St. Augustine Family Photographer | Danielle Brooks Photography
St. Augustine Family Photographer and Family Portrait Photography Studio. Specializing in Family Photography, Senior Portraits, and Head Shot Photography.

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St. Augustine photographer specializing in families, children, and seniors.

Getting and Keeping A Child's Attention | St. Augustine Photographer

I hope you all have been enjoying the blog series so far! I am pleased to introduce Shannon Mulligan-Mayernik of Shannon Mulligan Photography! Shannon is such a warm, friendly individual. Shannon has an uncanny way of capturing genuine smiles. So I've asked her to share some of her tips and tricks for getting kids to interact and laugh for the camera. Hope you all enjoy! Be sure to leave Shannon some love in the comments!


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Photographing kids can be a real adventure. They're running, they're fidgety, they're busy, and they can also be crabby, cranky and crying...all within an hour's time. But hey, that's what makes it fun. My job is to make sure the kids are smiling (and not that "Say Cheese" smile) and being themselves. I always want a genuine smile, not a forced, fake one. Of course, age and location are always a factor, but when I take a step back and look at how I achieve it, it always comes down to just a few simple steps.

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One thing I will NEVER do is tell a child to "Say Cheessse." This brings on the most forced and fake smiles possible. I don't ever want that during a session. I want the smiles to be authentic and genuine. So that being said; these are some things I always do.

When I first get to a session; I do not automatically take out my camera and start snapping. I talk with the child: ask how school is; what their summer vacation plans may be; what sport teams they may enjoy watching. This way, I can connect with them and get them comfortable with me. Most of the time, this breaks the ice. Sometimes, kids are shy, and it may take some time, but once you show them you are interested in them, and not just mom and dad who are paying for the session, they become relaxed.

In my experience, the majority of children engage and take instruction better if the parent is not hovering over them. Children may be more cooperative and engaging if mom and dad took a step back, or walked away for a while. I explain to the parents that if I work with the child one-on-one, I tend to get more eye contact and I am able to connect more with them. A lot of times, the parents are excited to not have to worry about the behavior of their child and express that the pressure has been lifted off their shoulders!  They trust me enough to know what I am talking about, and take my advice and walk away for a bit.

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Once I have the child's attention, I will try to get some pictures of them in their natural habits, exploring a new location; checking out a super cool flower; or sitting on a new bench we just passed. Allowing the child to pick a few places they would like to be photographed at is key because again, you are gaining their trust and opinion. This will go a long way with children. Pretty soon, I will be best buds with the child and we end up having a great shoot, not even focusing on the main reason for the session; awesome pictures the parents can share and hang in their home!

Another way I can get those big grin smiles is to say silly things! Sometimes talking non-sense to a young child makes them question what you are saying and they start giggling. Other times I will play a game of Simon Says to get them into poses they normally would not have been comfortable doing. It makes the session interactive and I know I won't be boring them to death saying, "look here and smile, sit down, stand up, look this way, turn that way." This is always a crowd-pleaser so I try to incorporate it into many of my sessions. The child sees it as a game and not just me shouting commands at them. And of course I always make them do super silly things like Simon Says "stick out your tongue and jump up and down." These silly moves sometimes make for some of the best pictures.

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A few other things I may do is make loud silly animal sounds if the child is young and I see they are starting to get bored or disinterested. This seems to grab their attention and will always bring a smile to their face. I am never embarrassed. If it gets those smiles I am looking for, I will pretty much do anything. The parents will appreciate the smiles and awesome pictures I captured of their little ones and won't think twice about the way I was acting.

It's not easy for everyone to connect with little ones; and if I can't connect with them authentically, how can I expect to capture an authentic photo. Being myself helps me tremendously. The best thing I can do to create beautiful photos is to simply relax. Kids are observant. They sense when you are not being yourself, therefore; they will not be themselves. Children like to be respected, just like you and I, so if I respect them, be myself, have fun, and make them laugh, I guarantee my session will be a huge success.

I hope these tips and tricks will help you the next time you are out photographing kids of any age. Just remember, don't ever say "Say Cheeeseee!" Once you figure out what works for you and the children you are working with, being silly and jumping around will become second nature! Best of luck on your next session and be sure to follow me at Shannon Mulligan Photography to see some of the smiles I've captured! 

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Shannon Mulligan-Mayernik is a Northern New Jersey lifestyle photographer specializing in maternity, newborn, children and family portraits. Her style is photo journalistic, natural, and fun. She loves capturing people doing things they love; playing in the park, smelling fresh roses, or walking through a vineyard. Shannon says, "It never occurred to me that photography could become my career. It was not until I stated taking pictures of couples, children, and families that I fell in love with the idea of portrait photography. I will celebrate Shannon Mulligan Photograph's first birthday at the end of January 2014!!!!"

Be sure to LIKE Shannon Mulligan Photography!