I don’t photograph a lot of children, but periodically I will have a reason to photography a child in my studio or on location. Over the years I have learned the most important thing when working with kids is to figure out some way to distract them and try to get them to think about something OTHER than the photo shoot. Kids are taught from an early age to put on a “big smile” for the camera. So any time someone points a camera at their face, they either run away and hide, or they break out this huge ear to ear “fake” smile like they have been told.
The challenge as a photographer is to get them to NOT use this big fake smile and figure out a way to capture a more natural smile or expression. I often do this by putting my camera on a tripod, use a remote trigger, and try to get the subject involved in some activity like jumping rope, playing with toys, bouncing a ball, anything other than posing for a camera.
In this recent shoot I worked to have my subject jumping up and down, spinning around, walking around the studio, and generally having fun so she would not think about the camera. I can’t show her face because of privacy issues, but I was able to get several natural looks by getting her to be active – in this case jumping up and down while turning circles. Later I sat her in a chair, asked her about her favorite foods, what TV shows she likes, etc., all to get her to stop thinking about the camera and show something other than her “big smile” face.
This photo is basically straight out of the camera with nothing more than very simple black and white conversion and a little bit of sharpening.