Photographing children can be quite a fun experience once you get the hang of it. It just takes a little bit of patience, some creativity, and the ability to have fun!
Kids are quick and generally have a short attention span. It’s important to remember this when photographing children. In this article I will make a few suggestions to help you work with this distinctive in children rather than to fight against it. But for now, just remember, be patient. It pays off. You will be able to think clearly and shoot better images if you are patient. Besides, you will all have more fun!
When I’m photographing children, I will do one of two things. I will either stand at a distance and shoot them incognito, or I will give them a relaxed, natural pose to perform.
First, let me explain how I shoot incognito. When children play, they can easily become absorbed in what they are doing. They are not aware that the world is going on around them. This is the perfect time to capture those natural moments. This is what I watch for. Because I usually use prime lenses, I will position myself according to how I want my image framed. Then I will focus on the child’s eyes and wait with my shutter halfway down. I have to be ready because children are always moving. I have to watch and anticipate what they will do next to complete the composition and image I have in mind. When they perform, my shutter needs to click!
Another practice I use incognito is to shoot with my camera in continuous shooting mode. This way I can capture the best action shots. Below I have some examples of this. I took these images of my daughter when we went to cut down our Christmas tree. She was happily absorbed in running with her new found friend. I (on the other hand) was happily snapping a few photos for keepsake. The final image in this series is the winner, my favorite!
The second way I photograph children is to have them pose. I usually do not direct children much with their posing. This helps to avoid stiffness, confusion, and frustration for them. I will give them a general direction and then watch to see what they do. Sometimes they do exactly as I tell them. But sometimes they come up with their own variation. This is fine with me. I love to capture people as they truly are. Below I have an example of this. I told this child to sit on the sled. He was so excited to get on this old sled that he hopped up there and laid down on his belly like he was ready for a ride! Perfect! I didn’t change a thing.
And last, but certainly not least, I try to create a fun, safe experience for children. Remember those dreaded trips to the portrait studio when you where a child? You were dressed in clothes you could not wrinkle, hair you could not touch, and taken to a sterile studio where everyone was trying to get you to laugh. How could you laugh under these circumstances?!
When I first meet a child for pictures, I try to connect with him. I talk to him about his life. Kid stuff! What school subject he enjoys. What sports he plays. Then I show him my camera. It’s big, but not intimidating. I show him how the shutter works. I also show him that if he watches the lens carefully, he can see the shutter move. We can play a game. Depending on the child’s personality, I pretend the shutter is either blowing kisses or is an alligator smacking his chops. Kids enjoy this kind of thing, and it gets them to “look at the camera”. After I take a few photographs, I might show them the LCD. Kids love to look at themselves!
Just remember, when you are relaxed and having fun, it helps others to do the same. Kids can create beautiful images and tell great story on their own. You just need to learn how to observe them and be ready for when that perfect moment arrives! Click!
Sonya Adcock is a fine art photographer based in the beautiful state of Pennsylvania. She specializes in artistic child photography. Sonya’s artwork has been featured in Photography Monthly Magazine, Bella Grace Magazine, and Redbook Magazine. In the hectic pace of a digital era, her artwork encourages you to slow down and remember the joys and magic of childhood.
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