Cut the Cheese: 5 Tips for Photographing Kids

Photographing kids can be a real pain adventure! They’re busy, they’re squirmy, they’re fast, sometimes they’re cranky, but guess what? Comparatively, all of that stuff is a total piece of cake. The real challenge? The cheeeeeeeeeeese.

1.  Remove "Cheese" from your vocabulary
The word “cheese” is to authentic photography what a bell is to Pavlov’s Dogs. The MOMENT a kid hears it; they obediently put on their “picture face.” If you’re looking to create real, timeless images, avoid that word like an open field in a thunderstorm.

2. Chill
Just relax. Kids respond authentically to normalcy. If you’re chasing them around, desperately trying to pull smiles out of them, you’re going to get exactly what you’re asking for: strained, forced, inauthentic smiles. If you’ll just be patient and quietly go with the flow, your subject will warm right up, and you’ll eventually get what you’re looking for. 

3.  Disengage mom and dad
This point is probably more important than all the others combined. You’ve got to keep mom and dad under control. Often parents are tempted to engage to try to help force get their kiddos to cooperate. But when mom and dad step in with their frustration and angst, we get either tears or the types of expressions that the kids are trained to give for mom and dad.

At the beginning of a session, explain to mom and dad that you’ve got them covered. They are free to sit back and relax. They are allowed to hang around, but they aren’t allowed to intervene between the kids and you unless you specifically as for their help. This not only ensures you have the opportunity to connect with their kids the way you're hoping to, but it also alleviates a lot of pressure from Mom and Dad. “You mean, this experience doesn’t have to be a hellish circus for me?!” Cue huge sigh of relief.

4. Let them go
Instead of trying to contain children to a specific backdrop, allow them to explore. They’ll be a thousand times more cooperative when you do try to get them to do something specific if you haven’t spent the entire shoot calling to them “look over here” and “look over there,” and “stand up, sit down. . . fight, fight, fight.” Remember, your subject doesn’t have to be looking directly at the camera (or even facing the camera at all for that matter) in order for you image to tell a powerfully authentic story.

5. Be yourself
It’s not easy for everyone to connect with little people, and if you can’t authentically connect, how can you hope to capture an authentic image? The best thing you can do to create beautiful art with a child is simply relax and be yourself. Kids are perceptive. They sense when you’re overdoing it and aren't acting like yourself, and they’ll respond in kind. Also remember, kids love being treated with respect. If you respect them, breathe deep, act like yourself and have fun, you’ll be a big success. 

Everyone does things differently. The most dangerous thing we can do as educators is impose limitations on creativity. And the most important thing we can do as artists is fight against those limitations—self inflicted or otherwise—and find our authentic artistic voice (more on that in a future post). Take what you’ve learned here and modify it in a way that fits within the realm of YOUR unique style and passion as a photographer, or if it’s not a fit, throw it out all together. There’s not a right way or a wrong way to approach our art. The right way is simply whichever way we choose.

Join The Mailing List To Recieve Free Updates!

Back Next