Photographing Young Children

DrewB is a wedding and family photographer and owner of DrewB Photography. She also writes a popular blog for moms who love photography called Mom*tog.

You wouldn’t know it, but my four year old hates to have his pictures taken. HATES it. He’s fine if I have the camera out and am snapping pictures of him playing and hanging out. But, he doesn’t like it when I attempt to do stylized shoots with him.

For Halloween, Brayden (who was three and a half at the time) was Superman. I had the perfect location and ideas for his Halloween shoot. It was my busy time of year and I had been so preoccupied taking pictures of other people’s children that the only time I had to do my own kid’s pictures was early on a Sunday morning. I set myself up for failure. He was tired and a little sick, which is not a good combination. This is what happened…

He cried. A lot.

And screamed.

He screamed so loud that I was afraid someone would hear and call the police to report a kidnapping. It was a major meltdown of epic proportions. The shoot ended before it even started.

It’s sad for me when Brayden doesn’t like to have his pictures taken because I LOVE to take his picture. And most of all, I love spending one on one time with him. It broke my heart when he freaked out the way he did. Not even the best shot is worth the stress it was causing him.

But, on Monday morning he surprised me and told me he wanted to try again. I made him promise me he would have fun. And guess what? He did. I did too.

I’ve had to get creative about how I approach taking pictures with Brayden. I want it to be a positive experience for him. Here are some tips that have worked for us:

  1. Have the obvious bases covered:  Make sure your child is fed and not tired. Having a tired and hungry kid is setting yourself up for failure. Obviously.
  2. Let your child choose the treat they would like as their reward. Promising them a toy after the shoot won’t work. Kids need immediate gratification. Make sure it’s something that’s not too chocolaty or sticky. Avoid suckers unless you want it in all your shots. Because once you give them a sucker, you can’t get it back. Brayden loves Pez. I pop one in his mouth every few minutes and that keeps him happy.
  3. Ask your child for input on the shoot. For Brayden, he didn’t like the “old” buildings. They scared him. So I let him pick and choose where we would shoot.  Make your child think they are in charge.
  4. Make it fun!  If you do your best to have fun and not be stressed about getting the perfect shot, then your kid will (hopefully) have fun too. Make it an adventure for them. I told Brayden that the area where we were shooting was Superman’s home. We talked about where he lived and how Superman flew from building to building and fought the bad guys. He got really into it!
  5. Make a memory!  I don’t ask Brayden to take pictures anymore. I ask him to make a memory with me. I show him lots of pictures on the computer and talk about the memories I have from the pictures. He loves looking at them. When shooting I try to remind him that we get to go home and look at the memories we are making.
  6. If they’re not into it, put the camera down, give them a hug, and try again tomorrow. It’s not worth them getting so upset over it!

For more photography tips from DrewB, check out Photographing Your Own Baby and Understanding Cropping.

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