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10 Best Children Photography Tips (Settings, Poses and Ideas!)

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Photographing children can be enriching, but it can also be quite tricky! And there is no exact formula when you photograph children; every shoot will be different.

But don’t worry. We’ve got 10 great tips that will save you from making a few common errors.

With our advice, you’ll learn how to capture magical moments that families will love!

happy child sitting on doorstep

1. Be Prepared When You Photograph Children

When you first plan out a photoshoot with children, talk with their parents. You will need the parent’s consent before starting the shoot. It’s a good idea to ask if the parents have any concerns or issues you should be aware of, like allergies or phobias. Always make sure that both the child and parent are comfortable.

To capture a memorable image, ask about the child’s favourite location. For example, there might be a park that has their son’s favourite swing set. Or a path that their daughter always loves to walk with their dog.

When photographing children, each shoot should be unique. To help you prepare props, you can ask the parents and children about their hobbies. For example, is their daughter a budding artist? Bring some finger paint, paper, and an apron! Is their son obsessed with animals at the zoo? Bring a stuffed animal or ask them to bring his favourite toy for the session.

Also, in case your subject decides to drop ice cream on their clothes or tries eating mud, always carry face and hand wipes!

candid child photography of a little girl drawing

2. Be Flexible to Avoid Stressful Children Photoshoots

Yes, prepping is very important, but you also need to be open to forgetting all the prep and going with the flow. Working with and photographing unruly children can be very unpredictable.

If you find that the child is having a great time and you’re getting lots of candid moments, that’s okay. It doesn’t matter if they’re not sticking to your plan. If the child is relaxed, you’ll capture more natural shots for a better final image.

The important thing is to get great photos. With photographing children, you need to follow their lead.

candid child photography of a little boy wearing a summery hat and sunglasses
Image credit: Iwona Podlasińska

3. Shoot at the Child’s Level

You might be shooting from below or high above the child for a particular composition. But most of the time, you’ll want to shoot from the child’s eye level. This creates a more natural perspective that doesn’t feel forced in any way.

Be prepared to crawl, sit on the ground, or even roll around! Shooting at the child’s level is a great tip to help the viewer feel part of the moment.

You can also try this with portrait photography, but don’t expect the little ones to sit still for very long.

side-by-side images showing shots from different heights

4. Keep Kids Active and Entertained

The last thing you want to happen is for the child to get bored. That will mean your photoshoot is over. Your chance for the best photo possible is gone.

Think about activities that you could have the child do. Dare them to jump higher than you. Or see how fast they can run towards the camera.

How about asking them what their favourite dance move is? If their energy seems to dip, this could also be a good time to bring out those fun props you brought along.

Make sure your subject is entertained. The child needs to be happy and comfortable. This always means you have more opportunities to capture natural, candid moments.

examples of capturing children's energy through body language

5. Always Look for Candid Shots

Smiling poses are nice, but be on the lookout for the ‘in-between’ moments. These are the moments between posing when they burst into laughter or make goofy faces.

Sure, parents will want a few photos with traditional poses. But the candid moments between poses are going to matter most. Those will be the ones that reflect their personality the most.

This is where your choice of lens and camera can be important. There is no best lens for child photography, but a versatile lens such as the Canon 24-70mm would work well.

This is down to being able to change focal lengths at the drop of a hat. You don’t want to change prime lenses when the kids are running around. Make sure you have the proper camera settings and wait for the right moment.

The same goes for the camera choice. There is no best camera for child photography. Yet, one that can take many shots per second will help you when the kids are running around.

Photo of two children playing outdoors
Image credit: Iwona Podlasińska

6. Try a Variety of Poses

With most kids being very active, it should make it easy to get a variety of shots. Still, you want to keep this in mind during the session. That way, you’ll have plenty of photos to pick from once you’re culling.

If you’re done taking photos where the child is standing, have the child sit on a low ledge or a set of steps.
If most of your shots are low-key activities, ask the child to run towards the camera or jump super high.

Or if you have loads of photos with laughter, aim to get a few moments where they’re a bit more reflective. Photo sessions with great shots show a range of settings, positions, and atmospheres.

The parents will be happy to have so many to choose from. This could also mean more profit for you when the parents can’t choose!

side-by-side images of a girl hand painting and a child running on a beach

7. Patience is Key When Photographing Children

Kids aren’t worried about your schedule, so you shouldn’t be either. Giving them time will let them get comfortable. This will lead to more natural moments.

Plus, consider that it often takes a little while for the child to get comfortable with a camera. The child may also need time to be comfortable around you if they haven’t met you before.

Play around with the natural light in getting those great images. Small children are unpredictable, so go with the flow and follow their lead while keeping the lighting in mind.

8. Don’t Only Focus on the Face

Sometimes, the most telling photos are not showing the child’s face at all. Are they running on the beach towards the water? Unfortunately, your well-trained eye for portrait photography isn’t always helpful with children!

Shooting from behind may show how windy the day is and how expansive the beach is. If they’re finger painting, focus on their hands. If they’re running, focus on their feet.

Get creative with the cropping and focal point. This will add interest and highlight the child’s favourite activities.

Allow the children to use their favourite activities. This is a great tip in capturing amazing child portraits photography.

side-by-side comparison of creative cropping and focus, with a boy blowing bubbles and a shot which is not focused on the child's face

9. Shoot in Continuous Mode and Use Autofocus

Kids move fast, especially small children. This means you need to be ready to shoot fast. You won’t have a chance to focus on each shot, and often you’ll need to capture the moment before it slips away.

Shooting in continuous mode will ensure that you can take a series of shots during an active moment. As a result, you’ll be more likely to capture the perfect expression.

Use autofocus and back-button focus. This will help ensure that your focal point is always where you want it to be. These are the best camera settings for extraordinary images in a fast-paced environment.

It will take practice. Sometimes kids move too quickly for us adults to keep up. Sometimes, you’ll have to chase the little ones around for the entire photo session!

The beauty of digital child photography is that shooting in continuous mode doesn’t cost you anything extra. It also gives you all the options you could want.

You will need a fast shutter speed if you want to capture the exact movement. This is a great tip on how to photograph children when they’re on the move.

Candid child photo of a girl doing a backflip wearing martial arts clothing

10. Don’t Expect Perfect Shots All the Time

You may want to plan the shots. But when it comes to photographing children, especially young ones, expect the unexpected.

This often means that the best moments are blurry or cropped too tightly. But they do capture an emotion that can’t be reproduced.

In these types of photos, the emotion overrules the need for a technically perfect shot. The camera settings don’t need to be perfect.

Don’t wait for the right moment, as it may never happen. Focus instead on the child having special moments that you can capture. This will make for better children’s photography and separates hobbyists from professional photographers.

a shot of two children and an adult in a happy pose but with slight motion blur

Conclusion

People say that you should never work with children or animals. With photography, though, children and animals can be the most fun subjects to work with!

The tips above will help you prepare for the unpredictable nature of children photography. But remember, no matter how much you prepare, photographing children will always be full of surprises.

Follow our tips, and before you know it, getting great photos of children will be like second nature for you.

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