How do you approach portraiture for children so that you get great images AND make a ton of money doing it?

1. Treat the child as your client. Your first task is to create a great rapport with the child. They won’t work with you if you don’t talk to them in their mannerism. Find what they like and share in their excitement. Get down to their level. You don’t want them to see you as an adult. You want them to see you as a friend.

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image source Tina Keller

2. Treat the mom (dad, grandparent, or whoever is there and paying for the portrait) as your client. Yes, this is the person paying for the portrait session, and any packages and prints they purchase in the future. But remember, they will be happy if their child stays happy, and if the child has a smile on his or her face as they are leaving your studio.

3. Educate. Most mom’s call up wanting a photograph of their smiling, looking at the camera. It’s your job to educate her that you can get gorgeous images that show the child’s true personality without the full face smile. You will sell what you show in your studio and your marketing. Show them what you ultimately have the desire to sell.

4. Think natural. A child isn’t going to have the patience for heavy posing, clothes changes, or boring props. The younger the child, the more you should rely on keeping things natural. Spend your time focusing in on the expressions of the child, not the nuances of the background.

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image source Tiago.Ribeiro

5. Have fun. Kids are curious by nature. So it’s easy to play with them. Make your props curious, and you can have fun for a long period of time. Tell them there’s a bug at the bottom of the bucket. Or you’ve hidden a piece of candy in the toy box. Ask them a question about their favorite toy. The idea is to get their mind off taking pictures, and focusing in on what they love.

6. Concentrate on expressions. Expressions will sell the image every time. No mom can resist a photograph showcasing her child’s innocence, beauty, or sometimes his or her spunk. One of my favorite images of my daughter when she was 2 was with her nose wrinkled, ready to run out of the room (which she did an instant after the picture was taken). It showcased her personality at that point in time, and I’ll treasure that image forever.

7. Shoot with the end in mind. What do you want to sell your client? Is it a large framed image? Or a collage of prints in a frame? Or maybe an album filled with photojournalistic style images? Have samples ready to sell the client before you start the photo shoot. Then take the images that will fill out what you’ll ultimately sell. This helps you know how many images you need to take, how many poses to concentrate on, and the general layout of each image.

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