Guest Blogger: 5 Tips for Children’s Sessions by Summerland Photography
This week, please welcome guest blogger Summerland Photography who reveals some tips for photographing children.
Kids can be a challenge to capture, especially at a family session where you’ve got lots of people to photograph and parents stressed out about getting their money’s worth. Here’s a recent family session and a few tips I use to make these sessions natural and carefree.
I love it when everything you could hope for in a session comes true! I first photographed this family a year ago for the youngest daughter’s newborn session. I was overjoyed to discover the perfect barn and pasture right next to their home. Talk about a score! When I did their family photos this year, I knew I was going to have some fun taking full advantage of it.
Photography is much like real-estate; Location! Location! Location! But, even with the perfect location taken care of, there’s still plenty you need to do so you don’t waste a good opportunity.
1. Wardrobe is key. I tell my mom’s at their pre-session consultation to think about layers, textures, and accessories. At a newborn session I recommend keeping everyone in light, solid neutrals to not overwhelm the tiny baby, but at a child and family session they can incorporate more color and pattern. Just be sure to not make everybody matchy-matchy. Everyone wearing the same color and shirt is beyond 80’s and it’s a nightmare. I send them to websites like GAP and J.Crew Kids for inspiration.
2. Time of day. Yes the golden time of two hours before sunset is lovely, but little kids often can’t last that late. It’s better to have slightly less than ideal lighting and a happy kid. As a result I usually begin my sessions at about 5:30 p.m. That means I need to at least start the session in some open shade. I like to take them just to the edge of it, with the sun at their back which gives them just a little bit of rim light on their hair. Then I use a reflector to bounce the light back at them and brighten up the shadows. Once the sun gets a little lower then you can take them out of it and use either backlighting or direct lighting. I’m a big fan of the back lighting, though. You don’t have to worry about them squinting, and the light just exudes perfect summer day.
3. Keep them engaged. A little kid is only going to sit still for so long, and then they start looking surly and grumpy. You know the face I mean. When I need them to stay in place I use a fun chair or old crate for them to sit on. Then I get them to start telling me stories or knock-knock jokes. Need a really young child to smile? Have everyone sing the “Happy Birthday” song or even the alphabet. Then get everyone to start clapping. Babies love this and always start smiling.
4. Have the parents take a little walk. Kids can feel when mom or dad is stressed. If you have them standing over you barking at little Johnny to smile or look at the camera, not only will he not smile, but he won’t be looking at you either. I warn parents ahead of time that I’ll be doing this. Once the parents are out of the general area the child starts to relax and act more like himself.
5. A parent’s love. When it’s time to shoot pictures with just the parent and child, take you and your camera out of the equation. Get the parent to engage the child with kisses and tickles. Have them sing songs, tell stories, read a book, or just count all of their little chubby toes. Then just step back and capture it. Those will be the images they cherish, not the ones of them both looking at the camera.
Children grow and change so fast, and it’s an honor to be able to capture that. Go into your session with an open and cheerful heart and a child-like sense of wonder, and you’ll be sure to come back with pictures that reveal the magic that is childhood.
Sandy Summers Russell is a former metro newspaper photojournalist who fell in love with a small-town farm boy. She married him, moved to the middle of nowhere, became a mom, and started Summerland Photography in exactly that order. Now, instead of shooting breaking news, professional sporting events, and heartrending human interest features, she photographs brand new babies, fleet-footed toddlers, and jubilant weddings.