Photography tips – eye contact

Oh eye contact, why do you elude me??  I have been trying and trying to get some eye contact over here.  Yes, I love walking away and contemplative looks as much as anyone else…but there is a connection that is made with eye contact.

It was much easier when they were little and you could keep their attention simply by making funny sounds.  Now that they are older, they are much less interested in me and my camera.  They just want to go play and I am holding them back.  I have been trying to figure out how to keep their attention long enough to get a shot of them looking at me, so everytime I take out the camera I seem to try different tactics.

This week, I set out to figure out how EXACTLY does one get a child to look at the camera.  Let me tell ya…it ain’t easy!  They want to look anywhere but the camera.  In order to get these shots…

  • We had an ongoing conversation about the different Disney princesses, while…
  • We played a game of throwing a ball back and forth, while…
  • Mommy had to have reflexes faster than a jackrabbit to get the shot.

Piece of cake!

Eye contact – Cue the angels singing!

 tutu time

No eye contact

tutu time

Am I the only one that struggles with eye contact??  Please tell me I’m not, and if I am please give advice freely!  I am finding that trying to carry on conversations and shooting in continuous mode when they FINALLY look at you works the best.  This becomes a problem when shooting in RAW, though, since it doesn’t recycle fast enough for continuous shooting to really be continuous.  It’s more like paused shooting, which is not working for me.

After spending a little time with RAW, I am thus far unimpressed.  I feel like my .jpg files are pretty close to what I want to achieve, and have less noise than the RAW versions.  I have to do more processing on the RAW files and then they don’t seem to turn out as nice as I want.  I’ll work with it some more, but right now I am not loving it.

If you have anything that works for your kids, please share.  I have heard of some photographers having success with mounting a pez dispenser to where you put your flash.  There is also the bug in the camera (“can you see the bug?”).  Once they get older they are wizened to those tricks.  I need new tricks…anyone have any new tricks??

18 Replies to “Photography tips – eye contact”

  1. I have one ham you can’t get to NOT look at the lens, and one I struggle with. I had read somewhere about draping a gummy worm across the top of the lens-I’ll have to try it myself! Great pictures as always-I’ll go back to lurking now! 😉

  2. I have had two things to work for my four year old – first of all, if I tell him that he can look at the pictures on the camera afterwards, I can get a few – second, if I allow several “silly” pictures, I can sometimes get some “good” pictures as well…a trade-off…what he wants to do for what I want to do.

  3. I’ve got nothing. I have kind of given up. I do the give me one good shot and then you can be funny -sometimes it works.

    But that first picture of Anya – OMG, so amazing…with the tutu and the eyes and…*sigh. Beautiful!

  4. Addison will immediately look down or turn around the minute my camera comes out and she’s wise to all the tricks. i totally empathize!!!

  5. I find I can get eye contact and a grin if I ask them to do stupid things.

    “hey, Drew–stick your tongue out at me! Now, make a mean, ugly face! Ok, now cross your eyes!”

    That normally gets them going, and in-between faces they’re happy and smiling.

    Oh, and cash works, too.

    “Look at me and smile nice for 4 photos, boys, and I’ll give you each a dollar!”


  6. Asking for silly faces and carrying on a conversation about what she may be doing at the time works for me too. I laughed when I read how you talk about the princesses. Ella is so into princesses now and tells us all the time which ones are hers and our favorites.

    I am in love with the second photo. Anya’s face, her eyes and smile just light up the whole shot here. Its perfect!

  7. Lol…..I have this same problem. You know how they say a plumber’s sink always leaks???? I think it’s the same concept with photographer’s kids. My kids will never look at the camera for me now that they are older. See here under the post Mamarazzi…full of the strange, non-eye contact photos.

    My clients give me eye-contact often…many times I tell them that their favorite cartoon character is in the lens.

  8. For my own kid, I just make it a reward if she can look at the camera – big hugs and lots of praise 🙂

    For clients, I do everything from say “YAY!” to barking like a dog. A good photographer friend of mine actually sings. 🙂

  9. I think it is PURE LUCK!!!
    Well kindof 🙂 I like to tell stories. Kids love stories and it’s all in the way you tell it. This has worked for me on occasion.
    I have found that candy bribes only frustrates the kids and they lose interest QUICK!! I have tried the pez dispenser and I say something like, “After 10 clicks you can have a candy”. Doesn’t work with all kids though. It epecially frustrates the little ones!
    I have had more luck with stories, engaging conversations and things like that.
    The second picture here is so fun – she is so pretty!!

  10. My tween-teen boys aren’t into have their photos taken anymore, and I’m totaling losing them. Which explains why I have no good recent shots of them.

    And why I have no tricks to share. I’m looking for cute little kids to photograph. 🙂

  11. I have never really worried about eye contact too much…I like the non-traditional kinds of portraits. But now that I’m starting photograph other kids more often, it’s becoming more important and I’m realizing I don’t know how to do it. I am soaking up all the tips.

    Oh, and that first picture? G.O.R.G.E.O.U.S!

  12. Sometimes I don’t mind the lack of eye contact, but if I am taking pictures of something that I really want to turn out well (and with eye contact) then my best bet (at least with the 2 year old) is to have someone else with me that can do something to grab his attention while I grab the shot. Because asking him to look at me and smile has NOT been very effective. Although I think that dangling a piece of candy or two might work…I’ll have to try that…

  13. Oh, do i ever have trouble getting Caden to look at the camera!!! Especially as he’s gotten older and moves faster…I have so few chances to get his eyes right at the camera…It is sooo frustrating…No tips from me…I am totally at a loss!

  14. Hmmmm eye contact…That’s tough!It seems that Mia will be lookin at me ALL day then as soon as I pull the camera out, she looks anywhere but here…and forget smiles. I try not to say ‘smile’, for Mia they always end up looking contrived. Storytelling and asking her about her favorite animals (I’m sure that will grow into fave princesses).

    I’ve also recently switched to RAW and am equally unimpressed. I’ll try working with it a bit more.

    I’m in LOVE with the second shot. Love how almost all background is blown out Totally shows off those gorgeous eyes!

  15. I completely emphasize with you. I have one that will barely stop running when it’s photoshoot time. And one who insists on saying “cheese” in such a way that she looks like a chipmunk. I’ve had to settle for the “I’m paying attention to something really important over here, instead of you Mommy” shots. I’m going to have to start telling stories I think. And I haven’t wanted to resort to candy bribes, but I will try that too.


  16. I agree, kids that aren’t ours are much easier to get eye contact with. For my four-year-old, it’s bribery, and for the two-year-old, singing, laughing and getting him to do something funny.

    Sometimes letting them do something slightly “illegal” helps, like sitting on the table, or jumping off a chair. Both of them keep looking at me, like “really? You’re letting me do this?” Hello, eye contact!

    Plus a few other thoughts on that at the photographing kids article I did a few weeks ago. Hopefully some of them will be new and helpful to someone!

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