Five tips for connecting with children during a photography session

Learning how to engage and connect with your clients can be overwhelming if you're just starting out. Strong connections will shine through your images and evoke powerful feelings in the viewer. If your subject is feeling shy, stiff or awkward it will be extremely noticeable. The trick is to make the session feel like a play date and then click the shutter when you see those connections.
I've created a list of five tips that I use during my sessions that will help you authentically engage with children. 

  1. Get on their level
    Kids don’t respond positively when being spoken down to. Put your camera down, get down on their level when you introduce yourself. Chat with them about their interests. Give them a chance to warm up to you before you start the session. They are more likely to cooperate if you show genuine interest and listen attentively to them. 
  2. Ask questions and get weird
    This will help them warm up and feel comfortable around you. Encourage them to talk about themselves. Build a relationship with them. What is their favourite thing to do? Favourite movie? Best friends name? Favourite food? Or when shooting siblings ask who has the smelliest feet or who snores the loudest. What silly words make them giggle? Is it bum, boogers or zombie? Ask them if they can say “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, maybe they will laugh at your attempt at saying it! Tell them sarcastically “whatever you do, DON’T SMILE!” then turn around and wiggle your bum, they won’t be able to keep a straight face, capture their reaction, then say “hey, I said no smiling!”. Get comfortable with being weird. The weirder the better!
  3. Be aware of your energy
    Just relax and be fun! Children will reflect your mood so you must be aware of your own feelings, body language and how you are acting. I have found it best to ask parents before the session, not to bribe their children or threaten them to behave or smile. `And don’t tell them to “listen to the lady.” You don't want forced obedience, you want authenticity.
    You don’t want the children to be afraid or told they must force a smile or feel like they have to perform for the camera so they can get a treat at the end. Although sometimes the parents don’t listen and end up yelling or getting angry with their child if they are not cooperating. If this happens, try to divert the situation to prevent the child from going into meltdown mode. You could ask the parents if they would mind you taking their child for a little walk, not too far away (always within eyesight of the parents) and work on gaining the child’s trust where they don’t feel pressured by the parents hovering over them. 
  4. Play games
    Kids LOVE games! Ask them to hold hands and play ring around the rosie, or sing songs, mix up the wrong words like “humpty dumpty sat on a bike”. Bring a bluetooth speaker, play their favourite songs and ask them to show you their best and silliest dance moves. Now do it again in slow motion. Ask siblings to sit close to each other and take turns using their nose to draw a picture on the other ones cheek. The other sibling has to guess what they're drawing and then swap.
    Of course, there are times when children just aren’t feeling it, and that’s ok! Never ever push it, and never show your frustration. Remember to be aware of your energy. 
  5. Plan a fun activity
    My goal is to capture authentic moments and connections that tell a story. Having the children engaging in a fun activity means you can achieve this without having to direct and pose anyone. You just need to plan something fun and interactive, then document the magic unfolding in front of your lens. Here's some idea's for inspiration:
    • Going for ice cream
    • Hot chips at the beach
    • Exploring through the bush/forest/woods
    • Roasting marshmallows on a fire
    • Painting or art and craft
    • Cooking together

If you found these helpful or know someone who will, please share! And don't forget to join my mailing list for discount codes, news and updates!

hervey bay photographer
hervey bay photographer