Working with shy children

Nousha Photography

Photographing Shy Children

Most photographers would baulk at photographing a shy child. Over the years, we at Nousha have pretty much seen it all and found some delightful ways to resolve any such problems that may arise and make sure every child has a great time in the studio!

At Nousha Photography, we have become amateur psychologists -- that is the only way to describe it! Through trial and error we have found a number of ways to overcome shyness in a child. As you may imagine, a shy child becomes even shyer when faced with the prospect of a family shoot in a photographic studio with a stranger.

A Good Start

I have found that from the very moment I meet a family it is so important to establish a rapport there and then with the children.A child hanging on for dear life to the parent's leg is a dead giveaway!

I will spend as much time as possible talking to that child, asking the usual, how old are you? What is your name? Who is this woman? (pointing to her mother). “That’s mummy!” I can imagine the child thinking, “who else could it possibly be? Stupid man…” I continue to make some very silly mistakes, like calling her by the wrong name only to be corrected by a now much entertained ‘shy’ child -- becoming a lot less shy in the face of this frankly idiotic adult!

In The Studio

Having broken the ice, everyone comes to the the studio and we all sit on the floor in this big white space.

I always begin shoots with the whole family. Doing this establishes in a child's mind that, though the photographer is plainly a complete imbecile, all is well because mummy, daddy and my siblings seem at ease. It gives them a sense of confidence with the whole situation, helping them to overcome shyness.

If there are siblings, I will begin by photographing the eldest. I want the shy child to see that what her sibling is doing is nothing to fear, but actually something enjoyable!

If there are no siblings, I will ask the parent to whom the child is clinging to remain and the other parent to sit upstairs with a coffee and a magazine -- the other parent will be called back a little later on in the proceedings.

Have you heard the expression ‘Gamifying’? Well that is pretty much what I do in the shoot: I use the parent to play, swing them around and deposit them in the position I want. Eventually, the ‘shy’ child is having so much fun, he or she has forgotten they’re shy -- and pretty much forgotten they’re in a studio at all!

In the occasional situation where we are really not winning, and proximity to the parent is important, then I will ask the parent to remain close to her child but leave a little gap between them. We can then remove the parent from the picture later in post-production.

Good Memories & Confidence

If all has failed, and I will know pretty early on when it’s going that way, then I will stop the shoot and ask you to return at a later date. It is far better to halt the shoot than to persist and create a bad memory for the child.

This way when you return, there will be no bad memories but instead a greater sense of confidence in the child who will meet the same photographer and usually feel much happier the second time around.

We never give up until we are happy with our pictures. It is very rare to have to return. It can happen occasionally, but we only had 5 reshoots in the entirety of last year!

We’re experienced when it comes to working with children of all dispositions and can normally conquer shyness without any problems!