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Capturing Authentic Children Portraits

Lesson 2 of 20

Overcoming Common Challenges Of Photographing Children

Tamara Lackey

Capturing Authentic Children Portraits

Tamara Lackey

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Lesson Info

2. Overcoming Common Challenges Of Photographing Children

Lesson Info

Overcoming Common Challenges Of Photographing Children

First of all, the most common challenges I find, in terms of photographing children isn't that it's the f-stops or it's aperature, or it's the lighting, or it's, you know, the composition. Those are things. But one of the things I think is most challenging is recognizing that so many children are so very different. And I'm never gonna get the same thing all the time. It's funny, we were talking about, Is that my water? We were talking about the other day, the other day being I think yesterday afternoon (laughs). We were talking about yesterday, in our business course, about how when you think about the fact that everybody is so different, and you have to respond to them all the ways that there are, in terms of what they're bringing to you, these challenges that come up, how do we set them up in advance, so that we don't have to fight through it. I don't ever have a shoot were I'm like, "Oh my God, I'm slogging, and I'm slogging, "and I'm slogging." I'm thinking I'm gonna walk in and I'...

m gonna try a process this way, and then I'm gonna try step number two, and then I'm gonna try step number three. And it takes so much stress out of the situation. But these children who are all so different, if you're photographing them individually, or together, you're using different means. Does that make sense? So if I'm thinking about all those multitude of things while I'm photographing one child, what is happening when I'm photographing multiple children, who are different from each other? This is kind of where it goes wrong. We were talking about how, sometimes a family comes in, and they have multiple children, and I'm realizing these children are all so different from each other. When you think about adoption, because I am a big fan of building a family through birth and adoption. That's been my life experience. I hear sometimes people say, "Well, when that person, "when you meet this child and they come into your family, "what if they're not like your family? "How do you gonna deal that in terms of integration?" And I'm like, it doesn't matter where this child comes from, you could watch yourself birth this child, and you do not know who you're gonna get, cause we're all so individual, we're all so unique. And when I'm photographing a family that is five people in the family, and there's three children, and they are genetically related, they can all be extraordinarily different in terms of personality, what they respond to, what sets them off. All of that. You guys have had those experiences, right, where one person lights up this way, but the other one, you've gotta do something totally different. A great example with these two brothers, and I've been fortunate enough to photograph them, gosh, for years and years now. But what I've noticed with these two boys is they are pretty different people from each other. The one child, the one little boy cracks up a lot, and he's silly, and he thinks things are funny. And the way I get him to respond to me is by being silly with him. The other one, however, is not the same. He's more serious, and he's more studious. And the way I get him to respond to me is I'm making sure I have to be interactive. I have to have exchanges with him, I have to get his attention. I don't entertain him, cause if I entertain him, he's kind of bored and thinks it's annoying. It's kind of when you tell someone a joke and they don't laugh, and you're like, "Ha ha, it was funny to me." It's like that. So how do I bring the two of these very different personalities together to get that same look that I know my clients, who think these children are a marvel because they are, how do I get these two together and get them both to respond at the same time? We're gonna be photographing siblings later, and we're gonna be doing exactly that live and in person, in terms of trying to bring them all together. But what I find, is sometimes it's just, it's almost like contortions. You're almost bending forward to reach that person, flipping something over your shoulder to reach that person, pulling this one, and not touching that one, cause he doesn't like to be touched, and trying to do it all at the same time. And if it sounds complex, it becomes easier with practice time and time and time again. So we're gonna be stepping to that practice right after we step through these personality types. We're gonna do really rapid-fire shooting. We're gonna have child after child after child. And we're gonna show how you can do all these portrait sessions in a short amount of time, if you can quickly read them. So let's step through these one at a time. All of these specific challenges that you're going to face. I do not believe that any one term can sum up a human being. You can't just say they're a happy person. Well because we are on a continuum, we all have a lot of different feelings. So we might be happy one day, and not happy the other day. That doesn't mean that, when I say personality types, that doesn't mean I'm defining the whole child. I'm just saying, predominantly, when this child walks into my studio or on our location or wherever we are, what am I mostly getting from them? What do I mostly have to respond to in the one to two or three hours that we're gonna do this portrait session? And how do I address that? The other thing, and you're gonna find, is sometimes a child who's one way all the time, completely slips categories if something's going on during the shoot. So if I think someone's a superstar, and dynamic, and really fun, and energetic, and loves to pose, but something happens, like falls down and skins their knee or whatever, and they can flip to be the child that doesn't want to be there anymore. That's someone who even, they didn't walk in that way, I now need to address.

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!