If you’re any kind of family photographer, knowing how to photograph shy kids will become an essential skill to master.
Because just like adults, kids comes in many shapes, sizes, and personalities. To say that photographing kids is the same experience all around would be naive – as they can either be running at your camera or running away.
Photographing shy kids is an art of itself. As a photographer, are aim is to capture our client’s genuine expressions, but how can that be accomplished with the shy ones who won’t even look at you?!
Because let’s face it: if you can’t find a way to get those genuine smiles out of “shy” kids, then you aren’t performing your job at 100%.
Before any photo session, it’s important to get to know the family, including the kids you are going to be working with. This will help you “feel out” what kind of personalities are on the table and how you will have to tailor your approach to them.
When you know that you will be working with a shy kid, it’s always helpful to map out your approach ahead of time.
How can I make them comfortable?
What can I do to have them open up to me?
When’s the best time to ask for them to be involved in the photo session?
These are are great questions to go through BEFORE picking up your camera and taking a single image.
Why photographing shy kids needs a different approach.
Using the same methods to photograph shy kids that you use to photograph outgoing kids simply won’t get you the same results.
For one, shy kids are SHY and they need time to feel comfortable before showing their true selves.
Just like adults, shy kids do better with one-on-one interactions. Putting them in the spotlight front and center to perform simply won’t work – and it might even have the opposite effect.
You want to make them feel at ease so they trust you enough to come out of their shell, even just a little bit.
(Download this FREE kid prompts guide to give you some ideas)
Not good with kids? No problem!
You don’t need to be “good with kids” in order to photograph them.
In all honesty, I was never good with kids growing up. Even into my adulthood, I didn’t always feel confident photographing kids because I wasn’t used to being around them. But, what I found over time, was that kids are way easier to photograph than adults.
With adults, you need to spark up conversation, small talk if you will. It takes adults a lot longer to build up their confidence to show their true selves in front of a camera.
But, with kids? They don’t have as near as many insecurities as adults do – even the shy ones.
You will just need to find your opening to help them open up to you, then the work becomes much, much easier.
Let’s go through the thought process and break it down even more so you can start photographing shy kids more confidently.
BREAK THE ICE
Before I photograph shy kids, I like to get to know kids first.
This helps me in a few ways. First of all, it helps me feel out what type of personality the child has. Having 4 kids myself, I can pretty much instantly tell how they respond to strangers and what it might take to warm them up if they aren’t chatty right off the bat.
Getting on their level helps a ton, so just crouching or squatting down to talk & interact with them before the session begins is where I like to start.
Then, you can ask them questions about their name, how old they are, favorite color, etc. This lets them know that you’re interested in who they are and it will help free any tension they are feeling.
Some kids might not respond quickly, or at all, but don’t let that deter you. Make sure the family is also involved in the photo-taking process too!
GIVE THEM SPACE
Being a shy kind once, I can personally say that being exuberant and “up-in-your-face” is not the way to go about winning a quiet kid’s heart.
Sometimes you just have to give them space and let them warm up to you.
During this time, let them see YOUR personality by interacting with their parents and family members. Once they see you are a person to be trusted and easy to talk to, they might just feel comfortable with you around too.
photograph shy kids from afar
If the children that you’re working with happen to not warm up to you as quickly as you need them to, this this can be a good way to break the ice AND get in some photos.
While I don’t do shoot this way often, I like to bring a longer lens (my favorite is the sigma art 85mm) so I can back WAY up and give the kids some space.
This allows the child to interact with the rest of the family more freely without feeling like they are front and center of the action – which is exactly how a shy kid will feel when you single them out.
So don’t forget to bring a longer lens on photo day in case you need it!
DON’T FORGET TO SMILE
If you want to photograph shy kids more genuinely, then this is an absolute MUST!
This should go without saying, but don’t forget to smile while you’re taking their photos.
I mean, how would you feel if someone was trying to get you to open up to show them your genuine expressions and they kept a straight, uninterested face?
It would be pretty awkward, right?
So make sure that YOU also bring your smiley face to your photo sessions – trust me, it will make a TREMENDOUS difference in your work!
DON’T FORCE IT
Whatever happens when you photograph shy kids ( or any kid for that matter), forcing them to cooperate will rarely yield in a positive outcome.
As an adult, do you enjoy being forced to do something out of your comfort zone?
Of course not!
And that should be taken into high consideration when working with children. Unlike adults, they don’t always have the courage or discipline to get past fears and awkward moments on their own – so forcing them to do something will probably leave a bad taste in their mouth.
Now this isn’t to say you can’t get kids to do your bidding during a photo session. It just means that you have to be extra creative about it!
Encouragement, prompting, and bribery can go a long way, so use those wisely and save the forced posed shots on someone else – like a dad or a crazy uncle.
When you’re stuck on how to get gets to loosen up for their photo session, using prompts can turn any sour session into something lively and fun!
For a shy kid, it might be harder to get them to make silly faces or act like their favorite animal on command, but there are plenty of ways to encourage them to participate.
My personal favorite for quiet kids is to have them look at me and not smile. I take a few photos and tell them “whatever you do, don’t smile.”
This usually brings on a grin. Then I remind them again to “NOT SMILE,” and then comes an even bigger grin. Before you know it, they are full out giggling and showing me their authentic smile.
For more pose-free prompts, download this FREE kids prompting guide (no email required).
Photographing shy kids might be a little tricky at times, but it’s always the challenging sessions that bring the most fulfillment!
Next time you photograph a shy kid, keep these tips in mind and you’ll do just fine.
What has been your experience PHOTOGRAPHING SHY KIDS? SHARE THEM IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!
And if you want even more tips on how to capture kids more authentically, then grab my e-guide, Capturing Kids. Filled with only THE BEST tips for getting perfect photos of kids, anytime, anywhere.
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