What’s the secret to taking pictures of young people?
It’s a careful balance between maintaining a happy, child-like composure, while being totally in control of the technical and artistic side of shooting. Photographers must establish a rapport with the family and gain their trust, which encourages them to open up to the camera. That’s why we sometimes scramble along the ground beside a crawling baby, or climb a tree to follow the whim of an older child.
How do you establish trust with children?
This really depends on the age of the child. For babies, making funny noises, clapping and singing generally makes them happy and smiley. If they are old enough they may even join in.
For toddlers, making funny faces or pretending to be defeated by their little antics makes them feel pleased with themselves. Older children respond to different cues; girls tend to blush and smile in response to compliments about their dress and toys, while boys enjoy fun chasing games.
Are there any considerations to keep in mind when photographing families with special needs children?
Children with special needs require more space and sensitivity. It’s really important to provide a space for them without too many strangers walking in and out of the studio. Excessive noise and too many different faces can be intimidating.
Also, allow more time for the shoot. I recall autistic children who initially sat huddled on the couch, timidly hiding their faces and unwilling to participate. By the end of the session they were genuinely laughing to the camera, and even hugging the photographer.
Location matters. Would you recommend an indoor shoot where active children are contained, or outdoors where they can blow off steam?
There’s no best answer for this question. The choice of home, park or studio will depend on each individual family. Every child has different characteristics and personalities, so we try to establish what it is the parents would like portrayed.
Tell us about a recent memorable photography experience.
After a family shoot we received an SMS from the mother of a five-year-old boy. She said her son was imitating the photographer, Dan Yeo; he was jumping out from behind a curtain and saying that he wants to be just like “Uncle Dan” when he grows up!
Sometimes, when children return for their viewing session, they bring beautiful drawings depicting scenes from the shoot, and shyly hand these to our photographers. And the parents say their children couldn’t stop thinking about the fun they had in the studio with us!
This story first appeared in Expat Living’s April 2015 issue.