Here is how photography often works for me. I either go where the subject is thought to be found at a time when I think the conditions will be favorable, or else I get a subject to be in a place when I expect the conditions be favorable. Then I encourage something to happen and try to be in the right place when it does. With children, this strategy tends to work pretty well. Some of my favorite photos are those that spring pure of heart from the nature of a child.
Here are the top five great things that come to mind when I think about working with children:
1. Give her something to do and she DOES. It doesn’t take much to get a kid involved with full force in a game or activity that gives you something worth photographing. Even a child who is quiet and thoughtful is so with action. It’s like you can feel the energy pulsing through them even in stillness.
2. Emotion is close to the surface. Adults often suppress their feelings or mask them with a well rehearsed veneer that you have to gently polish away in order to secure an honest image. They don’t easily allow their emotions to be seen by strangers. I love being able to access the tears, laughter, curiosity, surprise, earnestness, and all the rest of the emotional rainbow that children display from moment to moment.
3. Questions and stories. Children love to ask questions and to tell you about their favorite things. Listening to them is an easy way to get them to trust you, and it is always interesting to see what is going on inside their heads. When they trust you, they are easy to photograph.
4. Being ignored, but really, truly ignored. Being ignored usually means that a kid has to do something else in order to keep from having to engage you. I think of this as “cat” mode, and I like cats. You just have to move slow and watch carefully until something happens – because something always happens.
5. Some children will just do anything to engage you. They’ll make faces, jump up and down, run in circles, play peek-a-boo (otherwise known as pretending to hide from you, but checking to see if you are still there), and sometimes make trouble. It’s dizzying for sure, but it’s a rich environment for photography. If you are fast, there will usually be some gems grow out of the chaos.
Keeshi Ingram is the founder and principal photographer at Adaptive Camera, an Austin, TX based studio offering location and assignment photography services for companies and nonprofits. Her work is often used for marketing, PR, fundraising and social media. To learn more about Adaptive Camera, please visit our website @ AdaptiveCamera.com, see Keeshi’s portfolio @ Keeshi.com, or follow her on Instagram.