A friend of mine from high school is visiting Northern Michigan during the Independence Day holiday. She lives in Atlanta and doesn’t find her way up here very often, and this was to be her two year old son’s first venture this far north. Ami (my high school friend) hired me to more or less document the trip. I’m not quite done shooting yet, but this photograph is the creme of crop thus far…at least to my mind.
Ami & her husband Eric asked me to join them in Harbor Springs and shoot some photographs along the waterfront. This one was taken on one of the piers directly behind the Pointer Room (hoighty toighty fine dinning. Well worth the bucks, just make sure you bring enough of them). They walked up and down the pier enjoying the scenery whilst I created photographs. Bennett, being just two years of age, has yet to grasp the notion of private property, and was pretty insistent that he be permitted to board each vessel moored. Much to his chagrin, no acts of piracy took place.
I was speaking recently, with an old classmate. I had been browsing photos of her children. She remarked that her son was very photogenic, but that her daughter didn’t like having her picture taken. But the truth is that both of her children are very photogenic…one of them just happens to be a ham and makes it easy for the photographer.
Photographing children can be difficult sometimes. I’ve found that the best kid photographs are the ones where you didn’t try to pose the child, but rather the ones where you just let the kids be kids and create their own moments for you to capture.
This is especially true when photographing children you don’t know. Kids have been drilled and drilled about “stranger danger” as well they should, but it does make a photographer’s task tricky. As I’ve mentioned before, child portraits aren’t my favorite thing, but if the money is green, it still puts food on my table just the same…so ya do what you do and you do it the best you can. The first trick is to try to establish a connection with the kids. This can be hard to do when you only have a brief period with the kids to photograph them, but you do what you can. An outwardly friendly relationship with mom and dad in the children’s presence helps. I tend to be pretty rough around the edges and children to do not naturally take a liking to me. So if you’re like me, then you gotta ham it up a bit. It might feel phony and ridiculous, but the younger the child, the more likely they are to buy it. Just don’t do anything lame like rub their heads or call them “slugger” They are people…just smaller. Treat them accordingly.
An uncooperative child does not mean you will not get good photographs. Just look at the work of Jill Greenberg and you will see what I mean. She intentionally made children cry for her work called “End Times.”
Let the child do what the child wants to do, and don’t try to compete for their attention too much. If you can get the child to look at the camera from time to time, great, if not, great.
The biggest thing to remember is that you have to work fast. Think like a sports photographer. Those moments are fleeting, so shoot shoot shoot. You’ll probably dump about 80% of what you capture, but you should be able to pull out some real gold.
Also, kids have short attention spans. Don’t keep the kid in the studio or in front of the camera all friggin afternoon. Even the biggest little ham will tire of it on short order. 30-40 minutes is probably pushing it with most kids.