Ever heard the old business rule of thumb that says “Never work with children or pets?” To that, in the true way of the Brits, I say “rubbish!”  Kids are actually who I love photographing the most.  When I first became a portrait photographer, it was a bit daunting when a difficult child entered the studio.  With a bit of trial and error in the studio and also having a young child of my own, I quickly learned several easy tips and tricks that can turn a cheeky child’s frown into a whopper of a smile.

Play the Game:

This is one of my greatest tools with chid photography.  Facilitate games for them to play and you are essentially controlling when and where you can get the most natural smiles and expressions.  There are a dozens of games that work well, but I’ll share my top three with you.

Make-Believe:  Taking children to the land of make-believe will help them to quickly forget their bad mood or shyness.  With this tactic they will often not even realise that you’re snapping an oodle of awesome photos.

A few months ago, I took my little girl to a grassy field of bluebells to snap a pretty picture.  By the time we got to the point of taking the photos however, she was fed up and quickly getting in a bad mood.  The situation was salvaged by getting her to look from bluebell to bluebell for fairies.  I snapped this while she was having fun fairy spotting. It's not anything like the image I had intended on getting in my mind, but it's so nice I don't even remember what the original idea was!
A few months ago, I took my little girl to a grassy field of bluebells to snap a pretty picture. By the time we got to the point of taking the photos however, she was fed up and quickly getting in a bad mood. The situation was salvaged by getting her to look from bluebell to bluebell for fairies. I snapped this while she was having fun fairy spotting. It’s not anything like the image I had intended on getting in my mind, but I liked it so much I can’t even remember what the original idea was!

Peek-a-boo:  Another simple yet very effective game.  Rather than getting a child to pose for a shot, get them to hide and peek around to see you.  Not only do you tend to get fantastic smiles and natural expressions, it adds a great element of play to the picture.

I was having a difficult time getting this little boy to stop long enough to take a picture until I started playing peek-a-boo with him.
I was having a difficult time getting this little boy to stop long enough to take a picture until I started playing peek-a-boo with him.

Dodge-the-photo:  This outside game tends to be a favourite for the kids I work with.  I tell them that they have to get from point A to point B without letting me snap any pictures of them.  Sometimes point B will be me if there is no good place to conceal myself.

These boys were running from the camera trying not to get caught.
These boys were running from the camera trying not to get caught.

Be a Kid Yourself:

Taking photographs of children requires a great element of trust from the child to you.  It’s imperative to get yourself down onto their level in every way possible.   This will make them feel much more at ease in front of your camera.

Get on their level physically.  Bend those knees and make it possible to communicate face to face.  The feeling of talking up to someone is generally accompanied by a factor of intimidation. 

Get on their level verbally.  Use vocabulary and a manner of speaking that they can relate to.

Get on their level mentally.  Simply put, act like a kid!  (Remember, kids are smart and don’t like to be patronized.  Act appropriately for the age group your photographing.)

Click on Page 2 below for more cheeky children photography tips!