Kids Psych 101: Getting Great Expressions

With Allison Tyler Jones

Owner | ATJ Photo & The ReWork
Gilbert, Arizona

DATE: October 12, 2023

If you’re going to spend your day photographing kids, you’ll need to be part circus clown and part shrink.

Every kid is different. What works for one, is a disaster for another; so what’s a nice portrait photographer to do? 

The Client Consultation might give you an idea of what’s coming your way. Is your session going to be hijacked by The Sassy Pants

Or will The Slow Warmup need some extra time to acclimate? 

Perhaps my personal favorites, The Difficult Kid or The Wild Card will keep you on your toes (or drive you crazy!). 

Listen in to find out how to prep yourself for the challenging personalities coming your way this portrait season. Understanding each individual child is going to make your job easier and the expressions and portraits more authentic. Get inside their heads and learn some new directing techniques to give the kids what they want, while capturing the images that you want!

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How to be prepared for every personality through the consultation process
  • How to capture expressions for any personality type
  • What tricks to have up your sleeve for different types of kid challenges

Here’s a glance at this episode:

  • [2:16] – Allison lays the groundwork during the consultation. She asks questions about the kids and their personalities and relationships.
  • [3:59] – She has found that the best clients are the ones that are really checked in to their kids and know how to explain their personalities.
  • [5:07] – At the studio, Allison has a candy wall that helps with excitement. But she also asks questions about what they like that can help get them on board.
  • [6:13] – Asking these questions creates collaboration.
  • [7:02] – Treat the kids with the same respect you extend to their parents.
  • [8:18] – Every kid is different but there are some common personality types that Allison has seen, like the Slow Warm Up.
  • [10:45] – What can you do with “The Sassy Pants”?
  • [13:02] – During the consultation, Allison tells the parents not to tell their kids what to do. If you get the kids on your side, you get their real expressions.
  • [14:39] – There are times that you’ll experience a difficult child. There are clues in the conversation with their parents.
  • [16:36] – Telling a child that they don’t have to cooperate may actually be the key to getting them to do just that.
  • [18:43] – Allison shares a trick she uses with difficult children to give them the motivation to cooperate and feel seen.
  • [26:36] – “The Wild Card” is never going to sit still and they will do anything for attention. But Allison loves these kids because they make the shoot interesting.
  • [28:24] – Think about the kids you have had in the past or are working with currently. Which ones are the hardest for you?
  • [30:14] – A rule that Allison has is for the family not to bribe the kids to cooperate.
  • [31:25] – A common mistake that photographers make is not being 100% ready to go right when the kids get there.
  • [33:24] – Look at what is in front of you. If it isn’t working, move on.
  • [35:13] – Avoid getting the energy amped up too soon.
  • [37:40] – After a session, have a debrief with your assistant or on your own. Take down notes of what went well and what didn’t.

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Allison Tyler Jones
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