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Capturing Authentic Children Portraits

Lesson 9 of 20

In-Studio Shoot: Rapid Child Portraits

Tamara Lackey

Capturing Authentic Children Portraits

Tamara Lackey

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Lesson Info

9. In-Studio Shoot: Rapid Child Portraits

Lesson Info

In-Studio Shoot: Rapid Child Portraits

So we're gonna go, we're gonna rapid fire now. Switch and go into a live shoot where we bring kids on the set. And let me tell you a few things that are gonna happen. One, I don't know these kids at all. I literally glanced over and picked out clothing for them, I mean a few clothes were come in. And I have not had any actual conversation with any of these kids. So I don't know them, I don't know their personalities. I have very little time. So I am challenged, right. I have very little time with them so I don't get to have those long two, three hours that I know will be the most successful thing possible. And what's making this worse, a bunch of lighting and a bunch of people. They don't even know they're being livecast. So, all of these considerations together, this is my opportunity to try my best to pull out these methods rapidly. Oh and I'm gonna say, when they first come in, I'm gonna have the parents tell us a hint of what they think is going on, before we start. Just so I can h...

ave a kind of get going. Right now it sounds like one of them might be a little sick. Yes. I don't know if you're gonna go over this later, but, I have more trouble with parents than I do with the kids, because a lot of the parents want their children to behave or smile, so they're barking at them. In the photograph box. You would think (laughing), I'm just kidding, just my kid. How do you handle it when the parent is the authoritative type person and is trying to tell their child what to do, instead of let you do your thing. So first and foremost, in my experience, when you are not setting the expectation for the shoot, which we're gonna do kinda quickly, when you're not setting the expectation for the shoot, anything can happen. So if you were having an issue again and again and again. Perhaps its something to do with how you're prepping them for the shoot. So that's the first and foremost in terms of setting the expectations, and I'll show you exactly what I mean in a second. The second thing I am thinking is, my client is my client. Like they're the client, I want to collaborate with them. I don't want to compete, I don't want to feel like aaah, I sent you to do this. I want us to all be in this together, so I want to set up the situation so that happens as naturally and comfortably as possible. So if you feel like you're in these situations where like you want to get the shot. You feel like its tough because the clients are competing with you, or taking over, or practicing their authority over the children. And at the end of the day its this frustration. You didn't get the shot you wanted because that was happening. You didn't feel like you were working with the parents. You felt like you were working against the parents. I would say back all the way up. Set the expectations in advance, so you communicate to them what you want, how you best can get it, and what they can do to enable you to get it. And you do that in the very beginning, you don't run into those problems later. And if one of them flare up anyway, you remind them about the conversation you had just a few minutes ago. So I'll show you exactly that. But its all with the mindset of, for me, thank you so much for hiring me. I want to do the best job I can do, let me show you how I can do it. Tell me if there's any issues with that, and lets do this together. Come on, come in. What's your name? Ollie, short for Oliver. Ollie, short for Oliver. Oh my goodness, I'm Tamara, so nice to meet you. Do you want to say hi to these people, they go everywhere with me. Super weird, do you have people who walk around with you? Your parents, yeah. Yeah, and there's another kid. And there's another kid. How many kids are there. (child mumbling) Oh my goodness, so there's-- (mumbling) and I'm four and a half too. You're four and a half, wonderful. Hey can you ask your mom to come here for a second. Hello. Hi, Tamara. Nice to meet you Sara. So this is the one who goes everywhere with you, just like those are the ones who go everywhere with me. Yeah, we all have our people. So, we're gonna do, I'm gonna just show you what I'm saying. And normally this would be a conversation I would have for a shoot that goes longer, and we'll talk about it. But just so you know, what I would love to do is, I don't know if you've ever seen my work. Say yes if you have? Yes. Okay, thank you. One of the ways I love to get those sort of photographs is to just eliminate any sort of parenting throughout this. So kinda let him do what he's gonna do. And really I will call for help if I really need it, but if I'm not actually calling for help. Then we're just gonna let him do whatever. Sure. And then