Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tips for Photographing Children

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I spend a good portion of my time photographing children. It is actually one of my favorite things about being a photographer. I love working with children. They have so much personality and they bring life to photographs. I think sometimes children get the reputation of being the most difficult to photograph (totally not true, have you ever tried to photograph a teenage boy who really doesn't want his picture taken?). This can be true so here are so ideas to get the most out of your next session with a child.

  • A couple of people at a photo shoot is plenty. The more people you get that are telling a child what to do, the more confused they get. Keep it simple. One or two people to help with smiles is usually plenty.
  • Be patient. You need to work on the child's schedule, not yours. A lot of kids take some time to warm up to a new person. Don't be afraid to play for a little while to get the child into a happy mood.
  • Work on the child' schedule! If they take naps at noon, don't try to photograph at noon. Photograph when they are the happiest. 
  • Try to capture who they are. Sometimes a pictures of a child, sitting and smiling for the camera work. Most of the time,they don't. Let the child be themselves. Let them wander and explore. Who knows you might find your best shots just by following them around.
  • Set up your shot. Using sentences likes "Give your brother a kiss." "Can you give the baby a hug?" "Let's jump as high as we can." will help set up moments that are perfect to capture with your camera.

  • Don't be above bribery. This little boy is actually looking for the skittles in between the pages of the book we wanted him to look at. Bringing a small package of non-messy candy like smarties can go a long way.
  • Positive reinforcement works, negative does not. If you want your kid to smile, it is better to offer them ice cream if they will smile, rather than telling them you are going to take away a certain toy unless they smile. The child is so worried about being grounded or losing their toy that they can't give those really happy smiles you want. Trust me on this one. When I worked at a portrait studio, this was the number one reason that sessions ended with tears.
  • Don't get angry with your kids! When mom gets mad, the kids feel it and often times the session is over after that. Even if we can calm them down after this they usually have red eyes from crying. This one seems like a no brainer but it happened at the portrait studio a lot. I don't see it very much now, but keep it in mind if you are taking your kids to a portrait studio. They are stressful places, don't let it get to you. 

  • If possible, always, always use the eyes as your focal point.
  • Let the child bring their own toys. My props are cute, but they don't mean anything to that particular child. Any picture is more special with her favorite doll in it.
  • Play with your subject. I don't think I can even count how many games of Peek-A-Boo I have played while photographing. Games work because they are fun and they naturally make the kids want to smile.
  • Kids have a short attention span. Really short. Be prepared with props, outfits and whatever else you want to do. Don't be unrealistic. I did 10 or so outfits for my little girl's 18-month pictures but I had to shoot over 5 days because she only had the attention span for about 2 a day.
  • Go to their level. I spend most of the time I shooting a small child either squatting or on my knees. Being at their height allows you to interact with them better and it lets you see the world the way they do.

  • The best photo from a shoot isn't always one where they are looking at the camera. Capture all sorts of images. The ones you end up liking might surprise you.

Some good poses for children:

  •  laying them on their stomachs with their feet in the air
  •  sitting with their arms wrapped around their knees 
  • leaning against a wall or tree
  • hugging a tree or light post
  • laying on their back with their hands behind their head
  • Following them around and letting them be themselves!
If you have any questions or suggestions of topics to cover please leave a comment, or e-mail me at housewifeeclectic at 
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