THIS IS A GUEST POST COURTESY OF KENZIE HUNTER HOKANSON OF THE COPPER FOX STUDIO
We’ve all been there. You’ve had a session where it’s just not playing out the way you thought. Maybe the kids are overstimulated or scared, but either way, they are absolutely just NOT interested in cooperating for that beautiful family photo that you’ve been hired to capture. I find these sessions exhilarating. You may think I’m nuts. That’s okay. But I view it as a way to really connect with the real reason why my little clients are struggling- and how I can better understand and help them feel comfortable. If you’ve struggled with this situation before, here are my 5 top ways to connect with your kids, and how to make your smallest clients your best clients!
Take your time
The most important lesson I’ve learned from working with children is never to rush them. They are experiencing everything from a level of wonder. Look to see what they see, and aim to capture THAT. If kids feel rushed, they almost always become tense and shut down. Never wonder if taking the time to sit down and talk with your smallest clients is worth the risk of missing a shot. It takes only a few minutes to make a friend and you can only increase your connection and comfort with the family.
Get on their level
When connecting with client’s children, I find that they respond better when you are down on their level. Kneel or sit down and genuinely talk to them as an important part of the group. What makes them happy? What are their interests? Ask questions or tell short stories that will allow them to see you as a friend.
Make them feel special
One trick I use with young clients especially is making them feel special. Usually, at this age, they are old enough to know what is expected of them but aren’t often asked the questions that children ask each other…but from an adult. What is your second favorite flightless bird? Did you know cows have more than one stomach? What do you think it feels like to walk on the moon?
When I see that a client is struggling, regardless of age, I will pull them aside for special photos of just them. If the need arises, I put my camera down and really try to find a way that will make them see that I genuinely want to know about them as an individual BEFORE I see who they are within the group. Family dynamics are often restrained in sessions because they are needing that “good photo”. Take the pressure off!
Another way to make them feel special is to ask for help. When kids feel important enough to be a helper, they are instantly more open and willing. Ask them to stand by you and make silly faces that make their parents/siblings laugh. Ask them to help you pose a shot. See who can find the biggest stick or leaf for you to incorporate into a pose. As long as it is interesting and fun, they will stay focused!
Play a game
This is a great way to break the ice. Different games for different age groups work wonders in making a family feel comfortable. Whether you use peek-a-boo to get a one year old to look at you and smile, or you are convincing teens to burp the ABC’s, keep it light-hearted!
For the very young, I try to keep different items in my bag for games. Ribbon, a string of lights, bells, whatever I can use and easily keep hidden for a surprise dance party or item that will help distract!
Put down the camera
At the end of almost every session with young kids, I will “end” the session by telling them how AMAZING they were. I will let them see that I’ve capped my lens and am putting away my camera- and then use that opportunity to sneak a few extra shots. I will get super excited because I pretend to see something exciting and ask if they can check it out, or just casually walk behind them as we are leaving to get the beautiful candid photos of a totally relaxed family.
So, whatever happens, exude a happy, calm demeanor and let them know that whatever happens is okay. We will get exactly what we need and we just want to see them for exactly who they are. Perfect little models!
What’s your favorite way to connect with your smallest clients? Share in the comments below!