Tips for working with children under 5 years of age.

Photographing children, especially those under 5 can seem like it would be really hard to get their attention enough to actually take a photo. I’ve been there for sure, a little cute two year old running in the complete opposite direction of my camera!

I hope these tips can help you out so that you can make the most of a session with those little kids that have lots of spunk and personality but don’t necessarily care about your camera, ha!

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1. Talk to the parents before the session

Next week, I’m going to dive into pre-consultations and why it’s important to educate your clients, but in the meantime, just know that it’s super important to talk to your clients about EXPECTATIONS.

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When you photograph children under 5, you really can’t expect them to pose, sit/stand, and be in one place for a long time. It’s really important that you talk with the parents and lay out the expectations.

For starters, children don’t usually last more than 45 minutes, and that’s saying a lot. Expect them to be behaved at least 30 solid minutes if you wish to have posed and perfect photos, less if they aren’t in the mood.

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However, giving your clients this expectation and explaining to them that if they allow you to play, explore, and be the kid’s best friend during the session, they may get more time and many, many, more photos.

Letting parents know that perhaps their child might not be up for photos is okay! This takes away any stress that the parents might have going in an letting them know that you’ve got lots of experience with children and if need be, you can always reschedule.

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Reassure your clients about your experience and let them walk away from the meeting / pre-consultation prepared and feeling excited for the session.

Tell them to bring snacks, drinks, and extra clothing so that in case the children get a little hungry or fussy, or dirty, they are well prepared. Bringing along toys are also helpful especially if the child is attached to toys, like my son doesn’t go anywhere with out a toy and so I’d probably have to bring along a bulldozer or dump truck along to the shoot.

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It’s better than having a meltdown before the shoot. Plus, it would most definitely capture who he is at 3 years old and I wouldn’t mind having photos of it!

2. Get on their level

It’s generally a good idea, and what I like to do before I take any photos, is to get down on their level and introduce myself. Ask them what their name is and just keep it light. If they don’t answer it’s okay. I’ll compliment them on something their wearing or a toy they’re holding.

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Usually they’re pretty shy at first. But bringing yourself to their level makes it more trusting for them to later play and tell you about their dog Georgie.

Getting on their level might also mean running around, playing tag, and asking them if daddy likes stinky farts. Anything to get a smile out of them, usually the 3-5 year olds will have a good laugh at the last one.

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For babies or children around 2 years old, making loud noises, singing their favorite songs, or placing them somewhere they can play with legos, building blocks or other toys can really help them to focus on something and maybe they’ll turn in your direction at E-I-E-I-O if you sing it loud enough, ha!

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I once had a kid who just really didn’t to pose, he was about 3.5 years old. He didn’t want anything to do with me or the camera. So I started asking the parents for favorite songs, favorite shows, until we landed on Dora the Explorer. He was a huge fan and at the time I actually had a hair cut short like her and well, I kinda look like her too. So we started play the “Dora game” and explored and I made silly comments, obviously got everything wrong about the show, and he laughed at me and we got some cute shots.

That’s the Dora toddler. Look at that smile! I’m sure he’s laughing at me but I don’t mind at all!

That’s the Dora toddler. Look at that smile! I’m sure he’s laughing at me but I don’t mind at all!

Sometimes, it takes a little more effort but find something, get on their level, and make it work.

3. Take breaks between posing and non-posing

Nothing can set off a toddler faster than being bored and being told what to do. Taking breaks between poses can really help a kid relax and have a lot more fun than being told what to do.

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When you feel like you’ve gained enough trust between you and the child(ren) ask them to pose alongside mommy and / or daddy. Posing mom and dad first can help the kids just fit into the photo pose rather than having them pose first.

Sometimes, giving them the choice of where they want to stand or sit can help you pose around them. This also helps them to feel like they’re a part of the show and usually if they’re more willing to pose on the left, let them!

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Other times, I ask if they want to pose with daddy or mommy and that can help them find the perfect place where they want. Having them make that decision can make posing happen faster.

Break up the session with walking shots, playful shots, maybe some exploring shots and maybe sun silly face shots. The children don’t often know that these photos are capturing once-in-a-lifetime moments, but what they will remember is how much fun they had. And that is what is more important than anything else.

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Get the parents to play along and tickle, throw the kids in the air, or simply do some huggy shots. Anything that makes the session feel less posed and more relaxed is a definite win in the kids’ eyes.

4. Don’t force it

This is a HUGE one for parents, and should be discussed when you meet with them before the session. DO NOT FORCE IT. A toddler who doesn’t want to sit on the right side of mommy, if forced, could have a meltdown or run away or cry and then shut down for the rest of shoot.

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Instead, have them choose where they want to sit. Sometimes the older kids get tired and don’t want to smile, don’t force it. Make some funny noises or play with a toy or have mommy and daddy help, but don’t force them to smile.

