How to "Pose" Children — Something to Consider

Monday, July 16, 2018

How best to photograph children? Let it be...

I shared some photos with a photographer friend the other day. I respect her opinion immensely and was happy to seek her feedback. Something she said got me thinking. Along with some nice compliments on the lighting and style, she said she really liked the poses.

"Pose" can be a bit of a technical word, and here she meant the naturalness of each child's body language, yet still, the word "pose" made me ponder a few things.

Kids will give you something so much more interesting if you don't try to "pose" them. Too much directing, and it's like overworked dough. Things get tough and the final result is flat. Children will give you a more honest photo on their own, than anything you can ever ask for.

Basically, if you try to pose a child in the traditional sense, you're never going to get anything compelling. Photographing a child is much more like photographing an animal out in the wild. You let it be, and take a picture of what happens. Sure, you can coax children here and there, to get what you are looking for, but it's a fine line. And if you're going to err on one side of that line, go with the let-it-be side.

There is some room to nudge. If you're looking for high energy, create a high energy environment. Add sugar if you need to. More than one kid in the room will lead to more rowdiness. They'll show off more for their peers — and goof off more too. When it appears to be out of control, you'll get some nice stuff. Links to some high energy shoots of mine where kids were running wild, here (COMPLETELY out of control),  here (it looks so calm and ethereal, but the paper background was torn right off the wall moments later) and here (more controlled, because each child was photographed on their own.)

Are you looking for something serene? If you want a more "well behaved" picture, as a photographer you can try to take the photo soon after they arrive. Before they become too comfortable with you, and the shyness has worn off. As the parent, you don't have that advantage.

Basically, the environment you create is the best tool you have to nudge children into the style of photo you are after.

That being said, my hands down favorite way to photograph any child is exactly how they are. 

I find that going with their mood leads everyone to a better place, and to a more natural photo. I have yet to meet a mood I can't get a nice picture from one on one, and part of this is letting go of the expectation of who — or how — a child should be.

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