one of the things that's also helpful as well is while I'm photographing him, is if you could either work with me in terms of being really close to me, or maybe stepping a little bit further back, whatever is more comfortable to you. But if you're kinda here and I'm here, he's gonna be looking at you because he likes you better. So just keep it in mind, so if that just accidentally happens cause you can't think about it all the time, I'll just remind you. Okay. Is that good? Okay. How likely is it that we're gonna have problems? Look how nice she is. But how likely is it that we're likely to have to combat any of it now, that was maybe 60 seconds. Yeah, cause she's in it, she wants these photographs. Why would you show up to this if you didn't want photographs right? So we're doing this together, and I'm always thinking about that, I'm not competing with my client. They came to me, they want this. So how do we work together to make it happen. Okay, great. Ha, ha, alright lets start our first live shoot, okay? Alright, shall we have mom take a seat over there? What do you think, do you want to help her? Do you want to show her where to stand real quick? Or do you think she'll be okay on her own? (child mumbling) She'll be okay on her own. I got it figured out. Alright lets do it, Ollie, come here, lets set up the lights real quick. So a couple of challenges for me in all of this. One is obviously the time frame, I'm not gonna have a lot of time. Number two is I'm tethered. I've shot a ton of photographs tethered, and its not where I shine (chuckling). I'll do it, but I'm constantly tripping over the wire, so I'm gonna try really hard not to do that. And then I'm gonna set up the lights, but I'm not gonna constantly shift where I'm going. Typically when I'm photographing a child, I try to do a lot of broad lighting right away. And then I'll get more narrow with scope and do more dimension and cooler looks from lighting, but right away I don't want to feel like they've got a great expression over there and I didn't light it. So I'm gonna have a bit of that challenge too. So those are some of my challenges. But lets talk about Ollie. Ollie, can you have a seat right here? Casey, if you wouldn't mind just turning on the lights, that would be great. So, tell me two things. Ready? I have a gaga-jowann. You have a what? A gaga-joanne. What's that? Gaga. Huh, I don't understand? A gaga-joanne. What's a gaga-joanne? Great grandma. Oh (laughing), a gaga named Joanne. Your gaga's named Joanne. Okay, so that's one thing, tell me another thing about you. I have a granny and grandad and they have this thing that I like to ride. What does it look like. Well its a thing that has a handle. Uh huh, is it like a bike? No, it has a handle in the back and it has something in it. Huh, that sounds really cool. Hey can I fix this real quick while we're talking. Alright, scooch back a little bit. Do you mind if I just move you around like a sack of potatoes. Is that okay? Alright, so we're gonna do that. Oooh, that looks nice. Do you ever do this on your own? Like move your legs around? Like you're not ever sitting around just moving your legs around? I do, in the car. You do, yeah, oh you want to do that. Why don't you sit up and do that. Cause I think that looks good. Yeah, go do like you normally do. Oh, so good. Do you mind if I move your chair a little bit. Oh hold on, okay. And then, I think what I'm gonna do. The lights are okay on you right, you're used to lights. Like if you're in the car and its really bright outside, you're used to that right. I mean that's not that big of a deal. I'm gonna try two things, I'm gonna stand right here in front of you and you know about cameras? You see cameras a lot, right, that's nothing. When was the (laughing). When was the last time you saw a camera, would you say. In your guess, when would you say last time you saw a camera is? Cheeeese. Okay, this is perfect. When would you say the last time you saw a camera is? Cheeeese. Okay, perfect. So, when you see cameras, you get hungry for cheese? No, I say, I don't get hungry for cheese. You don't. I don't get hungry, I just say cheese. Okay! You're not saying a snack, do you ever say rabbit? I say hot dog. (laughing) I love hot dogs. But for me I like veggie hot dogs, have you ever had a veggie hot dog? Yeah, what's it made out of broccoli? (child mumbling) Have you ever had a, okay see how, soon as I hold it up, where he goes. A quesadilla. (gasping) I love quesadillas. What's your favorite quesadilla? One that has cheese in it. Ha ha ha, yeah, so that's the snack right, yeah. And do you ever add mustard? Noooo! Cause that would be gross huh. That would be funny. I kinda think it would be disgusting, right? But I'm funny. You are, you are. (child making funny noises) Do that again, do it again, I love it. Can I do it, tell me if I do it right. (funny noise) (child mumbling) With two hands, I failed already. (child and Tamara making funny noises) Wait, wait, wait, tell me if I'm doing it in Spanish now. (Tamara making