Photographing children is something we all take for granted. We normally point a camera at a child, ask them to say “cheeeese”, make some funny faces at them, they smile and viola! we have a photo. The problem is, most of these images lack the quality of a professional photographer. Perhaps you get lucky every now and then and capture that one-in-a-million image, but more often than not, you get another image to add to the look at and pass over pile. To help you scale down that pile, I have ten tips to share on how to photograph children like a professional. Hope you all enjoy!
- Make sure you are on their schedule, not yours. Do not stop them from having fun or wake them up from a nap to take photos of them. Trust me, they won’t turn out well. The child will be extremely irritated that you “interrupted” them and it will show in the photos. Be patient and it will pay off.
- Babies like to be warm, so if you want that gentle sleeping baby pose or that cute naked baby portrait (which everyone does), keep the area at a decent temperature. This way they won’t get upset about being cold. Even if everyone else is a bit “overly warm”, the baby will be less likely to wake up or become cranky because he or she is comfortable
- Get down to eye level with the child. This means knee height or below. Doing this will help you see the world as they do, which will make for a more interesting perspective. It takes a little more effort and may be uncomfortable at times, but it will be well worth the trouble when you see the final images.
- Ask the child about things they like and dislike (Food, Girls, Boys, Toys, TV Shows). They always enjoy talking about things they like and could go on for days about it. While they are chatting away, their personality will most likely come out and they will strike some amazing poses, make some great facial expressions and give you the real them. Kid’s are great photography subjects and most want to have their photo taken; you just have to find out what interests them.
- Have them act goofy, make funny faces, jump around and even scream. This is what children do best. And guess what? They will do the craziest things for you and the photo opportunities will be plentiful. Just don’t let them get hurt! Understand their limitations and always make safety your number one priority!
- Children are most comfortable around their parents, so don’t have the parents sit in another room or separate them, as this will only stress out the child. The key to photographing children is capturing them while they are in there own element. The thought of being separated from their parents will definitely cause stress for the child, resulting in unnatural images.
- Toys and noisemakers might work for some children. However, after age 3, they rarely keep a child’s attention and just become a nuisance to those within earshot. I have had many parents bring a tablet or smart phone with a child’s favorite movie or TV show with them. This seems to be a great tool when it comes to keeping young children looking into the lens.
- Clothing choices is a large part of the photo shoot. Many parents want photographs with silly hats or funny outfits and I must agree, they make for some great images! However, sometimes it’s best to just let your child wear their everyday normal clothes. The pictures will look less like a portrait and more like a great image captured while the family was just going about their normal daily routine. When choosing an outfit color, select colors that complement the eyes, skin and hair color. Don’t choose something that mutes the eye color or washes out their skin tone. For example, if your child has dark hair, choose a shirt that separates the hair color, such as blue or green, so everything don’t blend together
- Don’t be afraid to crop tight on the child. Focus on the eyes or face and crop tight, even a tight frame on a child’s hands or feet makes for a great image. If the child has great features, pull them into the image by creating focus on them, sidelight the feature creating unique shadows or even photograph the child in the reflection of a mirror or another reflective surface.
- When they are done, you are done. No questions asked! Don’t force a child to stay when they are ready to leave. You can try to get a second photo shoot opportunity by giving them a short break to investigate their surroundings, explore the studio, eat some snacks, etc. Sometimes they just need time to do their own thing and regroup. While there is no guarantee that this will work, it’s always worth a try
I have watched many photographers photograph children who are tired or hungry, and the resulting images clearly show their dislike for being photographed at that moment. If you want better images of children, you need to understand that children have a short attention span. If you try to force a child into sitting through a photo session when they clearly don’t want to, the images will not unfold as you wish. Think back to when you were a child…what would you rather be doing, sitting still while someone flashes a bright light in your eyes or running around wild and free? That’s what we thought. Sometimes it might take a second or even third attempt, but it almost always delivers better results. Be flexible and your images will benefit. Who knows, catch them at just the right time and the child might remember the last experience as being fun and want to come back every time you ask! You just never know
By Kevin Thompson – a professional photographer from Dever, CO. Check out his work at KTProPhoto.com
Thanks for that great look into child photography, Kevin! Very well written, and I find a lot of great tips in there. It’s something I haven’t covered before, and something I don’t have much experience with. I learned something(s) new to day! Hope to have you back here some day soon! Cheers
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All content here, including images, by Kevin Thompson