BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Sobia Chishti
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/13/2002

How to Photograph a Shy Child?

Hi all,
I did a photo shoot of a two-and-a-half year-old, and she was very shy. I couldn't get a single decent photo of her. She would turn her face around or look away. Other times, she would hug one of the parents tightly and close her eyes.
I have rescheduled the shoot in a couple of days at her house ... just thought maybe she is more comfortable there. What is there that I can do to make her comfortable with the camera?
I have done photo shoots of shy kids before, but this one is very stubborn. Please tell me how would you handle such a situation. Thanks.

To love this question, log in above
7/19/2009 5:11:16 PM

Gretchen J. Gilkey
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/19/2006
  I haven't done any professional studio shots with kids - but I have taken hundreds of shots of children in everyday settings. I usually have something that will capture their attention (stuffed animal I can put on my head, bubbles, big colorful ball, etc.). I like to spend some time playing/talking with them before if possible. If I'm at their house, I get them to show me their favorite toys, places to play, etc. Then I take some pictures of those items and show the child. I take pictures of mom/dad - even get them to help me take pictures. So far, this has always worked for me. One time, I took pictures of toes - which made the child giggle - but broke the ice so I could take their picture.
Good luck and hope this helps!!
gretchen :o)

To love this comment, log in above
7/19/2009 7:56:49 PM

Sobia Chishti
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/13/2002
  Gretchen, Thank you so much for the helpful response. I also do portraits in natural setting and I love natural lighting. We were at a playground for this shoot and I did take some of the photos of her and showed it to her. Actually her mom and I are friends!!! Well I guess I will have to do more work next know do more to break the ice. Thanks again.

To love this comment, log in above
7/19/2009 8:48:58 PM

Cynthia Bullard
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/24/2007
  Hi there! I did an outdoor photo shoot a couple of months ago with a family who had a 3 year-old. We could not get her to smile, despite various attempts. We let her run around and played with her, but to no avail. Finally, I told the little girl NOT to smile. Her mom immediately chimmed in! We kept telling her, "Don't smile...we don't want you to smile". Of course, she couldn't stop laughing. I got some really good photos after that. Good luck!

To love this comment, log in above
7/21/2009 4:22:12 AM

Lori  A. DeLude
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/6/2008
  I recently invested in a $3.00 "Bubble Gun" at Wal-Mart. On a recent photo shoot with young children, I first let THEM play with the Bubbles just for fun. Then, I played a game where mom/dad would shoot the bubbles in their direction and they had to pretend they were a statue, and NOT look at the bubbles. Of course, they giggled and laughed when they were supposed to be staying still .. exactly what I was hoping for!

To love this comment, log in above
7/21/2009 4:49:50 AM

Denise Beck   I have been a pediatric nurse for the past 14 years. When kids are extremely shy or very stubborn, you need to take time to sit and play with them. This is where using their toys or you bring something that gets there attention.

If you have a new toy and they are very nervous/shy they may not come to you to get it, but will watch it intently. Then you have to put the toy down and step back until they are comfortable enough to come pick it up or you pass it to them via their Mom.

If this does not work, then you may need to start taking pictures of Mom and totally ignore the child. But while taking Mom's picture, start getting silly and laugh a lot while having Mom play with all your cool toys. You can acknowledge the child briefly, but quickly go back to having fun. If the child is not interested, then you haven't found what they like quite yet. Ask the child/Mom what their favorite things to do are. See if you can do some of these things with the Mom. A 2 1/2 year-old likes to be included in activities (especially with the parents) and has a natural sense of curiosity.

With some kids playing may only take a few minutes to break the ice and with others you really have to work to earn their trust. The advice above is very good by telling them to do the opposite of what you want. If you have not gotten them to trust you before you go to take pictures it will be a hard photo shoot.

I don't know if this is possible, but I would allow an extra 30 minutes in a photo shoot where I did not use my camera and simply played or got to know the child. If possible, don't start the photo shoot until the child is relaxed and stops noticing you as the "intruder." I realize this may take more time than what you have allotted with some children.

Good luck! You can do it. All you need is a little time and patience.

To love this comment, log in above
7/21/2009 9:48:26 AM

Bunny Snow
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
Contact Bunny
Bunny's Gallery
  When I photographed children decades ago, we went to the zoo or a beaver pond (depending where we were at the time), some place where there were animal distractions. That way, the reactions I captured were of the children's reactions to the animals. The animals were entertaining, and I could capture the expressions at ease.

Carefully pick the animals. Monkeys make everyone laugh, but be careful of bit gorilla's or scary animals.

Another idea, is a petting zoo, or even a child's pet. Again, this is to distract the child so he/she can interact with the animal while I create captures. It's fun for everyone.

To love this comment, log in above
7/21/2009 12:31:14 PM

Gretchen J. Gilkey
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/19/2006
  I also strongly reccommend Lori suggestion of a "bubble gun". I have one, use it and kids LOVE it!!!

gretchen :o)

To love this comment, log in above
7/21/2009 2:19:01 PM

Log in to respond or ask your own question.