Have you ever had a family session where the child/children want nothing to do with you or your camera? Maybe they hate having their picture taken or they’re scared of strangers. If this hasn’t happened to you yet, it’s bound to at some point. In just my short 15 months as a family photographer, I’ve experienced this more than once. And I like to think I’m pretty good with kids!
All kids are different and have different comfort levels and experiences. Many children who were born during COVID are still getting comfortable being around others. Even without that, it can be intimidating for a little one to show up to a place they’ve probably never been before, briefly meet someone and then have that person put a big black maybe scary-looking thing in your face. Many times this is all taking place after bedtime. It makes sense that not all kids would respond well, right? Nevertheless, you were hired to do a job and you have to find a way to make magic from the madness.
It can be really nerve-wracking in the moment when a child is shoving their hand toward your camera lens to hide their face, yelling “get away from me” or saying, “no pictures!” So what do you do? Here’s how I cope with this situation and still get a beautiful gallery to deliver to my clients.
1. Don’t panic
If you look stressed, you will make the parents stressed which won’t help the situation. They’re probably already on edge because their child isn’t responding the way they hoped. Assure them that you’ve got this! I tell my parents, “We’re going to roll it! I’ve photographed many little ones who don’t love the camera so this isn’t my first rodeo. Just have fun and don’t worry about me.” At the end of the session continue to be confident that you got what you needed and you can’t wait to edit them!
2. Use your location
This is where choosing your location makes a tremendous difference. I always look for locations with water if I have little or big kids that I need to engage. If there are things to do, kids will be distracted and won’t be as concerned with what you’re doing. Encourage the parents to let them play. Don’t force them into poses, instead, let the child lead the session. If he/she wants to play in the dirt, let ‘em!
3. Give them space
You’re probably going to need to get farther back than you would normally shoot. Avoid those close up shots unless you can catch them off guard and snap a couple close shots without them seeing you. If you have a zoom lens, use it! This will help you get more variety in the gallery without having to get too close.
4. Ignore them
It sounds weird but completely ignoring the child can make a world of difference. Keep your camera toward them and keep snapping but don’t look their direction. If it appears that you’re not worried about them, they won’t be worried about you.
Don’t be hard on yourself – It’s easy to come out of a session like this and feel defeated but know this is not a reflection on you or the child. All you can do is your best. And with these tools, I feel confident you can still deliver a gallery full of magic.
Chasing Creative was founded by Sarah Wagner, a corporate marketing exec turned entrepreneur. When she’s not photographing families + couples on the beaches of Southwest, Florida, she’s teaching other photographers how to build their businesses and grow their photography skills. Learn more about mentorships and coaching call with Sarah HERE.