As a family photographer who primarily shoots mini-sessions, I work with kids. A LOT! I’ve had kids that do amazing in front of the camera, some who are shy, some who are not great listeners and make things difficult, basically any type of kid you could imagine.
Over the years I’ve learned a few tricks to getting kids to cooperate for photo sessions, and minis are no different. When I talk about mini-sessions with photographers, some just totally hate the idea of having to try to get a gallery of great photos in 15 minutes (mainly because they stress about the kids). Yes, they can be unpredictable, but if you go in prepared things generally go pretty smoothly.
So without further ado, here are my best 3 tips for getting kids to cooperate for mini-sessions:
It’s no surprise can be unpredictable at times, so I find it best to stay flexible and follow the kids’ needs. If they need to run around, I’ll let them run and be silly before being still to capture the shots we need. If they don’t want to stand but will be held, we’ll do that instead. I tend to read each child for cues to capture the best photos we can!
As I mentioned in my “Mini-Sessions Shooting Workflow” blog post, I like to start with the whole family together because it helps me get an idea of how the kids are going to react to getting their picture taken. Typically they start to warm up to me after Mom and Dad show them that it isn’t scary. If they’re wild with lots of energy, I can usually get a good smile from them with the whole family together to use as a head swap later if needed.
This one’s a big one! I love interacting with the kids to get the genuine smiles you know and love. This may mean me making crazy noises, or having Mom or Dad help by playing peek-a-boo behind me. Whatever gets those sweet giggles!
When the kids think it’s a game, they’re much more likely to cooperate. Sometimes when I have kids with a lot of energy, I throw in some silly photos to give them an outlet. We make a deal that they give good smiles for a few shots, then they can do some silly ones. That usually works pretty well!
When all else fails, bribes usually save the day! (It’s amazing what a child will do when candy is involved!) I always have the parents come prepared with some sweet favorites like candy or gummies. We take quick bribe breaks if we need to throughout the session. I don’t provide these because the parents know what bribes work best for their kids. Sometimes instead of bringing something with them, they promise a trip to get ice cream. Whatever works!
No two kids are alike, so every session will be different. I think the most important part about working with kids is to trust your instincts and roll with the punches. At the end of the day, the parents know their kids. Most won’t be mad at you if their kid doesn’t cooperate. It’s all about getting creative with the shots you can get! If their kid cries the whole time, capture those cries. It’s a season of life, and like any season, those memories deserve to be captured.
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