Photographer Leila Méndez shares some of her best tips for achieving natural children’s photography
Working with children in a photo session is completely different from working with adults. Generally, a photoshoot with children involves paying as much attention to managing them as to directing them. According to Leila Méndez (@leila_mendez), it’s all a matter of "containing craziness". She does that by planning the session in her mind.
Furthermore, through her extensive experience as a children’s photographer, Leila has come up with a set of basic tips to make working with children simpler, more comfortable for everyone, and to enable her to take excellent photos, as is shown in her body of work.
These are the essential keys to successful children’s photoshoots:
1. Make them feel comfortable
Establish a first contact with the children away from the set, before starting. Talk with them about topics that interest them to start with, leave the work till a little bit later. Once they start to trust you, you can talk to them about what you’ll be doing in the session, and how easy it will be.
You can also show them some reference material similar to what you are doing, so they have an idea of what’s expected of them.
2. Turn the session into play
If you manage to turn the photoshoot into something fun, you’ll be gaining ground. Also, this will get them going and you’ll achieve an ideal, natural environment that will come across in the photos later.
Children can gift us with special and spontaneous poses and almost always imitate the general mood of a situation. Occasionally, there will be children with a certain charisma, so look out for them in a group and, if appropriate, give them a leading role. At the same time, allow them to also be themselves and make the most of their personality, especially in portraiture: make the most of their shyness, if they are timid, and if they are mischievous, use this quality too.
Try to have some items that they can play with during downtime at hand. They’ll be keener and more at ease in front of the camera. Also, suggest some actions that encourage laughing. For example, invite a child to tell a secret to another. If you create a cute situation among them, you’ll be able to capture their complicity.
3. Earn their trust
Once you have their trust, you’ll be able to ask them to make specific gestures and avoid cold reactions or rigid poses. This will allow you to direct, take charge and carry out your original idea.
And remember, if anything fails, go back to key number 1, take them to one side, have a chat with them, go for a short walk and you’ll be back to work in no time!
As a final tip, Leila emphasizes the importance of being prepared for the unexpected and to develop strategies to resolve conflict.
Leila Méndez teaches the Domestika course ‘Introduction to Professional Children’s Photography’, on how to set up, direct, produce, edit and present a children’s photographic project.