Capturing photos of kids can be a bit of a daunting task sometimes. They are typically on the go and are not always easily guided into natural expressions. In fact, most kids have their "photo face" that is a cross between a grimace and forced smile.
These are my favorite tips for capturing more natural facial expressions and photos of kids. These can be used with your own kids or with kids you are photographing for a client.
1. Engage Them in Play
When photographing them seems more like play and less like "photos" kids will relax and give you more natural expressions. Create an opportunity for them to play by placing them in the area you want to capture some photos and then find some ways to play. If you are photographing outdoors, you'll find all sorts of things to play with including grass and leaves. Silly games like peek-a-boo are also a fun way to play. As kids get a little older, engaging them with questions and jokes is another way to play together that can create opportunities for natural expressions.
2. Collaborate Together
This is a lesson that I have had to learn over and over again--we adults can be slow sometimes. Collaborating together with kids on photo ideas gets them invested in the shoot. All of a sudden they feel a part of what is going on. You will find you get the best expressions from them when they are creating with you and not just being told what to do. I have created some of my favorite photos when I have let them tell me what to photograph.
3. Sit Back and Watch
This may seem like a total loss of control to some, but I love it when I am no longer the center of the photos and they enter their own play world. This is especially fun when there are siblings to be photographed. This allows me to just sit back and watch their play and fun and capture them doing what they do best--being their authentic selves. I will still ask questions and move around but I am no longer the center of attention and that is golden.
4. Ask Questions
Questions are one of the easiest ways to find a child's interests or to delve further into interests you already know they have. Engaging them with questions finds commonalities. Questions are also a fun way to engage. Don't be afraid to ask them silly questions to create laughs and authentic smiles. This is also a fun way to take the focus away from the camera!