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6 Tips for Photographing Unruly Children

6 Tips for photographing difficult children

If you have ever photographed children, then you know that their moods can be unpredictable and change on a dime.  They may come to the shoot upset or just be having a difficult day.  Whatever the scenario, here are few quick tips to help you overcome some of the difficulties you might face when photographing children.

1.  Good Old-Fashioned Bribery

Bring candy! Keep a jar of the clear and yellow gummy bears with you at all shoots involving children. Remove the green and red ones because they stain the lips and tongue. As soon as you meet the kids, give them one. You will instantly become their friend and they like you better! With real difficult kids try giving them a goal like this, “Let me take 3 pictures then I will give you another candy.” If the parents have chocolate or suckers or any red/blue/green candy, be sure to ask them to use your candy instead to avoid staining of the lips and mouth that will be very difficult for your post processing.

2.  Just Say NO to “Cheese”

Think of a new word!! Shout “Hey” or just make funny noises to get the kids attention.  The funnier the better. Fake or over the top sneezing always get a giggle. Want a boy to laugh? Say something gross: booger, dirty toenails, and any variation of the word poop will have them laughing their heads off and lead to real smiles. Ask little girls to talk about their dress or who did their hair for the photos. 

3.  Get a Silly Sound Machine

I bought an inexpensive battery operated sound machine on Amazon, one with a remote. This little piece of machinery is almost as important as my camera! It has a list of funny noises that always break the tension and get the kids laughing. If you have a particularly hard child, try letting them hold the remote and choose the sounds. This also works well on dads! A bubble machine is always handy as well, and can be cute in photos. 

4.  Pretend You're Not Taking Pictures

When all else fails, stop taking pictures. Say “ok, sorry kids my camera is acting up, stay right there for a minute while I check it.” Then pretend to be working it and taking test shots. Like magic the family will start acting normal and you will get some real shots! Also, in the very beginning of a shoot I say I am just taking test shots before we start. They are often some of my favorites from the session before they even knew we began.

5.  Let Them Help You

Little girls are very good at mothering and love it when you give them a task. Ask them to be your assistant and help pose mom and dad. Little boys like to touch your camera. I often let them come behind me and look at the photos and then push the shutter to take a photo of mom and dad. When one child is being particularly hard, just let them out of the shot for a minute to help you. Once they take a few shots of the rest of the family they often go back without as much fuss to be included. 

6.  Embrace the Chaos

When you get to the point you have lost control. Just let it go. Let them run, jump, cartwheel and act like monkeys. Turn up your shutter speed and catch the action.  After you are sure you have at least got enough to feel good about your session, try one last time for a controlled set up.  They should have used some energy and will be laughing.  It's the perfect time to settle down for one more posed shot.

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