funny noise) Was that Spanish. You do it like this (funny noise) (laughing) I love that. Alright I am gonna switch to the 105, one, two. Do you know what I mean when I say that? As soon as I lose the interaction with him, I lose him. How about now, can you do it from here? Watch (Tamara making funny noise) (child making funny noise) Try it like this, pffft. Louder! Do me a favor, count, blue, green, yellow. Blue, green, yellow. Ha ha, yes, blue, green, yellow. Alright, lets switch this. Switch this, I am now, we're having the same thing where its sharper on the main screen? Yeah. Okay, so I am going to switch to a different lens which has me further back. Before I went further back I made sure to establish an interaction. Oh no, are you ticklish? Are you ticklish? Yeah. Where are you most ticklish? When my dad's tickling me. Does your dad tickle you a lot. (child mumbling) Your sister's name is Sophie? Oh my gosh, can I tell you something about the name Sophie? Who do you think I know with the name Sophie? Do you think its your sister or? Really quickly by the way because I have a heavier lens on, I am making a faster shutter speed, because I have a lot more option for it to. As I'm talking to you I've lost his interest, you can see that. I have a lot more opportunity for me to have camera shake because the lens is, so I need a faster shutter speed because the lens is a rabbit. Right, what does a rabbit say? Ribbit, ribbit, just kidding. You're kidding, it doesn't really say ribbit, ribbit. What does it actually say? (child mumbling) You know what it really says (barking) Noooo. No, oh my goodness I got it wrong, I can't believe it. Thank you for teaching me Ollie. Can I have a high five. Can I have a low five. Do you want to say goodbye to everybody. No. Tell them thank you for watching. No, you want to stay forever don't you. Well maybe you can come back when we're done. Oh is she calling you like a puppy, come on. Thank you Ollie, you're awesome. Alright, given everything I've just said, and the way you saw me talk with him, what would you say is his personality type? You saw the questions back and forth, the way he responded to me when I interacted with him. Yeah, right away, interactive child. You know why, cause I said tell me two things. And if he were the superstar, he'd like one thing is this. The other thing is if you're super shy, no response. The one thing we don't have to worry about. As soon as we start talking, he's engaged. The second I walk back I change a lens, I talk to you guys, he's not. He's inquisitive, he's interested, great expression. And that's kind of how that goes along. Okay, who's next? Ezra. Can you hold this for me, put that lens back on. The other thing you might want to note is, I'll tell you in a second. Who brought you over here? A new book. A new book brought you here? Which book? My hero book. A hero book? What's it about? (child mumbling) Its a regular hero book? No its a Lego hero book. Oh I love Lego's so much. Hey would you mind if we took some photographs. Would it be okay? Okay come here. Why don't you jump on here. Ha, ha, ha, good jumping. Remind me your name again, even though I heard it, I'm gonna get him to say it. Ezra. No, you're not supposed to tell me. Did he just tell me. Alright, what I heard him say is that your name, I'm gonna turn this a little bit brighter cause I just moved him around. What I just heard him say, by the way, I'm shooting with the Flexlights from Westcott, which are really nice, because what you see is what you get, and I can adjust them accordingly. But as I'm talking to you, he's getting a little bored. Are you getting a little bored already? Alright let me ask you two questions, you ready? I feel like you're here with me, but potentially, you're kinda still a little nervous, right? Are you just a little nervous? Yes or no? Do you know what nervous means? Here, I'll show you nerves. Do you mind if I move you. Okay these work, great. Do you know what nervous means? What do you think it means? Do you think it means? (Tamara making anxious noises) Is that what it means. Like that. Show me, show me nervous? Can you show me. Okay, so what I am finding is I'm shooting back here for the framing, but I need to be up here because this is more interesting, and back there I'm just like this blob, right. Yeah, I'm a blob. And do you know why? Why am I blob? Carbs? (laughing) Do you think that's why? Do you think that's the reason why. I'm gonna try to warm you up a little bit. Lets try something like this. Alright I'm gonna back up a little bit. Tell me how far to go, let me know when to stop. You want me out of the building don't you. Let me know when to stop. Can you switch me to the 105? Oh no, what was that? What was that? Do you want me to cough with you so you feel like you're not alone in the world? Would you like me to do that. Oh do me a favor, pull your jacket down a little bit. See your little vest pull it down a little like this. No, don't pick your nose. That's not what you're supposed to be doing. Pull