Sunday, August 24, 2008

:ARTICLE: 10 Tips for Photographing Children

Since my daughter is my main photo subject, I've come up with a few general rules for photographing kids over the years. I hope you find a few that will help you get the shot you're looking for.

#1 - No cheese, please!
Avoid simply telling a child to smile or using the overused “say cheese.” Generally, all you’ll get are fake, awkward grins. It’s much better to find other avenues for getting the expressions you’re looking for. Ask them about their favorite cartoon characters. Tell them a story or a silly knock-knock joke. And remember, smiles are not necessary at all sometimes. Some of my favorite shots of my daughter are ones in which she’s sporting a serious or thoughtful expression. Strive to capture various expressions. Even silly or unhappy faces can have a certain charm and can tell volumes about a child’s true personality. Case in point below...yes, she is a goofball!

#2 - Let them take the lead.
Kids have a ton of energy and trust me, you’ll sap every ounce of yours and then some, trying to get them to pose ‘just so’. It’s much easier to give very general directions like “Why don’t you go smell those purple flowers? I bet they smell like candy.” Then, just follow and snap away. Believe it or not, all I told my daughter in the photo below is that it looked like a great rock to climb on and she did the rest!

#3 - Be quick.
They move fast, so you must also. I suggest leaving the tripod at home when shooting children. You’ll only because frustrated by toting around extra equipment and probably end up missing some great shots. In addition, it’s important to know your camera. Know what settings you plan to use for the shoot and have it set before it even gets started. Kids can quickly loose their interest in getting their picture taken and you don’t want to waste valuable time fiddling with camera settings.

#4 - Be patient.
You may go into the shoot knowing what you want, but with children you often must take what you can get. Sometimes what they’ll give you if you let them do it naturally is better than what you had in mind anyway. I often joke about my 50:1 ratio, but it actually rings true for most photographers. It generally take a lot of shots (50) to get 1 great photo. That’s just the way it is no matter how good you are. Have you ever seen a professional photographer take five pictures and call it a day? I highly doubt it.

#5 - Vary your distance and angle.
Since children are generally shorter than the photographer, it is important to get down on their level to avoid distortions. However, that being said, it can also be fun and often lead to some very interesting results by shooting from various levels. So, get your eye-level photos, but then also shoot some from above and below as well. Shoot close-ups and full-length. Adding variety to your shots can ensure that you don’t miss any important details in their expressions, outfit or surroundings.

#6 - Use props.
The use of props can be a great idea when photographing children for several reasons. For one, it can sometimes help the child to focus their attention and give you a few extra moments to get that ‘perfect’ shot. They can also enhance the photo by telling a story. For example, using a pumpkin is a great photo for a fall photo shoot or a book would be a great way to show a child’s love of reading.

#7 - Avoid clutter.
Now, I know I just told you it can be a good idea to bring items into your photos, but don’t overdo it. One pumpkin can have the same thematic effect as five and often less is more. This can also sometimes translate to their outfit as well. You don’t want their outfit to be to busy or it can actually compete or clash with your subjects surroundings and take attention away from their face or the story you’re trying to tell.

#8 - Focus on the eyes..usually.
There is nothing quite like the eyes of a child. Therefore, you generally want to make sure that your focus in on them in most photos you shoot. However, there may be times when it makes sense to place the focus elsewhere such as when your subject is not looking at the camera or a prop is being used. Perhaps the prop is their favorite book and the book is important to the story you are trying to tell in the photograph. In this instance, you might actually want to bring the front of the book into focus while leaving the child reading the book in the background out of focus.

#9 - Location is key.
I am always on the lookout for new photo shoot locations. Even in my small community, there are tons of places that lend themselves to great backdrops for photos – a metal fire escape in a downtown alley, the uniquely carved front doors of a church, or beautiful flowering bushes in a local park. Making your photo subject to these places can also be fun for them because it gives them a new place to ‘explore’ while you capture the perfect shot.

#10 - Keep it fun!
Include the child in what you’re doing. If you are using a digital camera with an LCD screen, let them view some of the photos on the screen and give them compliments about how wonderful they look. You might even want to let them take a shot or two. By making it fun and making them feel special, they are likely to feel more comfortable and be more cooperative during the shoot.

5 Great Books to Help You Enhance Your Skills:
1) The Art of Children's Portrait Photography
Photographing Children Photo Workshop: Develop Your Digital Photography Talent
Photographing Children and Babies: How to Take Great Pictures
Expressions: Your Behind the Camera Guide to Taking Extraordinary Photos of Ordinary Life
Studio Portrait Photography of Children and Babies
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