10 Kids Photography Tips
I took several thousand photographs of my kids last year and printed …none. So in an effort to go through some of these images, I thought I might write a short post on ‘10 kids photography tips‘ using images of my own two bundles of joy to illustrate key points.
In brief, small kids are not easy to photograph. They don’t like being told what to do, they rarely sit still, they won’t smile on demand and generally kids like to do their own thing (which is only fair!). My approach is to just let them do that and shoot candidly. Directing children to pose is hard and can be frustrating (for both parties). Instead, aim for natural, unposed and spontaneous images which are often more interesting because they capture children’s personalities.
I would break down my tips as follows:
1. Follow their lead: I find that directing children to pose, smile, or ‘hug your sister’ does not produce the best results. Oftentimes the pose will look awkward, the smile will be more of a grin and the hug will be an unwelcome squeeze. In other words, the resulting photographs will not be natural or appealing. Instead, let the children roam and explore their surroundings while you take photos candidly. That way you’ll catch the smiles and the hugs as they happen naturally.
2. Be quick: Photographing children is a prime example of action photography, so a fast shutter speed is key. Shutter speeds of 1/250 and faster are best suited to freeze action and will ensure that your images are sharp. ISO may have to be increased in order to achieve fast shutter speeds. Shutter Priority Mode or Sports/Action Mode (if using automatic camera modes) are both great for that.
3. Get down to their level: When it comes to photographing children, the general consensus is that shooting at their eye level gives better results than shooting from up high. When I work with children, I tend to get down on my knees or even sit on the ground and shoot from that level. A sitting photographer may appear more approachable from the kids’ perspective too.
4. Make it Fun: Make the shoot enjoyable for the kids and worth their while. Organise the shoot in the park that they love, at a funfair, and/or introduce props that they will love to play with (balloons, soap bubbles, toys, etc).
The props will help the kids relax and you can also use the props in your pictures.
5. Observe: Children may not always like being photographed, so don’t tell them that you are. Observe, let the children relax, wait for them to engage in an activity that they enjoy and then start shooting. Candid portraiture often produces the most beautiful results.
6. Anticipate: Be patient but also anticipate what might happen. Will the kid jump in the pool? Will he throw a snow ball? Or as in the below example, will the little one push her brother off the bench?
7. Be ready technically: Know your gear to capture any spontaneous action. The easiest way to do this is to set the camera to shutter-priority mode or else use a semi-automatic sports/kids mode to freeze action. I tend to use Aperture Priority mode and increase ISO if the base ISO 100 does not let me go above 1/200 shutter speed. Be careful not to increase ISO beyond 800 as it may produce grainy images (although this depends on the type of camera you have). Remember, it is better to have a sharp image with noise, than a blurry image with no noise!
8. Vary Your Shots: Take both vertical and horizontal shots. Variety is the spice of life: so do take a selection of photographs, including full body shots, close-ups, etc.
9. Take Lots of Photos: When working with children try not to chimp (i.e. look through the photos at the back of your camera), as you may miss valuable moment worth photographing. As with action photography in general, the trick here is to take lots of photos to increase your chances of great shots. Also, remember to use burst mode, which is a great way to ‘freeze’ action.
10. Don’t despair if they don’t cooperate: As I noted earlier, photographing children is certainly not an easy task. They are unpredictable and can also get cranky (and I’m talking about my own kids, not to mention photographing children than have never met you before). So be patient, take your time and be prepared to entertain the kids to let them warm to you.