your vest, see this, pull this down a little bit. (chuckling) Do you want me to do it. This should be an example where I've got a frame, I've got it set up, I can keep his attention, but I want to change the details. And I can either have mom or dad or an assistant do it. Wait a minute, are you changing it for me? Hey mom. Say "mom," say it! "Mom", say it. How about this go "mom, mom, mom!" Is she coming. Hey mom, for real, come here. Just scooch his vest down and then plop him back. Then come sit next to me, he likes looking at you. Ready, okay. So I'm gonna go right here, I'm gonna frame this shot. Tell me what looks he likes from you. This one, this one, tongue out. So our little buddy is a little sick. What does he sound like when he's sick, (coughing). You do it. (coughing) Is that what you're doing. Okay lets try something different, will you go snuggle him for two seconds. Okay we're gonna try something really fun, ready? Mom's gonna snuggle you, she's gonna give you snuggles. And then when I say, "mom", she's gonna run back here then run to you, but first she's gonna snuggle you. She's gonna snuggle you big times. He doesn't feel well, but we're still gonna get some fun stuff. Alright go, wait, wait, tell mom, say run there and come right back to me. And then I'm gonna give her candy when she comes here. Tell her come here. Okay you gotta say, "good job mom". You want to say "good job"? No, you want her to come back. Alright ready, hold on. This is perfect, okay this time mom's gonna come up and she's just gonna go like this on your nose. Okay, she's gonna go like this on your nose. Go, go get em. (chuckling). Faster mom. Say "faster". Wait, wait, wait, do me a favor. When you run up come this way, so I can have this light on him. Right ready, cause he's got a great expression. Here she comes, here she comes. (laughing) Oh no, she's gone. Hey I know what we can do, do you want to hop over here? Like a bunny, okay not yet? Ready. Do you know how to hop like a bunny, tell mom to do it. Okay, ready, hop like a bunny. I don't know if you guys can see his face, but its just kinda turning into a little bit of overstim. So I'm gonna switch back, will you switch me back the 2470. And then we're gonna try something new. Are these your shoes? Do you think I could wear them sometime, would that be weird? Lets try them here. Oh lets cough real quick, (coughing), do you want to cough? Want to do it, just get it out of the way. Cause I have a feeling that if you coughed a little bit, you'd feel better, you know, that's what I think. So I'm gonna come much closer again, cause the farther back I am, the less engaged we are. And we, are also feeling kind of not so well and a little over-stimulated. My knees hurt, oh my goodness. Alright, just like that. I'm gonna keep these shoes, I'm gonna pull the shirt down. I'm gonna have your hand be up here. And then we're just gonna hang out here. Go like this (sniffing). (laughing) Oh, little face. Go like this (sniffing) Go like this, hah. I'm gonna keep doing this for like half an hour. Oh my god, are you picking your nose again? Shall we make mom come back real quick cause we're collaborating. Oh is that not clicking. Shall we have mom come back real quick? Uh huh. Why do we want mom here? Would you say that the reason is because you love her. Uh huh. Yeah, like very much or just a little bit? Very much. Mommy come here real quick. I have a feeling, okay what I'm going for is one moment, No, no, no, no, no. What are you doing mom. What is she doing. So quick analysis before we have our next guy. Quick analysis of that situation. We had a child right away who needed to warm up. And we got smiles right away, slowly and then we got smiles. Then we had a child who is not feeling well. So what happened next is he was the shy child and no, excuse me, he went from being the one who needs to warm up and then immediately transitioned into the one who feels everything. Because when you're sick, you feel everything. And you could tell, right away, he's coughing. I don't know if you could see his nose was running a little bit. And I'm thinking a couple things, one, this is exactly when I want to collaborate with mom. This is exactly when I want to bring in a comforting face and a comforting situation. We're gonna hold him and snuggle him. She's gonna go right next to me. She's gonna do the things that she knows draws him out, like being a little silly. But its coming from her, and that is why I want to collaborate, because there's times that we just feel everything and we want comfort. And that worked, you'll see the shot we got a little bit, but we got that really cute burst of sunshine out of him. And I already know, for the child that feels everything, I'm not gonna get it all the time, I need to shoot quickly to get it. Oh hi, hello, how are you? Oh my gosh, what do I know right away. What's your name? Liam. Liam, do you want to say hi to all the people. Hi, these are the people who come everywhere with me as you might have heard before. Liam, let me