How to Become a Preschool Portrait Photographer

Within the portrait photography field, there is the growing niche of preschool and daycare portrait photography. As we candidly document each moment of our lives, the value of professional portraits to capture a specific moment in time has increased exponentially.

Early childhood is filled with brief and special moments that parents want to capture for a lifetime. If you are a professional photographer interested in helping capture those moments in preschool and daycare, here’s what you need to know.

First, what is preschool and daycare photography?

What distinguishes preschool and daycare photography is more than the age of your subjects.
Like portrait photography, preschool and daycare photography relies on natural-looking, professional lighting, backdrops that don’t distract, and working with your subject to find the most flattering poses.

As with any portrait photography, your photos must bring out your subject’s personality. But in preschool and daycare photography, you not only want to capture a child’s personality, but also the vulnerability and innocence of childhood.

Your subjects may range in age from 6 years old to 6 months old. Working with children so young has unique challenges.

Often you’ll work with children in a preschool or daycare setting, so a mobile studio and an appreciation for working in new locations weekly or even daily are key.

Learning to communicate effectively with young children is critical. You need patience and understanding. Knowing how to calm a nervous or crying child is a skill you can learn.

Be organized and efficient.

Technical skills, such as recreating natural lighting indoors and choosing the right aperture, help create phenomenal photos. But good photos aren’t enough in this competitive field.

Your soft skills—remaining organized, communicating effectively, and being reliable—can not only set you apart from others, but may also generate repeat business.

In preschool and daycare centers, you’ll work with school directors, principals, teachers, teaching assistants, parents, and grandparents—all of whom will have different wants and needs.

Establish guidelines, schedules, and expectations for both you and the client. Even the best laid plans can change, so keep your clients informed as soon as a change occurs.

Consider sharing Google Docs and calendars with your clients. It’s a great way to make updates on the go in an open and transparent way. Also, invest in software or applications that make invoicing clients easy for you and simple for them.

Figure out your process and workflow.

Start slow. Allot more time for a photo session than you think you’ll need. From there, perfect your process. Keep in mind that time spent photographing is only the beginning.

Following each session, you need to set aside enough time to properly process each photo. In the beginning, you might spend 3 hours processing for every hour photographing. Over time, that ratio may change.

After a few sessions, you should feel confident in your workflow. With a firm process in place, you’ll know how much time to estimate per project.

Learn to love working with children.

Parents want to see photos of happy, smiling children. But what do you do if a child isn’t having fun?

Here’s a tip: preschoolers love knock, knock jokes. They may not get them. They may not be able to deliver them, but they love them nonetheless.

Jokes are an easy way in which to engage a child and encourage him or her to open up and relax. Come prepared with a few jokes to lighten a child’s mood and evoke a smile.

You can find kid-appropriate knock, knock jokes at these websites:

Don’t be afraid to be creative.

You became a professional photographer because you have a talent, a superpower, if you will. You capture personalities and make them shine. You can make time stand still.

Even with these talents, the steady stream of adorable faces may seem overwhelming. But each child is an opportunity for you to be creative.

Take the time to pose each child in way that emphasizes his or her best features. Be mindful of shooting them in the best light and at the best angle. For more personal photos, take them at the child’s eye level.

Parents will see the difference and will be much more likely to purchase your work if you make their child shine.

Have a process for following up each session.

Your work doesn’t end at the conclusion of the shoot. Each school director, teacher, principal, and family member is a potential return customer.

Send thank you notes to the school directors and staff and include thank you notes in each photo package purchased by parents. It may seem old school, but the power of gratitude is astounding. Make your notes professional and personal.

A few months after your shoot, follow up with a special offer. Keep those carefully cultivated lines of communication open.

Want to grow your career in preschool and daycare photography?

If you’re a professional photographer who loves to work with young children, visit the Teddy Bear Portraits careers page to find a position in your area. We’ll be looking for your application soon!

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