Five tips for a great kids photo shoot

by @rebeccakw Posted on March 07, 2011

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I’m a mom of three children under the age of nine and the business owner of a small children’s apparel company, Petit Couture. This means I do everything related to the brand, marketing and PR for my company. Here are my Top 5 tips for getting the most out of a kids photo shoot, and achieving the best editorial “look” for business or personal use.


Photo Credit: Jennifer Tai, Jennifer Tai Photo Artistry

1. Create a “shot list” to ensure you get all of the “looks” you want to capture. When you are ‘in the moment’ it is VERY easy to get sidetracked by helping get shoelaces tied, assisting with lighting, fixing a loose hair, managing a temper-tantrum, you name it. Stay true to your cause and capture all of the looks you need.

For Petit Couture, I do this by listing model names with clothing styles (skirt with sweater, dress, skirt with tank, etc.) along with location (couch, tree trunk, pavement, etc.) pose (standing, sitting, jumping, etc.) and dimension of frame needed (horizontal, vertical). Most photographers like to shoot horizontally for better composition; however, this can be a challenge if you need tight shots. Many times we missed key pieces of merchandise because our shot list wasn’t accurate. So, be prepared. Naturally during the flow of the day, you may discover you don’t need all of your shots, but it is good to have a list so you don’t miss things.

2. Plan for breaks and work in 30 minute increments, so that the fluidity is captured and the best interaction is caught on film. Working with children can be overwhelming for them and you. Smaller children, or even older kids, might get bored, cold, hot, hungry, or sick at a moments notice. So, what I’ve done is worked in lots of snacking and held to 30 minute slots for key looks. Clothing and location changes can break up the monotony but they are still technically ‘working’ so it’s great to give them breaks often with snacks and toys that make it more fun.

3. Partner kids with friends/familiar faces when you can. Most kids love play-dates with their pals. The most successful shoots I’ve had for my business have been with kids that already know each other and see the experience as a fun play-date. If this isn’t possible, or if you are shooting for your family, encourage grouping each family member in fun ways to make the experience memorable rather than just ‘posing’ for the camera. For example, have dad be ‘the horse’ with the kid on his back – you get the gist. Make it about playing and elevate the fun of it all. Great editorial and lifestyle shots are about capturing ‘in the moment’ views and being genuine.

4. Build your day around good lighting. Unless you are planning to shoot in a studio (which most of us don’t do for business or personal use) it’s important to ‘walk’ your shoot at varying times of day for best light and light positioning. Sadly, I learned this the hard way and have some dark images that were supposed elevate the sense of Spring (needless to say, we had to re-shoot). Generally speaking, morning and late afternoon light is best. Photographers I’ve worked with have preferred morning light and honestly, it’s the best time of day to work with kids – they’re on their game and so are you. Also make sure you know where the light hits and the temperature. Kids will not work well in extremes. I’ve included a shot of my Sofie in a very vibrant outfit, but the lighting was so dark that it was impossible to use this as a Spring collection shot.


Photo Credit: Jennifer Tai, Jennifer Tai Photo Artistry

5. Prep clothing prior to the shoot. You’d think as an apparel manufacturer I’d know this. Well, you get busy and forget basics. That said, steam everything you plan to use in the shoot (note my Sofie in an amazing ensemble and the MASSIVE fold line down her middle).


Photo Credit: Shauna Heidenrech, Stinkiepantz Productions

Bonus tip! Plan for the unexpected and have some backups. I over-plan so when the shoot takes place and I get about half the shots I planned for, the day can still be a success. I also have a contingency short-list of ‘what ifs’ to consider. Things like bad weather, bad hair day, kids not being on their best behavior, etc. All in all, you just have to wing it. If you have a ‘go with the flow’ attitude you’ll have some winning shots.

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  1. Joey Says:

    I love your photographs and your little models are adorable. This article was very helpful for me. I’m going to photograph our families friends great granchildren. Their 7th one is expected in September. So we are thinking of October. I think the kids are all under 6 – I thought it would be fun to have them all together. I’m no professional, but i enjoy practicing on others and your tips were helpful! Thank you

  2. rebeccakw Says:

    Hi Joey.

    Thanks so much for reading the post and for the great compliments! I’m so happy that there are snippets of information you can use. We’ve had a great time shooting with the kids which is most of the fun to begin with. I’m sure your images will be gorgeous and it truly helps when you love the subjects you’re snapping! Good luck with your shoot and have fun! Bring snacks ;)

    Rebecca

  3. Tiffany M Says:

    Great tips! I’m learning to “go with the flow”… with a 3.5 yo and 3 mo old home. Love your photos and the petit couture site.

  4. AnnAbbott Says:

    Going with the flow…with a map in your mind of where you want to end up is a great plan.

  5. rebeccakw Says:

    Hi Tiffany and Ann.

    Thanks for posting! And, thank you so much for the compliments on Petit Couture. It’s been such a great experience and continues to get better (and more challenging at times!). “Going with the flow” is the ONLY way I survive (and vitamins and yoga, but that might be another post ;).

    Thanks again!
    Rebecca

  6. kniewohner Says:

    Wonderful suggestions. I had quite a bit of trouble getting our son to wear sandals in his 2 year pics just a week ago. His toes haven’t seen daylight for months now. I didn’t even think of it until we tried them on. He wouldn’t stop fussing long enough to get a cute pic. Guess it’s a good idea to let them wear the clothes around a bit a few days ahead of time to get them used to it. Thanks for sharing. I will need all the help I can get. Ever since he started walking my GREAT shots went from hundreds to like a dozen. :(

more about @rebeccakw

Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff resides near San Francisco, CA where she oversees Petit Couture design and business operations and spends time with her husband Jascha and children Simone, Sofie and Julien who are routinely seen in Petit Couture ads. She’s an active participant at her children’s schools and has a 15+ year background in digital marketing and online communications holding senior management roles with companies such as T-Mobile, HL2, Safeco/Liberty Mutual and Microsoft Corporation. Rebecca loves yoga, Mexico, TED Talks, soy lattes and Valentino.

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