Unfortunately, that’s not the kind of smile your children tend to produce when you pull out your camera for a family snap; instead, they save only their cheesiest grins or grumpiest grimaces for those occasions. If you’ve ever tried to capture a natural, smiling shot of a three year old, you’ll know what we’re talking about!
We asked Ben Jones, one of our incredible photographers at Verve Portraits, to reveal his secrets when it comes to eliciting authentic, organic smiles from the youngsters he meets in the studio. Read on and learn a few child photography tips that work!
So, Ben, tell us a little bit about why it’s so important to capture genuine smiles from the children during your photo shoots.
When children of any age first arrive at the studio, they are always a little unsure and even scared of what lies ahead, which is completely understandable. As their photographer, it’s my job to ensure that they enjoy their time in the studio and, if possible, forget that they’re even there for a photo shoot. Ideally, I’m looking to put the kids at ease so much that they don’t realise I’m taking their picture; instead, I want them to warm to me as a person and just relax. Once they’ve let go of any initial uncertainty, they allow that amazing, fun silliness to come out and they show who they really are. When we get to that stage, it’s not just them having fun – their parents, other family members, me – we’re all having an absolute blast! That’s why working with children is one of the most rewarding parts of my job.
How do you break the ice and help the kids to relax at the beginning of the shoot?
Magic tricks. I’m serious! Magic is the saving grace of a photographer who works with children. I might start by just hiding a coin between my index and middle fingers and then ‘pulling it out’ of one of the children’s ears. Cue amazement…followed by lots of laughter!
Brilliant! Do you have any other child photography tips or tricks you could share?
There are the usual tricks, like telling silly jokes or asking: ‘If Daddy was an animal, what animal would he be?’ However, I prefer something a little less commonplace. When working with children, the most important thing is to have fun and always be interacting with them.
For example, one of my favourite skits is to pick up one of the kids’ shoes and ask to whom it belongs. Once I know, I’ll ask the owner if the shoe is smelly or not. Regardless of their answer, I take a sniff and gasp for breath, struggling around the studio as though one whiff has nearly killed me. Whilst the kids are breaking down in hysterical laughter, I grab the camera and get shooting!
That’s fantastic! Once the shoot gets underway and the kids are in their comfort zone, how do you continue to get the best shots without the children getting bored?
I like to learn as much as I can about the little ones I’m working with; once you know more about their characteristics and interests, it’s much easier to personalise the shoot to their family’s needs.
For example, I was recently working with a little girl who loved Disney Princesses more than anything else in the world. When I asked which her favourite Princess was, she replied with Elsa from Frozen (…which is an answer I hear frequently!). Since Elsa’s special power is to manipulate ice, I asked her to ‘freeze’ me: obviously, I landed in a silly position, only able to move my lips, and begged her to ‘unfreeze’ me.
By this point, she was crying with laughter, as were her parents and brothers. So, we took that idea and ran with it – we did some fun shots of her ‘freezing’ and ‘unfreezing’ the rest of the family. Those shots were incredible and really captured the beautiful bond between her and the rest of the family.
So give Ben’s tips a go, but if you really want great photos of your kids, why not bring them in for a photo shoot at Verve Portraits? Find out more here