Heading to your first photography session can be daunting. W.C Fields famously said that people should ‘never work with kids or animals’ and it’s true, photographing children can be hard work, but also incredibly rewarding. The good news is that by building up your experience and working with as many clients as possible, your confidence will grow, and you’ll find it easy to break the ice.
So, how can you break the ice and get people feeling more comfortable in front of the camera, so you can feel more comfortable behind it?
Don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach
Before you try out any techniques, one of the key things to remember is that not everything will work for everyone. Go with the flow and treat each photo as a mini-session in itself. Don’t apply the same, typical approach to every child, as it won’t work for everyone – try to figure out what will work best with a child and you’ll achieve much more natural shots in the process.
Children can feel very shy and self-conscious when they’re in front of the camera, so if you can work in an environment that removes distractions (and distracting people!) then it can put them at ease.
When kids feel like their whole class is watching them or they’re in a loud, noisy room – it can make them feel more anxious and in turn, their photos won’t be as natural. You want to create the most natural, relaxed photos that you can, so work on trying to make the environment children are photographed in as calm as possible.
Being photographed by a professional is a new experience for a lot of children, so offering clear direction lets kids know where they need to be and what they need to do. Talking people through what you’re doing what will make them feel more confident in your session and you can complete your shots.
Remember that you’re in a school environment, so helping children to learn about the process can be effective – give children the information that they need to take a good photo. But you don’t have to do this in a teacher-like way, be a friendly face and engage with your subjects.
Creating a more relaxed atmosphere can be done in lots of ways and one of them is through humour. You don’t have to go full on ‘clown mode’ and launch into a comedy routine, but cracking a few jokes here and there can go a long way towards making children feel more comfortable, in what can be a challenging environment for some.
Try to get to know the children a little and make them laugh – this can help to break down barriers, make things less awkward and help the situation to be more relaxing. You can also capture some natural shots.
Depending on the type of shoot you’re doing, you could use props to help break the ice at a school. Turning a traditional school photo on its head and encouraging children to do their favourite poses or use props to have a bit more fun, can be a nice breakaway from the status quo. You can also use new, fun backdrops and different angles too.
Encouraging children to bring in a prop, such as their favourite soft toy, book or hobby can help to make photographs more personal and authentic. It can help children to focus on something else that makes them feel more comfortable and you can get some quality photos.
Carving out a reputation for yourself as a photographer that’s creative, fun and likes to be different can work well. You want the school to be excited that you’re coming back each year – trying out these techniques and changing your methods for each child can help you to get high-quality, natural photos that children are comfortable with.