One of the most popular subjects for photography is photographing children. Nearly every moment can be one we don't want to lose, and we hope these ideas will help when you're taking pictures of kids, and also to get the best photos possible in the process.
Make taking pictures of the children part of the fun
Don't just sit your child down in a chair and tell them to say "cheese." Trust us, this will only work once. Instead, take them someplace fun - a park, a playground, the beach, the woods or just let them play in their room. Playground equipment in particular can result in many unusual angles and lots of natural smiles when taking pictures of kids. Natural settings can make for beautiful backgrounds when photographing children. Instead of sitting them in front of the Christmas tree, let them play with the Christmas tree and the packages. The more fun the experience is for the child, the easier taking pictures of children, and the quality of your photos will be.
There are no rules about how to photograph children. It's supposed to be fun, so don't be so serious. Play hide and seek behind the camera with young children. Let them see the photos you take on the LCD screen on the back of the camera. You might end up with a long sequence of silly poses - many of which may be far too posed to be of interest, but eventually they'll settle down for a moment and you might get that magic shot.
Don't forget props! A favorite toy, their chair - all the little parts of their life can help to distract them from you behind the camera. And as an added bonus, when they grow up, and when you see the photos later, they will have far more meaning for containing a favorite teddy bear or something equally precious to them.
Whatever you do, be patient. It sometimes takes a while for the subject to relax when taking photographs of kids, and they are quick to pick up on your frustration.
Choosing the right equipment
The key to photographing children is to get up close without interfering with what they're doing. You can do this of course by getting physically close to the child, or even better, to keep from distracting the wee one, is to use a telephoto lens. Even most point and shoot cameras come with these, but be sure to choose one with image stabilization. The more you zoom in, the easier it is to come out with blurred images, particularly with a subject which is in motion. There's no better way to be sure of getting the right camera for photographing children than by talking to the experts at Berger Brothers Camera.
Wide angle lenses can be useful as well sometimes. A DSLR with a 24-105mm lens allows you to zoom in close, as well as to get more of the background in the shot. And often times the background can tell a lot about the child, especially when shooting in their room or favorite places. A wide angle lens can also allow you to zoom in on the face and still catch what they might have in their hands. If you're choosing a point and shoot camera, look for one which shoots in a 16:9 aspect ratio, which gives you wider format prints.
Also, don't shy away from using wide aperture settings. These will blur the background (the smaller the number, the less of the image will be in focus), which can be great for taking pictures of children.
It's all about speed
Kids move fast, even those just learning to crawl. Their expressions can change in a heartbeat, and if you're not ready beforehand you're likely to miss the shot.
Make sure you have your equipment setup before you even mention taking their photo. A child's patience can be pretty thin, and if they have to wait for you to get everything ready, you're likely to miss your window of opportunity.
A camera with a quick response time can be essential. Many point and shoot cameras suffer from what is known as shutter-lag - the length of time it takes from when you click the shutter till the camera actually takes the photo. When photographing children, this can be especially frustrating. Sure, raising a child can be expensive, but before the baby comes, it's a good time to pick up a DSLR from Berger Bros., or to put one on your baby shower registry.
A camera with continuous shot mode can be your friend when photographing kids. Most DSLR cameras, and many point and shoot cameras are capable of taking many shots in a row, often several shots per second. You might end up with several clunker shots, but with digital there is no cost to taking a bad photo, other than the time it takes to delete it.
If your child is in motion, it's a good idea to use a higher ISO speed (or just select the sports mode if you're using automatic settings). This will freeze the action and keep whatever part of the scene (the child if you point the camera in the right direction) in focus. For a more artsy effect, you might want to slow the shutter down, which gives the child a sense of movement.
The right light
Several of the most frequently asked questions about how to photograph children involves lighting. When shooting inside, quite often you might find yourself in situations where the light is less than ideal. Increasing your ISO setting will help, as will a DSLR camera with a high speed lens. But there will come a time when you'll probably need to use a flash to get the shot you want. A popup flash will give better results than a flash built into the body of a point and shoot camera. And of course an external flash mounted on the top of the camera, as typically found on DSLRs is even better.
| Flash can provide a harsh light, so the further you get the flash from your lens, the more natural your light will appear. The best results are found with a directional flash, which allows you to bounce the light from nearby walls or ceilings, resulting in a much more natural looking photo. In addition, if the flash isn't going off in the child's face, they will be less likely to scrunch up their features in anticipation. A diffuser will also eliminate some of the harshness from an external flash, very important when taking pictures of children.
Keeping it all in focus
Today's cameras are very good at auto-focusing. Unless you're trying for special effects that can't be done any other way, there is very little need to use manual focusing. This leaves you free to concentrate on composing the photo, and lets you get the shot more quickly.
Of course not all autofocus is good for photographing children. Look for a camera which focuses quickly, and doesn't suffer from shutter lag. Or it could feel like forever from the time you start to take the photo, and when you finally hear the shutter click.
Another question about how to photograph children is where to focus. When focusing it's a good idea to aim for the eyes. If your camera has multi-point focusing, try dropping the crosses on the eyes, rather than the nose. Depending on your settings, that small difference in focal points can result in either the eyes or nose being slightly out of focus, and preferably the nose.
If you're using a point and shoot camera, experiment with the portrait mode. When in this mode, the camera will try to blur the background, leaving the subject in clear focus.
Where to look for the shot
Getting down to the level of the child is always a good angle in photographing kids. Unless the child is looking up at you, shooting down doesn't produce the best results. Sit on the floor or even lay on your belly for babies and look the little person in the eye. And don't be afraid to fill the frame with the face when taking pictures of children. There's nothing like the expressions of a child, and each child's is inherently their own.s
Keep your camera handy and ready to go, and when your child is engrossed in something, sneak in a few shots. Keep spare cards handy and batteries charged up for those moments.
Don't wait for the smile. Children can be very thoughtful, and a child lost in concentration can be a beautiful thing, and make for beautiful photos.
The birthday party
Photographing a gathering of children can be a lot of fun, but only if you're comfortable with your camera, and have the right equipment. Kids in a group often launch into hyper-drive, so being able to capture the action quickly is a must.
Hopefully your party will be outside so you can avoid having to use a flash. But even then, a good DSLR with a high speed lens can be a life-saver. Don't forget your continuous shoot mode, and have plenty of cards on hand.
And don't forget to shoot the details. A shot of the area before the party contrasted with one shot after the party can be very nice. The presents, balloons, cake - all of these and many more can make for great shots. And finally, include shots of adults watching the action, as well as interacting with the children.
Got more questions about how to photograph children?
Contact the friendly staff at Berger Brothers Camera today. They'll be happy to assist you in choosing the right camera for you and your little ones, suggest classes to help you take better photos, or just answer questions and talk photography.
Want to find out more about photographing kids?
Talk to the expert staff at Berger Brothers Camera. They can help you with questions about the right cameras and equipment, as well as technique for photographing children. If you're in the area, take a class with our qualified instructors, or attend a seminar about photography. Or even better, join Berger Brothers on a photo safari where you will not only get wonderful photo opportunities, but personalized help, as well as a chance to try out new camera gear.
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