I cringe in those awkward situations when the parents are jumping around making faces, faking sneezes or pointing to something that isn’t there to distract their child from the inevitable click of the camera. It’s a tough situation … we’ve all been there. And it’s understandable because how often are you in front of a professional photographer? And how often are you in front of a professional photographer during a wedding? Once a year if you’re lucky.
Stakes are even higher if your child is shy. Figuring out how to photograph shy children isn’t always a natural process but armed with common sense, there’s a handful of simple things a photographer can do to make your child comfortable.
Get down on your knees so you’re eye to eye. Put a big smile on your face and introduce yourself to the child by name. Tell them what you’ll be doing and how much fun they will be having.
Everybody like some space and no one more than a shy child. I choose my equipment carefully for the first photos so I can put a little distance between us. This goes a long way in making the camera less intimidating when we start to get a little closer.
Be yourself and find ways to connect with the child. They’re a kid after all…so what do they love most? Play and laughter. It’s what their spirit is made of and is your quickest way in to winning over their confidence in you.
Respect their individualism
Children are crafty at hiding. They can be truly shy or simply playing shy. Whichever it is, it’s their personality that you’re trying to capture. Often that doesn’t fit into the Sears portrait sit and cue smile setup. The best photos always, without a doubt come from letting the child simply be themselves. Their little (or big) personality emerges and you’ll have photos that you’ll treasure for a lifetime.
Stuffies or blankie or num num…okay, well maybe not the num num. The point is to let them have something that gives them comfort. It may not fit into how you were picturing the photos to be, but you’ll have a happy child versus a pouting one. And that makes compromise a really good thing.
Children want acceptance just as us adults do. Even the shyest of shy will open up in the right circumstances. They need to feel safe and to feel a connection with you. A warm smile and being approachable goes a long way.
Young or old, introverted or extroverted, it’s what makes my world interesting as a photographer. Every day is unique and brings fascinating people in front of my lens. There’s always a way to connect, it just requires some effort and understanding.