There's nothing I enjoy as much in drawing and photography, as the moment I succeed in capturing some of the essence of a child's consciousness to show on a print. It might not seem apparent to look at a child, but they can be truly challenging as photography subjects, and if you ever want anything more than just a toothless "cheese", if you want a picture that fairly drips with a child's innocence, wit and sparkling energy, then the stock-in-trade of imagination, creativity and patience you'll need can often be staggering. Here are my childrens photography tips on how to create moments and capture them on film in a way that the children being photographed will look at 20 years from now and say, "Yes, that is what it felt like to be me at five".
To begin with, you can't just pull a child in front of the camera and expect her to perform. The first lesson of childrens photography is, that you need to adjust your whole photography routine to them, because a natural smile never pops up on cue. And make sure that you don't pick a moment when the child is sleepy, hungry or cranky. Once you have your child with you, make sure that you spend a couple of hours around the child to build up a bit of familiarity a friendly atmosphere.
The child who is your subject needs to be comfortable; this isn't the time to insist on what outfit she should wear, and what place to frame your pictures. A child who is happy and confident about herself and her surroundings will bring forth more natural presence in her pictures. It should probably not be a place she is unfamiliar with, or she'll be careful and a bit withdrawn (unless that's the feel you are going for). When parents are present at the shoot, they can get terribly anxious about how they need to bring the best in the child out. It is for a reason that stage parents can be so distracting for young child actors. It could be a good idea and to help the anxious parent away from the photography area for some time. Childrens photography needs the child to be in her element - coaxing better performance out of her is hardly the way to catch her at her most natural.
And "natural" comes with patience. No end of patience. You need to understand that the child is the one that directs where the photography heads that day. You need to talk to her about her favorite toy, what she wants to do, or what a shadow reminds her of; try talking about a favorite cartoon character - and then listen. Good listening - is there no end to what there is to be gained with this great ability? The more you listen to a child, the more she will open up. And the best way to speak to a child is always to crouch down to her level. That's something all childrens photography experts will tell you - for the most part, they have to be no taller than she is.