When I was first starting out in photography, I took on the great challenge of photographing some kids with absolutely no experience. Yeah, Dave, but you probably have kids of your own that you have experience with… That would have been nice. But, nope. No kids, and no kid experience. I might as well have been thrown into a lions den.
I took the approach that I would establish my authority and then they’d do what I told them. Sit here. Smile. Etc etc.
Nope. Epic fail.
Within five minutes I had lost control of the kids, the fun spirited atmosphere that I tried to set up, and the entire shoot! While the photos turned out alright, the shoot overall was a disaster. I actually came home and vowed to never photograph kids again.
This weekend, I gave it another shot. Yes, I know I’m brave. But, I’m also five years more experienced and wiser. Like a mighty wise oak… with a camera.
I set up the shoot as a back to school theme with a vintage desk, some books, and an apple. As I waited for the shoot to start, I gave myself a pep talk.
“You can do this Dave. Kids like to have fun, and you like to have fun. Just go with the flow and everything will be fine. Work with the kids, not against them.”
It worked! The shoot was a success!
While the shoot was almost lost a couple of times, I used my new approach to salvage it. I’ll give you a couple of examples of how using a relaxed attitude can save you if you’re having trouble photographing kids.
While the kids were eager to sit at the desk for a while and cooperate as I kept the conversation going, their attention span and boredom would quickly set in. One got up out of the desk and started running the other direction. While this could have been disastrous (not to mention I could have lost a child) I quickly used the go with the flow vibe to my advantage. Since the child had brought their own backpack for the shoot, I said,
“Wow, you’re fast! Let’s see how fast you can run with your backpack on!”
While I could have yelled at them to come back and sit down, I used his actions to take the shoot in a different direction. BUT, I also used his activity to my advantage by including the props that went along with the theme of the shoot. He was happy to run, and I was happy to photograph a happy kid with his backpack on.
In another incident, he wanted to explore, asking if we would go walking through the adjacent field. While I could have said no, instead I said why not, let’s go on an adventure. Little did he know that he led me to some amazing light in a pine tree hide out. It was awesome.
So, next time you’re having trouble photographing kids, and you can’t seem to control the shoot, let the kids do some leading, organize fun activities on the fly, and just go with the flow!
Have you tried this approach before?