Children are unpredictable. In fact, the only thing that’s really predictable about them is that they ARE unpredictable!
So, how do we plan ahead for a photoshoot with kids? How can we make something unpredictable become predictable?
Here are 5 of our best tips for working with kids.
Tip #1: Plan Ahead.
Sometimes, when we feel something will be unpredictable, instead of trying to plan for it we throw everything out the window and hope for the best. While this approach is necessary with some things in life, it is not the best approach for your family session.
As we prep for our family sessions we always make sure to first prep the family! Some things we ask Dad and Mom to do before they ever even start getting ready for their session:
-Talk to their kids about what they will be doing
-Plan a fun activity for afterwards
-Pack snacks, water, and treats for rewards
-Bring favorite toys
After prepping the family we make sure to pack a few things ourselves. We like to bring hand clappers, balloons, or maybe a rattle or silly noise-making toy to help grab attention if needed.
We also pack some little treats and water to have along just in case Mom and Dad don’t have any. Be sure to ask before offering anything to them in case children would have any allergies or they don’t do sugar.
Build trust with the children.
Kids feel most comfortable in familiar surroundings where they know their boundaries and what is expected of them. So, arriving to a photoshoot location that is unfamiliar, seeing strangers with a bunch of weird gear, and being told to stand here or there is all a lot of unfamiliar and uncomfortable stuff to experience at one time.
When our families arrive we gauge how the kids are feeling based upon their demeanor. If they are excited and running around we know we can approach them a little more quickly and get excited with them. If they are hiding away in parents’ arms or behind legs we don’t force a connection right away. We give them a few minutes to see their surroundings, for mom and dad to encourage them and point things out, etc.
We always, ALWAYS squat down. Even if they aren’t ready to talk to us we go ahead and just lower ourselves down to their level.
Always smile at them and look into their eyes. Ask them easy questions and have fun with them! We love to ask kids how old they are and then make outrageous guesses before they answer. “Are you 27? 55? 100!!??” This often gets a giggle out of them and then they either tell us their age or we guess their actual age and act amazed.
You can ask their favorite color, ask about their favorite toy if they are holding it, or ask what they like to do outside, etc. You might not get a response to some of these questions but if you can start building a rapport and some common ground with them they will open up! Kids WANT someone to listen to them talk so make sure you really LISTEN! Repeat what they say and if you can even bring it back up later that’s a huge win!
You might encounter a child that just isn’t interested in talking to you or is feeling extra emotional/sensitive. Don’t push it. Back off the talking and re-route.
Lay aside all inhibitions and be silly!
It’s amazing how quickly we become embarrassed about acting silly as adults. We don’t mind acting silly when no one is around but when other adults are around we just can’t help but feel strange. But, who do you think does NOT think it’s embarrassing to be silly? Yup, you guessed it, KIDS!
Kids are ridiculous and if they can get you to laugh once at something they are going to KEEP ON DOING IT.
So take a page out of their own play book. Act silly. Depending on the age of your kids you’ll find some tricks work better than others. We play peek-a-boo all of the time and the best part…the parents laugh too!
Physical humor seems to always work well. Fall down, run around, jump up and down, dance, make silly faces, make funny noises, pretend you can’t find someone or something, etc. Just stop worrying about being embarrassed and try things until you find one that works THEN STICK WITH IT! No need to keep trying new things if the same thing will work. Use it until it’s no longer working. Again, kids think the same things are funny over and over so use that to your advantage!
Get them moving
Sometimes it’s just time to move! If kids are getting antsy take that time to do some walking shots, do a tickle fight, let them be playful and fun as a family.
Shake the wiggles out. Have everyone shake around and act silly. Play Simon Says and have them copy you. Do some silly exercises and then when you think they’ve gotten that energy out a bit, play the Freeze game. Position them where you want them and then have them FREEZE! Talk in slow-motion as you click away so that they stay frozen even longer, plus that usually gets them giggling!
Take a break and use those moments strategically and when it’s time to be done, be done.
We have up to two hours to accomplish our family sessions. There’s no way anyone can make it two hours without a little break here and there. And with all that time to work with we have no problem taking lots of breaks and giving kids a rest. These are the moments we might suggest mom breaks out some snacks or water if needed.
But we also try to use these moments strategically. Often not all of the kids need a break in that moment so while big sister is having a snack, we can photograph mom and little brother or dad and sister, etc. We always go for an individual of each kid, one of Mom and Dad with each kid, and Mom and Dad with each other so this gives us a lot of great things to be able to do while simultaneously giving our little friends a break.
And sometimes, we take a break with them. If you feel like you aren’t connecting with them yet then break time can be another good time to try. Now that you’ve gotten a few photos in they are probably warming up a bit. You can strike up a conversation or even play a little game of ring-around-the-rosie with them. Try not to get too crazy because it can rile them up a bit more than you want but making a connection is important and even if they get energetic you are making an impression and giving them a great experience.
The last thing you want to do is push a kid past the breaking point. We are all about providing a great experience for our clients and we want to set them up for success. That means reading the situation and knowing when it’s just time to be done.
We want these kids to be excited about future sessions, whether we are their forever photographer or not, and their experience now will absolutely affect their feelings about photos in the future.
So give them a great experience, love on them and care about them, and then end the session before they are falling apart, leaving them excited for the next one!
Bonus thought 😉
We’ve always been able to coax our little friends into having fun at a session however there are times when kids just can’t do it. Maybe they missed a nap or they are having a really tough day. As photographers who want to serve their clients first we are always willing to offer a reshoot if necessary. It’s not always possible with schedules but if we can make it happen we do.
We ourselves experienced this very thing with our first family photoshoot. Our daughter was 6 months old and we were ready for our family photos except for one thing…she didn’t NAP! I couldn’t get her to sleep for anything. I’m sure she was reading my excitement and nervousness and couldn’t settle down but that night as we worked with our photographers she was so somber and even cried a few times. Normally a super happy, smiley baby this was not like her at all. I said it was fine and planned to just go on with it because I understood that we had scheduled this and it wasn’t our photographers’ fault that she hadn’t napped, I wasn’t going to ask them to give us a new night. But our sweet photographers said “Let’s be done and find another day. This isn’t her at all and you want her to be smiling and acting like herself”.
We rescheduled and our girl was totally herself, the photos were amazing and are hanging all over our house. I am so grateful they were willing to do that for us and we want to extend that same grace and understanding to our families whenever possible.
**Inevitably, you will have moments when someone doesn’t want to listen and just wants to run, or they make a sour face or get dramatic. Some of these moments are the funniest ones to capture and before you try to coax them back into the group, grab a quick shot. Parents know their kids don’t always smile and sit perfectly and those memories of the imperfect moments are good too.
What about you!? What are your best tips and tricks for working with kids? We are always up for hearing new ideas and adding to our bag of tricks!!
Let us know in the comments!
And watch for our post on Tips and Tricks for Mom and Dad with a more in depth look at how we help our clients prepare for their session! Coming later this week!
August 21, 2017
“Because when you stop and look around, this life is pretty amazing.”
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