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Photography Question 
Agnes Ensbey

How do you get shy nervous children to smile?

What do other photographers say or do to get shy/nervous children to smile, especially kids the ages of 5 and under? Do you have any tips and tricks that you can share?

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11/14/2005 3:40:55 AM

Debbie Del Tejo
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/30/2005
  When I had a studio and kids would come in to be photographed with the parents in tow, I always acknowledged the children. I asked names and shake their hands and got down to their level. I had this wonderful magic coloring book that always broke the ice. It is in three parts and the first one had nothing on the pages, the second had the images only in black and white and the third it showed the whole thing colored in. I made such a big production number involving the kids that it just broke the ice and they became my best friends. When they asked to see the book again, I always said I'd show them after our photo session.
One other trick that still works especially when I am photographing wedding with little ones....I make a duck sound when I have the camera in front of my face and then ask the kids if they made that noice.....and they say no......and I do it again and ask then again if they made that sound.....THIS HAS NEVER FAILED...... they will smile and say they did not do it and that I did is great for kids.
THE BEST THING IS TO BE ON THEIR most of the talking to them, after all, they are your subjects.
I once had a VERY VERY shy child that no matter what I did IT JUST WAS NOT HELPING........ I got on the floor and threw a ball at him and asked him to throw it back.......I played with him for about 5 minutes and this simple game broke the ice. You have to have PATIENCE when photographing chidren but they are the BEST sujects.
I hope I helped......photographing children is very rewarding.
And one note......if they want to take the toys home, I always told them that they had to come back to play with the toys here. I needed the toys for other boys and girls to play with, this way we had no temper trantrums when they were leaving.

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11/14/2005 1:05:29 PM

Agnes J. Ensbey   Thank you for that Debbie! I will try your suggestions, especially the one about making duck sounds, I like that one.

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11/14/2005 1:15:21 PM

Pat Wimpee   Agnes, I've been struggling with this myself. The last few times, I've set up a tea party with a teddy bear for the kids to play with. I introduce them to the bear, serve vanilla wafers (no mess) and let their imagination go wild. I start taking pictures while they're playing "tea party". After a few minutes, they relax and are ready to start really having their pictures taken. It seems to work best for kids 3-7 years.

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11/14/2005 8:59:40 PM

Michelle Ochoa
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/4/2005
  I just did a shoot of 13 different families in one day, all of preschool kids. They all know who I am, but two of them really didn't want to cooperate, and they were 4. One came with arms crossed, scowl on his face. He sat down with his parents for the shoot and would not even look at me. I tried a few different things, then told him I needed his help taking pictures of his mom and dad. He came and sat on my lap, and I let him push the button. His parents laughed, and I told him he could do it again if he sat with them. If you look at my gallery, it's the photos with the two parents ( a big guy in glasses and a woman in olive green) with a little boy in olive green. He wouldn't sit still (I think he has other issues), but I think I got some good shots. The parents seemed to be happy. I had another kid who brought a white bear, and I kept playing with him asking if it was a purple dinosaur. He said no, and I said a blue giraffe? He kept laughing, and I got some good ones of him too. You do have to be patient, and sometimes silly. Don't hold back!

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11/14/2005 10:45:36 PM

Agnes Ensbey   Thank you Pat and Michelle for your help. Your tips much appreciated.

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11/15/2005 1:54:14 PM

Jennifer W
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/26/2005
  Something I thought of, looking back on my own portraits (of me as a kid, not ones I took), is that a big laughing smile isn't necessarily a *must.*

One of my favorite shots is a picture of 3-year-old me in a very pretty dress, hair nicely done up curls, holding a lollipop bribe. I also have a very annoyed face with a tear running down my cheek. Apparently just prior to that pic, I had been throwing a major hissy fit. It makes a fun story for the family, and the photo is cute. :)

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11/15/2005 2:48:13 PM

Michelle Ochoa
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/4/2005
  That is true, although we do like a few smiles here and there ;-). I remember one of my daughter when she was about 2. She was doing the same thing - long shoot, tired at the end. the photographer put a black backdrop and a hair light on her for an ambience effect. she was in her Christmas dress, but she did not want to smile. I bribed her with an animal cracker, and she put her hand up to eat it, and opened her mouth, and the photographer snapped the shot. the picture looks like she's a singing angel! Very cute!

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11/15/2005 3:07:07 PM

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