If the kid is not about the session at all don’t force them to do it. Have a shoot with the parents and sometimes, the kids feel left out and so they later want to join in.

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Find a way to get them to WANT to be a part of the session. But if you force it, you’re not going to have a good time at all. Especially if the parents are doing the forcing.

5. Reschedule it

If you can, and it’s most definitely an okay option, reschedule it! I once had a two year old who as she showed up to the session cried the whole time in a fit because she simply didn’t want to be there. We tried and it just got worse, so we rescheduled it for the next day at an earlier time.

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And you know what? It was 100x better! By the end of the session the little babe was picking out where she wanted to pose, even got to do a couple of clothing changes, and she was all smiles and giggles. Even shared her water with me.

Rescheduling can help reset everyone, parents included, and you might even get better photos than what you thought! I

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Some parents feel like they can’t reschedule or feel like they have to get it done then and there, but if you can, offer the idea of rescheduling and do it. Reassure them that it’ll be better for everyone and it’s not a problem at all! Of course, it all depends on your business model and what you have going on, but if you can, do the family a favor and just reschedule it!

6. Last but not least, schedule the session at a good time for the child

We may want to have those beautiful sunset photos with that gorgeous golden light, but let me tell you, a two year old who is supposed to be napping or already down for night night is not gonna care about golden light.

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A child who is supposed to be eating her dinner isn’t gonna care. A kid who is used to having his quiet time isn’t going to care. Work around the best schedule for the child.

I repeat: WORK AROUND THE CHILD’S SCHEDULE AND ROUTINE.

It’ll make life for everyone so, so, so much better. For example, one family opted to have a session at 9am because that’s when her kids were the most energized and awake. Another family was able to do right before dinner because that’s when the baby was the best.

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Making sure the children are at their best time is best for everyone. It’s the best way to avoid meltdowns due to hunger, sleepiness, or changes in routines.


There you have it! I hope these tips help you get a little more confident in photographing children under 5. And don’t forget to shoot in burst mode because these little ones are fast! Got any tips you want to share? Click on the comment box and leave a comment, we all could use tips from each other!

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How to pose large families

I love photographing large families! It is really amazing to see how the whole family can come together and spend some time getting their portraits taken.

It can also seem like a real challenge posing big families. But I have the best trick for you that you can apply to any family or group posing, not just large families. I use this all the time and don’t eve realize I do it anymore.

It’s called…

Triangle posing

Okay, so what the heck is triangle posing? It is using the shape of a triangle, either upright or upside down, elongated or short, doesn’t matter, as long as the heads of your clients form a triangle.

This triangle ensures that everyone in the photo can be seen, which is especially important for large families and groups.

It also means that when you’re posing children, you can pose them in front to create both layers and triangles so they’re not hidden or have to be lined up with the rest of the family.

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Creating these layers are great when you do have to line up the group so that there is more interesting depth to the photo, and not just a straight line of people. Which is what bridal party photos tend to look like, ha!

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This simple and easy way to pose large families will make it so the photo has some depth, interesting highs and lows among the people in the portrait.

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Grouping smaller families together

In large families, there tends to be the main people who gave way to such a beautiful and large family! Usually grandpa or grandpa, mama and daddy.

I like to place them in the middle so that they are the focal point and obviously the whole reason for this family to even exist in the first place!

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From there I try and group the individual families together on either side. Spouses and children stick together so that each individual family is together and forms part of the larger family portrait.

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Sometimes, it’s fun to just have everyone mixed in however they want, but try and keep in mind to group each family together for the formal portrait.

Natural posing

You’ll hear me talk a lot about Natural Posing. I’m not sure if this is an actual official term, I’d like to think I made it up! But either way it means just that: natural.

Natural posing can mean allowing your clients to just enjoy their time at the beach, park, or where ever you have chosen the location of your session.

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It can mean giving them a task like holding hands and walking while enjoying the sand between their toes. Or building sand castles together. Or perhaps a cute hug sesh between all members.

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Then, you the photographer, move a little further from the scene to document how it unfolds. Get experimental, get close, choose a different lens, and if you need to, ask your clients to hold the pose or do the same task again until you feel you got the shot.

This type of posing is really good for relaxing nerves, both for you and your clients. Trust me, even after 10 years of photograph people, I still get nervous.

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Natural posing let’s the session feel a little more relaxed and light rather than pose, pose, pose, and more posing. Which let’s be real, can get a little stiff and boring after a while, especially for little ones.

Shoot the individual families too

Even if my client only wanted a large family portrait, I always take a few of the smaller family units so that they too can have their own individual portrait.

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You don’t have to do a full on session for each family, just take a few group shots and then perhaps a couple of the children alone.

This also adds variety for your clients and can help you get some more orders in for individual prints, gift prints, holiday cards, etc. Instead of only giving grandma and grandpa a large portrait only of everyone.