ask you two questions, come here. One, alright look at them real quick, I'll go over here. One, tell me about this jacket. Is this your jacket, do you keep wearing it? Is it comfortable? Do you feel fancy? You kinda look fancy, I like it. And do you know it goes right with those shoes, that's amazing. What you eat this morning for breakfast? Pancakes. Pancakes. I got here early. Yeah, so you got to have pancakes, did you have syrup on them? No. No, is that disgusting? I don't like it. Why, too sweet. What do you put on it instead, mustard? Mustards come up a lot this morning. Yeah. Yeah you do, you put mustard on your pancakes. Oh that's awesome, what's it taste like? Pizza. Remind me your name again, Ezra, Fred, Johnson? It was Liam. Okay Liam, Liam. Okay I think if it were up to you and you could choose anything how would you choose to sit on this chair. And where would the chair be? Like would it be this way, would you want to face it that way, do you want to have it turned all the way around? You put the chair where you want it. Wherever you put it, I'll change things for you. Yeah, that makes sense. You are very artful, I like that. You like it like that. Alright, where you gonna put yourself? Normally I'd be shooting away cause he's so cute while we try to fix it up. Yeah, and you are gonna then face that way. Okay, that doesn't work for us at all, but lets go ahead and make it happen. The dynamic child shows up ready, they even run on to the set. They're superstars, are you a superhero. No. No. They give you a lot of looks, at this age its less about posing for you and its more about bringing it. And he's bringing it. And I'm thinking two things, I'm gonna get some of this energy, cause he is gorgeous. You've heard that a lot right? Yeah, it comes up, it comes up for me. I'm gonna get the gorgeosoness. And I'm gonna work as fast as I can to get some of that quietness too, that is not evident to me just yet. But I have a feeling its going to show up. Because I want to get these shots right away, I'm gonna be shooting right away and we'll see if it works. Okay, I put the box right in front of me didn't I. Lets see, I have to adjust my lighting, because I changed the scene and now the lighting's different. Oh my goodness, you are so cute. I'm gonna be here, cause I'm gonna get great looks. And I'm gonna come right here, cause its really fun. And I'm gonna come right here, cause its awesome stuff. Its not working. Its not working is it too close? The lights not working. The lights not working, you mean the flash. Its not? Its not. There's no flash. Did you say its not, or it's snot? (laughing) No its not working. Can I tell you a secret, snot's disgusting. It is, isn't it. Alright, I'm gonna switch out to the long lens. And I will be sharing these later, they're gonna be very exciting. And I'm gonna now, I got some really close-up fun, energetic shots. And by just removing myself logistically, things are going to change a little bit. Simply because I am now becoming just a little out of frame, a little boring, a little not interesting, right? I shouldn't have talked to him, cause I just changed it. So I'm just gonna say to you guys, how you guys doing? Feeling good. Yeah, I'm diverting the attention, I'm showing him I'm not interested. And when I do that, I kinda lose the interest, right. Now its not nearly as exciting. Its not working, but I got off the one shot I wanted to get, which worked well. And I'm gonna say something like this. What's going on over there, are they doing okay? Yes. Do you like em, they seem very nice. What do you look like when you don't like people. (laughing) That's what you look like? What do you look like when you're about to sit down, wait, back up, back up. Do me a favor, scooch your legs up to your chest, hold them really close to your chest. And give them big hugs. Oh my goodness, that is quite a lot of hugging. Okay, okay, okay. What do you look like when you're eating mustard pancakes? Yeah (laughing). Is that what you look like? Yeah. I think you look awesome. Alright, and look out at them, say "hello strange people." Hello strange people. They can't see your face. Alright, close your legs. This is not a potty situation. (giggling) Alright, okay, good, good. You are so great. That was so easy, you did such a great job. Alright wave at your people as you leave. Go on, you want me to help you leave. Say goodbye people, I'll see you later, its over now. You get to leave. You don't want to leave do you, its too fun. That was perfect, everybody was exactly who they are and it was perfect. You guys saw, alright, we had our dynamic superstar, we had our interactive one and the one who needed to warm up that transitioned into the one who feels everything, cause you're not feeling good. And you see how the responses to all of them were very different. Like they're all trying to guage attention, I'm trying to get interaction, I'm trying to get them to respond. But I'm going after it in very different ways based on who they are. You guys were wonderful.

