As a professional – photographing kids for a wide range of advertising and editorial projects – I aim to capture real emotions and avoid the strained, forced and overdone grins that so many children have been trained to put on from the moment they spy a camera. These tried and true techniques have been especially handy documenting my daughter's early years.
Don't tell the child to "say cheese" or "smile for the camera.” Instead, spend some time talking, laughing and joking while holding your camera in your hands. When they're comfortable and relaxed, start watching for those great genuine expressions and get ready to snap!
Practice using the live view, or not looking through the camera at all, so you can be even more discreet when shooting. With babies, I like to hold the camera next to my face so they can make eye contact with me and still be looking towards the camera.
Shoot, Shoot and then Shoot Some More
Keep that shutter going even when you know the shots aren't working. All models like to feel they're doing a good job and this is even more important with kids. Keeping up a rhythm of shooting is a great way of boosting your subject's confidence.
Keep It Positive
Never say things like "That's not right" or "Don't do it like that.” Instead, say "That's wonderful, now let's try it this way." Show excitement and enthusiasm for everything they do and soon you'll get their excitement and enthusiasm coming through in your photograph.
Go With The Flow
Don't get hung up on preconceived visions of what you want the shots to look like. Let the child take the lead and be ready to follow wherever that takes you. You'll get much better shots if you don't try to force things.
Challenge and Cheer
Kids love playing games, being challenged and winning. So instead of saying things like "Come sit on this rock," try "Bet you can't climb that rock" then cheer wildly when they do and make the picture part of celebrating their accomplishment.
Make it Fun
If you're stressed, the child's going to sense it and all cooperation will fly out the window. The moment you or the child are no longer having a good time, it's time for a break. Add to the fun by letting the child do harmless, but frequently forbidden activities like blowing bubbles in milk, jumping on the bed. Becoming a co-conspirator is a great way to build instant trust.
Take turns making faces, crossing your eyes, or touching your tongue to your nose. Shoot the silly activity but be ready catch the real laughter that follows.
Take Your Camera Everywhere
If you don't have your camera with you, you can't capture the moment no matter how perfect it is. I love the compact size of the Olympus Stylus® and Olympus PEN® cameras – they're my go anywhere cameras. Plus, the Olympus dust reduction system and weather-proof housings mean I'm never afraid to pull my camera out. Sand, surf, pool or tub, if kids are having fun, I can capture it.