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Plus, who doesn’t love photos of the children as well!

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Ok! That wraps up todays installment of Photographer Friday! A little short but I hope it was helpful and don’t forget to use the triangle post for interesting layering and making sure everyone is in the shot!

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Posing Families | Tips for Portrait Photographers

Posing, sounds like it would be really hard but it’s not! At least not with a little bit of prep and practice.

Posing can be really fun because it can be really subtle and it can make your clients feel a little more comfortable if you take a little bit of control.

Here are a quick five tips for posing families in particular. I’m talking about 5 people or smaller. Larger families will have their own separate post because it’s a whole different thing!

I’m not giving you exact posing because every family dynamic is different as is the location, time, situation, and mood. However, these tips will help at ANY family session to keep them going, keep them fun, and get the great images that the parents are going to want to buy!


START WITH NATURAL POSING

What the heck is natural posing? I know seems like a made up term, and it is. I made it up, or chances are I heard it somewhere. Anyway, the point of natural posing is to simply allow your clients to get into the groove of the session by just being themselves.

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This is helpful because it gives you time to get your exposure right, perhaps walk to an area that is perfect for the session, or just talk and shoot while keeping things light and less “in your face with a camera”.

Ask your clients to walk hand in hand, or carrying their children if they’re young, and have them just explore and check out the location.

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With smaller children, younger than 3 years, exploring and walking around helps them get familiar with their surroundings rather than forcing them to smile and pose at the camera right off the bat. Which let’s face it, toddlers kinda do their own thing and run the show most of the time, ha!

Even with older kids, giving them an activity can help them relax in front of the camera.

Even with older kids, giving them an activity can help them relax in front of the camera.

Getting these natural poses can really bring about real connection between family members and also authentic expressions which are probably the favorite images for parents.

During this time, get close to the children and explore with them as you take their photos. Ask them to run to daddy and play a joke or jump on him. Ask the children to hug or maybe make faces.

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All of this play will help you gain their confidence and they’ll eventually do what you ask. Of course it’s not a guarantee but at least they’ll think you’re fun.

POSE QUICKLY AND GO WITH THE FLOW

Posing can get pretty boring for children so try and pose quickly and go with the flow. It’s really important to tell the parents that children run the show and it’s the best way to gain their trust and with some coaxing, get them to pose as you want.

Pose mom and dad first and then ask the children to go on either side. After I asked them to all look at each other, which is the result at left. Then the kids wanted to show me their floss moves so I let them play and have fun!

Pose mom and dad first and then ask the children to go on either side. After I asked them to all look at each other, which is the result at left. Then the kids wanted to show me their floss moves so I let them play and have fun!

Start with posing the parents first. Put mama and daddy where you want them and then tell the children to pose with one or the other. If there is only one child, pose the child in the middle or perhaps being help by one of the parents.

Sometimes posing the parents where the children are is your best bet. This little girl sat on the rock as we were playing a game and I quickly asked the parents to sit on either side. Two seconds later, the little girl was running again!

Sometimes posing the parents where the children are is your best bet. This little girl sat on the rock as we were playing a game and I quickly asked the parents to sit on either side. Two seconds later, the little girl was running again!

Posing mom and dad first helps the children see that they too are listening to the photographer and so usually, the children quickly pose alongside the parents.

Here is where you have to shoot quickly and be ready to…

ACT A FOOL

With smaller children, you should be ready to act a fool. Play is the strongest asset you have when dealing with children under 5 years old because they don’t have any interest in getting their photo taken.

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However, if you’re ready to bark like a dog, sing the wheels on the bus as loud as you can, or jump around to get a laugh, you bet these kids are gonna do whatever you ask them to.

Get close and tickle babies, grab keys and shake them loudly around you. You can also use clapping to get attention. Play the peek-a-boo game or just anything you can to get their attention.

Wanna know how I got these kids to stay still? Before this I barked like a dog and meowed like a cat.

Wanna know how I got these kids to stay still? Before this I barked like a dog and meowed like a cat.

Sometimes you’ll have to swap out heads in the final images to make sure that everyone looks their very best.

If you feel like the children want to be silly, let them be and then say “ okay now a good smile for mom and dad”. This gives them the go for being themselves but also toning it down to get what their parents want.

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MIX STYLES

The best way you can keep children engaged in the session is to keep mixing both natural posing and directed posing. This keeps children moving and doesn’t let them get bored with the session.

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Giving them something to do also helps to keep them exploring and going. Children usually last a solid 45 minutes and that’s hoping for the best.

Switching it up can keep them going a little longer and you can get some really good expressions out of them by showing them photo sessions can be fun too!

Posed verses non posed. Both showcase the family as they are!

Posed verses non posed. Both showcase the family as they are!

So, what is your biggest challenge with posing families?

I want to know what you want to learn about each Friday, send me an idea!

Comment on this post!