Corporate photography was once the realm of adults only. Just a few years ago, it was surprising to see a picture of anybody under 40 years old in an annual report or capabilities brochure, much less someone under the age of 12. But nowadays, photos of children are showing up more and more often in all kinds of corporate publications, including the once adult-only annual report. As you might suspect, photographing children requires a totally different approach than shooting the CEO.
The growth of CSR (corporate social responsibility) has pulled corporate communication attention away from company products, services, and assets and instead put a spotlight on what companies are doing for the good of the planet and humankind. And the most endearing, universally lovable and cherished segment of humankind is not the person in the corner office or even the smiling employee with 20 years of spotless service. No, instead it’s those adorable little pint-sized moppets, the harbingers of the future, the one worthwhile cause everybody can agree on: children. You can find them in every nook and cranny on the planet.
Kids. Our future. They capture our hearts, fire our imaginations and hold the symbolic key to what is yet to come. They are the reason behind everything we do, including how we spend our money and increasingly, who we choose to do business with. They’re the reason we’re concerned about sustainability.
Over the last couple of years we have shot photos of children for every imaginable type of corporate publication on six out of seven continents, including shots of village kids in Africa, courageous Norwegian Sea Scouts, overcrowded South American orphanages, uniformed Indian schoolgirls and dozens of other scenarios. It’s always chaotic working with kids—even if you speak their language, they don’t always follow directions. Things tend to get out of control, but that’s when the best shots happen. Shooting kids can be exhausting, but it’s always exhilarating. Here are some tips to make the process go a little smoother and increase your chances of corporate kiddie photo success.
Kid photos made easy (or at least not total pandemonium)
- Ring around the rosie
The single best tip for successful kid photos is to shoot from their level. Getting down low will not only make your diminutive subject look better, it will give your adult audience a different perspective on the world, making your image instantly more interesting. And while you are down there, connect with the children by singing or playing a game. It will help them achieve a more natural look for the photos.
- My, what big eyes you have!
The number two tip for shooting kids (or for shooting anything for that matter) is to take a giant step closer. Achieve the same effect by using a longer lens that will allow you to capture the child behaving naturally without you moving in uncomfortably close. Remember, filling the frame with your subject gives it greater emphasis and importance.
- Simple Simon
Children are so full of life they don’t really need much help from wardrobe, props and backgrounds to create a dynamic image. Keep everything simple and concentrate your photo efforts on capturing excitement and emotional energy.
- Testing, 1, 2, 3—can you count with me?
Before the kids show up for the shoot, test the lighting, composition, color balance, etc., of the locations and backgrounds you plan to use. Remember, kids don’t always stay where you want them, so be prepared for a variety of scenarios.
- What big (dilated) eyes you have!
Don’t start immediately firing off flashes in the youngsters’ faces. You could scare the small ones and intimidate the older ones. Take a few minutes to talk before shooting, even join in or initiate a fun activity. Make them comfortable with you and they just might do what you ask.
- Adults are boring after all
Little kids have the attention span of, well, little kids. They will quickly lose interest in you and what you are doing if you just keep hanging around and keep shooting. That’s when the real photo fun begins and you are able to move freely without distracting them. Golden!
- On your mark, get set, go!
The words child and energy are synonymous. You must be prepared to keep up with their movements and be ready to shoot at any instant. That means having your equipment ready and knowing your camera’s functions well enough that you can make quick lens and lighting changes as needed without fumbling.
- Don’t say cheese
A formal, smiling-at-the-camera shot may be fine for a family portrait but not for use in a corporate publication. Posed shots tend to lack vibrancy and energy and just don’t look natural. Candid shots are the best way to capture exuberant, uninhibited youthful emotions, whether joyous or sad.
- Rise and shine
Use natural lighting if possible. Early morning, late afternoon and overcast days work wonderfully for people lighting. You won’t have to worry about the harsh glare of the sun or worse yet that awful on-camera flash. Turn that thing off!
- Please release me
Never ever take a photo of a child for commercial use without securing a legal release from the parent or guardian. This is so important, I will say it again: Don’t even think about shooting a kid without a release—period!
Above all else, the key to great kid photos is to build a connection with the child. Children know instinctively who they can trust. If you are relaxed and having a good time, the kids will too, and great photos will be the result.