Photographing Grumpy Kids – The Solution

I recently ran a couple of baby & toddler portrait photography sessions back to back and had a great morning photographing some gorgeous kids. But one of them was really grumpy and didn’t want a bar of the whole thing.

How did we deal with it? Every parent wants a smiley happy shot of their kids with bright eyes resonating happiness and joy with few parents happy to sit back and let the mood of the moment shine though. It was an interesting session with the first gorgeous wee girl one of those perfect models born for the camera and happy to be the star of the moment. Our more subdued candidate came a little later and certainly wasn’t in the mood to be in front of the camera. However – this little man had a more serious demeanor and just didn’t fit the standardised smiley face we tend to see in a lot of kids portraits. So we all relaxed and just got him engaged in activity on the studio floor with his wee brother…. but still no smiles. What we ended up getting was my personal favorite shot of the day…. a poignant photograph of a perfect face with incredible clarity and a unique moment in time. It reminded me of why we are there in the first place as photographers – to record moments in time and try to represent more than just mimicry of other images we may have seen or been asked to create. So to answer the question I posed at the beginning of the article?

  1. Relax Mum & Dad Make sure Mum and Dad are as relaxed as their tension will only add to the problem of grumpy kids. Remind them that this is completely normal and won’t ruin the time you have with them. We all know in extreme cases its best to draw the line and re-book sometimes and its by no means the end of the world. Everyone has their off days.
  2. Smile You can’t expect your subjects to have fun if you aren’t – You will often be a total stranger to some of these little fellas so you will need to establish some trust boundaries and a comfort zone.
  3. Get Involved Studio lighting and equipment can sometimes be scary to these little ones so for the older kids, getting them behind the camera to take a few test shots for you is often a great way for them to comprehend whats going to happen and why everyone is there in the first place.
  4. Wait Take the pressure off yourself and just be prepared to wait for that shot…. you know… the one that makes it all worth while and the shot that you would personally hang on your wall.
  5. Go with the flow Time to get unconventional – I tend to rig the lighting in the studio to give me as much coverage as possible so when these little ones go mobile, you’ve got the capacity to simply follow them on their journey around the studio. We’ve managed to get some great candid shots this way as they engage with various elements and people onsite.

If you’ve photographed kids for any length of time I’m sure you can relate to the above – however if you’re just starting out – don’t despair if your first few shoots don’t go according to. With a relaxed attitude and practice, you’ll be shooting like a pro in no time.