How To Photograph Shy Kids

We’ve all been there – everyone is up on the altar at the church ready for formal portraits, the photographer raises up her camera and bam – the ring bearer ducks down or turns around and hides his face in his mom’s skirt. Oye!

The parents then feel pressured to get the kid to turn around and soon everyone is frustrated and they give up and say,”he doesn’t need to be in it”. Does this sound familiar for you?

Whether it’s a family session or on a wedding day, taking a photo of a kid who is shy can almost be downright painful.

I’ve found a few tricks that I’m going to share with you here that will hopefully help you like they have me.

1. Ask for help
Believe it or not, I’m going to recruit the shy kid himself. If I’m working on family portraits after the ceremony, I’m going to ask my second shooter to pull the kid out of the photo area, squat down next to him, and show him photos from the back of her camera. Next, she’ll ask him questions about who the people are in the photos, where they are in the room, what they are doing, etc. This always works. Most kids want to be helpful, so whether they know you or not, if you can find a way that they can be the “expert” and help you out, they’re usually more than willing to do so.

2. Get them away from their parents.
A one on one relationship is what you’re trying to accomplish – and what will give you the best photo results. If you’re having trouble with a little girl during a family session, ask the parents if you and her can go off alone for a few minutes. Hold her hand. Ask her about school, daycare, her favorite movie, ANYTHING! If you get her away from her parents, she is forced to not rely on them (and can’t hide between their legs) and therefore will more likely to be willing to talk to you. People of all ages just want to talk about themselves – especially kids. Ask about their favorite color, do they have any pets at home, etc.? Get to know the kid. Make her comfortable with you. Ask her if you can take some “practice” pictures of her so she can help you make sure you’re doing it right. Show her the picture of herself on the back of your camera. Ask her what she thinks. Then take her back to where her parents are. Ask her to take a photo of her parents. Then ask her if you can take a photo of their family together.

It’s almost impossible for a photographer to just show up and take photos of a family they’ve never met – and get genuine smiles and laughter from the family members. Family photo shoots can be stressful and frustrating for families, but they don’t have to be! Just take a deep breath. You can do this!