1. Give the kids something to do. Running, playing, hula hooping, being silly, telling jokes… Anything they can do that holds their interest means they’re more likely to have fun, not get bored, and not get crabby about being photographed. Notice how kids don’t often sit still for long? The same is true when they’re being photographed; they get bored fast, so make sure they’re actually doing something to hold their interest. Kids at play make for great portrait opportunities, too, because of the inherent action in the shot.
2. Entertain them. One of the best things about photographing kids is that they’re innocent enough to let their guard down and not be self-conscious about being photographed. That means you can get great shots of genuinely happy, smiling faces if you’re entertaining enough. Funny faces, silly jokes, and not being afraid to play like a kid go a long way to having fun during a photo shoot. Silly almost always works well.
3. Don’t talk down to them and don’t be bossy. If you’re just another adult who doesn’t seem to understand what it’s like to be a kid, they’re going to lose interest fast. But if you’re genuinely interested in their lives and the things that they like, they’re bound to appreciate you a little more—and maybe feel comfortable enough to let you take their picture. And kids don’t like to be bossed around; they get enough of that from parents and teachers. Ask for their input, what they want to do, what kind of pictures they’d like to make and humor them.
4. Get down. Don’t be afraid to meet kids at their own level, even if that means you have to kneel down or even lay on your belly. Nobody promised that photographing children would be clean and pain free. Not only does getting to ground level provide a great vantage point, it shows the kid you’re willing to have fun and get dirty too. Kids like that—probably because it shows you’re different than most grown-ups.
5. Let them see your camera before you get started. Let the child hold it and look at it and most of all, let them push the button and take a picture. This not only engages kids and piques their interest, it keeps little kids from being afraid of the big intimidating electronic device you’re pointing at them. And again, it shows that you’re meeting them on their own level.