crawl down on the floor with the child it brings me into the “fun zone” and the child reacts much more favorable to me.
Watch how you react to situations that occur. A child is mimic. If you react upset or irritated, so will the child. If you are happy and laughing (even if you don’t want to) the child will respond the same way eventually. Even if the child is upset and crying and you think you will never get a shot, don’t lose your cool. Just take the break, laugh it off and put out the positive energy.
Sometimes a long lens is your friend. Put the child in a play environment and just let them have fun. Banging on a pot, playing with a box, just being a kid. With your long lens you can get the shot without the child even being aware. This works well with children who just don’t warm up to strangers quickly. Watch your angles and keep low to get those shots. You often end up laying on the ground to get the shot.
Once you get those great shots it just feels great. A happy little one will melt your heart and that of the parents. You will have created a memory that will the parents will treasure for a lifetime. And you will become the photographer of choice for future photographs.