Photographing Children: Techniques for Bringing Out Their Personality in Portraits

February 15, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

Photographing Children: Techniques for Bringing Out Their Personality in Portraits

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_DSC1340-Recovered_DSC1340-Recovered I have been a newborn and child portrait photographer for many years and, if there is one thing I have learnt, it is that you can never pressurise a child into posing nicely or smiling for the camera.

This is one reason why, since establishing my business all those years ago, I have never put a time limit on my newborn or child portrait sessions.

Every child is different, some come bouncing into the studio full of joy and all too willing to smile for the camera, while others are incredibly shy or clingy (something I have noticed more since the Covid lockdowns). 

Working with very shy children in portrait photography can be both challenging and rewarding, and as a photographer I know it is my job to create a supportive and encouraging environment which allows children to relax and show their true personalities. In this blog, I’m going to talk about some of the techniques I have learnt for bringing out the best in children during portrait sessions.

Establishing Trust:

When working with children, particularly shy children, it is crucial to build trust. When a family first enter my studio I will greet mum and dad but then also make a point of crouching down to their child’s level and introducing myself to them. Taking the time to do this and engage my little model in a friendly and non-threating manner DSC_8964DSC_8964
before I even think of picking up my camera helps to assure them that my studio is a safe place, and that they are going to have fun while they are here.

Posing and Direction:

I avoid putting pressure on children to perform or pose in a certain way. Instead, I will offer gentle guidance and suggestions to help them feel more comfortable. Once a child has begun to relax in my presence, I encourage them into the shoot area and start with simple and natural poses, which allow my little clients to ease into things at their own pace. It is always good to encourage children to express themselves and I will often ask a child to get involved in the process for example, “Would you choose the Princess Chair or this white Chair?” Would you like to sit on daddy’s lap or mummy’s lap? and so on.

DSC_5952DSC_5952 Creating Atmosphere:

Ooh the joy of raspberries! I have yet to meet a child who doesn’t enjoy the sound of a well placed raspberry! I incorporate elements of play and fun into my child and family photo shoots which helps children feel relaxed and at ease. I use props and toys, make funny noises, pull faces and even use my atrocious singing to engage their interest and encourage spontaneous expressions and interactions. While preparing my panels for qualification there was much emphasis on posing; the correct placement of fingers, hands and so on. I’ve always believed you must learn the rules of photography, but also know when to break them, and in my day to day work I will focus on capturing authentic moments rather than fussing too much about achieving perfect, award winning poses. After all, the majority of parents would rather have a photo of their child with a huge, genuine smile on their face than a technically perfect pose with immaculately placed limbs and hands but a forced, unnatural expression.

Encouragement and Praise:

We all respond well to praise and encouragement and children are no different. I always ensure I praise my little clients throughout the session and have a reward for their hard work and co-operation at the end.

Patience and Flexibility

As photographers, we all go into sessions with an idea of the poses we would love to achieve. A lot of the time, especially when working with children, these plans will go out of the window and I find myself having to adapt on the day. Patience is required when working with children, and for a successful shoot you must always be prepared to work around your young model. If I sense a child is getting a little fed up during one of my sessions we will have a break; if they are resistant to a pose I will try a different technique. By remaining flexible in this way I can reinforce to them that my studio is a supportive environment and not one to be feared.

0707 Parent and Family Support

Parents do, of course, play a valuable role in helping children feel more at ease during a photo shoot. I always ask parents to participate in the session by interacting with their child; Indeed many times I have collaborated in the most wonderful duets of ‘Baby Shark’ or ‘Wind the Bobbin Up’ which I am sure would top the UK charts if released. There are times however, especially when there are other family members in the studio, that children can feel overwhelmed. Therefore, as much as I encourage parents to reassure, comfort and support their child during a session, I will also sometimes ask people to be quiet in order to avoid overstimulation or a child’s attention being pulled in all different directions.

Capturing Natural Moments:

Without a doubt the most authentic and memorable child portraits I have captured have been taken during moments of spontaneity. Over the years I have learned to anticipate such candid moments, and there is nothing that reveals a child’s personality more than the genuine expressions I am able to capture at these times.

To be a child portrait photographer you need to be patient, understanding and creative. Providing a supportive and encouraging environment helps children feel comfortable and confident in front of a camera, and if you have the patience and ability needed to bring out a child’s authentic self you will not only have a happy child in the studio, but a rewarding session where your clients will end up with portraits that truly capture their child’s unique personality.

Thanks for reading!


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