1. Techniques

Working With Small Children

Intro by Skip Cohen

Watching photographers who specialize in working with small children always amaze me, because I just don’t have the temperament for the patience required during the process.

Beverly and Tim Walden have captured some of photography’s most beautiful portraits of children. In fact, it’s how Beverly and I first met twenty+ years ago. Beverly was the winner of Kodak’s Gallery Elite Award one year at PPA and working together with Terry Deglau I presented her with the grand prize, a Hasselblad camera. Her winning portrait was of a little boy.

This guest post from Beverly has some great tips for working with small children, but there’s one other component that’s critical. You’ve got to have the skill set to capture the image and that means understanding ALL aspects of the craft from your gear to exposure to composition and lighting.

There’s no room to fake it ‘till you make it – you’ve got a short time to get the shot and the more you practice and understand the ingredients for a great image the better the results!

Check out this free download of the “Walden’s Enemies of Creativity” list all photographers who photograph children can relate to. It’s just a click away.

By Beverly Walden

One of my favorite tips when working with small children has to do with getting them off of their feet.

Remember, when on their feet, THEY WILL RUN! And, unlike their parents, I don’t believe they ever “run out their energy.” Personally, I have never seen a child get tired of running around the camera room, then sit down and say “Now I’m ready to be photographed and I will listen to every word you say!”

So, how do I do it?

The first step happens in the Design Appointment when we talk to the parents about this issue. We ask them to bring their child/children into the studio in their arms on the day of their session. In other words, we tell them to carry their child/children into the studio and go all the way to the dressing room in their arms.

Then, we ask them to not let them out of the dressing room until they are again ready to bring them out in their arms. Feet do not touch the ground for as long as we can hold it off. This is the time we get the most intimate portraits of children with their parents as they are a little unsure of what’s happening and they cling to the parents.

Now, we all know that the child will start to squirm after a time, but by the time that happens, we have our beautiful and intimate shots complete. After they are put on the floor, we do more interactive and funny shots.

Caution: after kids are put down, they are NOT going to want to be picked up again, so make sure you are done with those poses before you allow it!

What if the parent is not part of the portrait?

Well, we follow the same principal. We want to get them either seated on a chair that is full size so they are up off of the ground OR…this is the best tip of the day here!!! If they are standing, we put them up off of the floor on a short stool or block.

What does this do? It keeps them from RUNNING and MOVING around as they are now a little unsure of what is going on. They are standing on a 12×12 block which is 6” off the ground which keeps them in one place, lowers the wiggle factor and takes their mind off of moving. This also raises the placement of their body in most backgrounds which is great as the sweet spot is painted at about our waist level.

This is not to say you can take a lot of time to do your job, but it gives you a few, quick minutes to get beautiful portraits without chasing children all over the camera room. I have seen this trick work so many times…try it for yourself and enjoy the results!

P.S. When we place children up on anything, we ALWAYS keep a parent close as a spotter and we also have an assistant watching. The safety of our clients’ children is our priority! Hope these tips help make what can be a frustrating session a little easier!