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Photographing the 18-Month-Old and 2-Year-Old Child
I've even used these strategies at live seminars, in rooms filled with photographers. In front of a group of peers I've successfully achieved great results photographing a two year old using the exact same strategies. Here they are:
Get everyone else under control Either parents, or other photographers in the room, I always sit and explain to them to not look at and/or try and control the child. This is tough for parents. They seemingly can't help but look at the child and make comments or speak for the child. The more the adults and I tune out the kid and converse between us, the quicker the child will start to relax. I look, out of the corner of my eye, and watch the child's behavior. You can't really communicate and negotiate with a two year old, so you must make a judgement call. As soon as they seem relaxed and feel safe, I typically walk into the studio. Again, tuning out the child. This is important. And I often have to remind the parents. If their behavior isn't normal, the child will know. They will be feeling: "something's not right here, mommy's not acting right. Maybe this man has a needle..."
Place the parent very close to where I want the portrait to be taken Often I place a chair there. Or, I will use a toy and try to get the child's attention while the parent is on the side playing "catch the kid". Kids are magnetically drawn to chairs. Until the parent intrudes and tells or asks the two year old to go sit on the chair. Then it's, well, you know, a two year olds favorite word: "No!"
Once the parent is placed (and assuming the child hasn't left her and gone to the chair) I will use my most powerful weapon of all. This tool is so powerful I have never had a failure using it! I often save it in reserve until I need a "no fail" approach. What is this tool? Simple, a ball. I start bouncing the ball and that really get their attention. When I have their attention, I start playing catch with mom. Their eyes light up, they want in the game! I look at the child and say something like "you wanna catch?" They will nod yes! I then say something like: "okay, sit on the chair and I'll throw you the ball." They look over, go sit, and anticipate the game. See, what I've done is made an association between the chair and the game that they want to play. Anytime they leave, I simply say something like: "ok, ready? Catch! Ok, here goes, one, two, oh! Go sit down so I can throw it to you...."
Photo 05Works like magic, even in front of a hundred photographers. Try it. You'll see how great this works. Also, if there is an older sibling, I will work through them since I can negotiate with the older one. The two year old will simply follow the leader until you look at them and instruct that is.
Keep in mind that it helps if you are kinda fun and silly. I have NO problem with this. I liken myself to becoming the goofy silly uncle. Most kids have silly uncles and such, and are used to this. The key here is to create an environment and activities that they are familiar with.
Parents often swing their kids while walking. I love having them do this and grabbing a few shots like the opening image.
Sit and say cheese never works. But playing ball, running around silly and doing funny noises and silly faces always works!