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How to Photograph Children: 10 Tips

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Photographing children can be extremely rewarding, but it can also be quite difficult!
The tips below will save you from making a few common errors.
So grab a few test subjects and practice getting as many pictures of children as you can. Soon these tips will be like second nature.
A baby boy sitting on an outdoor step - children photography

How to Prepare for a Children Photography Photo Shoot

When you first plan out a photo shoot with children, talk with the parents. Ask them if there’s a location that the child particularly loves.
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. Knowing these special places will guide the location for the photos.
You should also talk with the parents about what sorts of activities their child is loving at the moment!
Is their daughter into art? 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 one to play with during the session.
Having props on hand will ensure that there are options for entertaining the child. It will also make him or her more comfortable in front of the camera. They’ll have something familiar to play with.
A little gitrl painting - children photography

Be Flexible to Avoid Stressful Children Photo Shoots

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 you’re not using the props.
The important thing is to get great photos. With photographing children, you need to follow their lead.

Shoot at the Child’s Level

You might be shooting from way low or high above the child for a particular composition. But most of the time, you’ll want to always shoot from the child’s eye level.
This helps to put the viewer in the moment with your subject. It 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 their level is a great tip on how to photograph children.
Try some portrait photography, but don’t expect the little ones to sit still for very long.
A children photo diptych of a little girl

Keep Kids Active and Entertained

The last thing you want to happen is for the child to get bored. That will mean your photo shoot 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.
Making sure that your subject is entertained means that they’ll be happy and comfortable. This always means you have more opportunities to capture natural candid moments.
A diptych of pictures of children playing

Capture Candid Photos

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 moment’s in 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 the hat. You don’t want to change prime lenses when the kids are running around. Make sure you have the right 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.

Try a Variety of Poses With a Dynamic Photo Shoot

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 making photos that are standing, have the child sit on a low ledge somewhere or on a set of steps.
If most of your shots are of 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!
A diptych of pictures of a little girl playing

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. And even with you if they haven’t met you before that day.
Play around with the natural light in getting those great images. Small children are unpredictable, so go with the flow and follow them with your Nikon or Canon in tow.

Don’t Focus Only on the Face

Often times, the most telling photos are not showing the child’s face at all. Are they running on the beach towards the water? It might be best to forget about your well-trained eye for portrait photography.
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.
A diptych of pictures of children playing

Shoot 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 for 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. You’ll be more likely to capture the right 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 great images in a fast-paced environment.
It will take practice because sometimes kids move too quickly for us adults to keep up! The entire photo session could be little ones running from one place to another.
The beauty of digital kids photography, though, 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 freeze their movement. This is a great tip on how to photograph children in getting great shots.
An evening shot of a little girl playing in a tree - how to photograph children

Why You Shouldn’t Expect Perfect Shots All the Time

You may want to plan the shots. But when it comes to photographing children, especially little ones, be prepared for 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. Utilise the natural light in getting the best photo possible.
Focus instead on the child having special moments that you can capture. This will make for better children photography and separates snappers from professional photographers.
Two children dancing with their mother - kids photography

Conclusion

It’s said that you should never work with children or animals. With photography, though, children and animals can be the most entertaining subjects to work with!
The above tips will help you prepare for child portraits photography’s unpredictable nature. Before you know it, getting great photos of children will be like second nature for you.

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