Class Description

Each child is unique and needs different techniques to draw out the most authentic portrait. Acclaimed family photographer, Tamara Lackey, talks through how to quickly identify the characteristics of a child and the posing techniques and direction that can lead to a fun session with great results. She’ll cover:

  • The 6 basic personalities that children may show up to a photo shoot with
  • How to draw out a shy child in front of the camera
  • Tips for photographing the children who don’t want to be there
  • Gear and accessory considerations for family shoots
  • How to build to a natural pose

Have the confidence and the technique to capture an authentic child portrait in every session no matter client or their mood!

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Tamara Lackey Posing Book Discount

Nations Photo Lab Discount

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



Tamara Lackey brings amazing energy to her teaching and shooting style. She shared a ton of tips and tricks for capturing the true character and personality of each child in both individual and group portraits. I have always found it to be particularly difficult to capture portraits of multiple children that are composed to be both visually interesting and true to their unique story. I learned so much about directing and communicating effectively with child subjects, and how to use my gear and other tools to streamline the process and keep it all fun for the family. No matter how much you think you know about photographing children, this class is an asset that you will not regret! Thank you Tamara Lackey!

Heidi Mikulecky

I love Tamara's tips for working with common personality types found in children. I also love that class allows you to be "fly on the wall" during her photo shoots. It's so helpful for me to see how other photographers engage their subjects (especially children). Tamara brings a ton of energy, excitement and playfulness to her shoots. It opened my eyes to how fun (and how exhausting) a photo shoot can be when you give it your all. Great class!

Sara NAomi

This was an amazing class. Photoshop has been a huge learning curve for me during the past year and it was so helpful to see the quick and easy way you used levels to bring down brightness/hotspots. I will definitely be using it to improve the "ear" on the portrait that you critiqued. Thank you soooooooooo very much Tamara and CL for providing such great content!