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Photographing Children – A Quick Tip

One of the most helpful tips that I was given in my early days by a friend (and that I pass on regularly) when it comes to photographing children is to give them something to do while you’re photographing them.

Photographing-Children

Photo by Phitar

While older children might have the patience to sit still for a few minutes while you set up your gear, get your camera settings all right, adjust your flash and then get them sitting just right – in most cases children just don’t have the attention span.

Not only that – sitting or standing in a posed situation can lead to shots of children looking unnatural, uncomfortable and obviously ‘posed’.

A more natural way to photograph children is to set up your camera and lighting in an area where they naturally play and to photograph them while they do so.

Set them up with some paint and paper, put our their building blocks, take them to a playground, give them some balloons, capture them playing with a bubble machine, give them some dress-up clothes to get into, introduce a pet into the situation or get them involved in some other activity that they enjoy – then start shooting.

This will lead to shots with a more natural and candid feel to them. You can still call to them to look at the camera if you’re wanting a shot where they engage your viewer by staring down the lens – but you’ll find that in most cases their smiles will come across as a lot more genuine as they’ll be actually having fun.

As we’ve suggested in other ‘photographing children’ posts previously – remember to get down to their level when shooting, fill the frame, shoot in burst/continuous shooting mode and to be playful in your own style and the angles that you shoot from.

Top 5 Books for Photographing Children

  1. Photographing Children and Babies: How to Take Great Pictures
  2. Photographing Children Photo Workshop
  3. Professional Secrets for Photographing Children
  4. The Art of Photographing Children
  5. Creative Techniques for Photographing Children

A couple of other tips on photographing children:

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • http://www.sciencebase.com David Bradley

    My other favorite tip, one I have to repeatedly tell me kids’ granddad, is to get down to the kids’ eye level instead of shooting the tops of their heads. Does he ever take notice, does he heck as like.

    db

  • http://twalshphotoblog.blogspot.com/ Tim

    One thing I like to remind people about is that when it comes to kids, one size does not fit all. 4 year olds are nothing like 8 year olds. And if you treat a 11 year like a 3 year old, you might as well just pack everything up and go home.

    Make sure you keep in mind that each child will be different. There are no tricks that always work. Get to know the child. Understand how they think and what they want. Children have brains and are WAY smarter than grown-ups give then credit for being.

    The pictures you are trying to take of the child, the ones that people just love, capture the spirit of the child. Unless you know yourself what the spirit is…you are just taking snapshots.

  • anne glasser

    I have found another great thing to do with babies is to use what is around you. For example: One day I wanted to take some creative shots of my baby, so I grabbed a boa, stripped her naked, put her in the pose I wanted, using the boa to cover parts. I put the extra boa piled up behind her to create an interesting background. Then I put a small flower tucked behind her ear.
    Another time, I grabbed a big mixing bowl, set her inside it with a large wooden spoon next to her and a few ingredients in front of the bowl (egg, bakers chocolate.. etc.). These were all items I had around the house that made great, creative and fun shots.
    I have also found using natural lighting, as much as possible, really makes a picture look great.

    Anne :)

  • anne glasser

    Hmm. Just in case anyone is wondering, I am talking about the feathered boa, not the snake!

    Anne :)

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/razad Ryan Azad

    oh good…was getting scared for a second about the poor baby ;)

  • Mike

    I’ve found that the worst thing you can do when taking pictures of kids (especially younger ones) is to say “smile”. Smiling is not something younger kids know how to consciously do and it almost always looks forced.

    I try to make them smile or even laugh by making stupid faces or whatever works for the kid. Sounds obvious, but it took me awhile to get out of the “say cheese” habit.

  • http://www.peterphun.com/blog Peter Phun

    If you’re the family documentarian as I am, I have my camera all the time. That way when I hold it up, they don’t even blink anymore. I carry a point and shoot with me all the time. Having a camera with me all the time allows me to observe and capture moments without protest from my kids and family.
    Read some tips of my own for photographing children

  • http://DPS Michelle

    I have also found that shots of kids crying are interesting. In my experience, capturing the season of the child’s life as it really is keeps it real and kids aren’t smiling all of the time–sometimes they cry and the raw emotion makes for very cool pictures.

  • http://www.kidsdigitalcameras.biz/ kid digital camera

    Very helpful suggestion for parents who have kids which loves taking pictures. Sometimes, as a parent we just teach them how to use it and simply let them to play with it. By reading your article here I get some more lessons about photographing with a kid. Thank you.

  • http://www.koodibook.com/ MaryAnn

    I totally agree with non posed and natural pictures. I personally think pictures of children in their natural state are usually the best.

    I’d also add that for parents and family you should try to make your camera a usual part of your child’s life in order to make them feel comfortable around it. It may not be advisable to whip out cameras when your kids are not used to flashes etc. If you are a parent etc you may find this article helpful for photographing your kids http://blogs.koodibook.com/2010/05/28/5-tips-for-photographing-children/

  • aisha

    Wow! what great help. i tried taking shots of my friends kid but every time i called her she moved. god that got to me. then i took some shots of her playing, and they came out great! they were better then i thought they would be. now after reading this, i’m gonna try and shoot kids more.

  • Nalanti

    I agree abou taking photo’s of kids in their natural state but every time my kids see the camera they only want to pose so I usaully have to be sneaky when trying to photograph them.

Some older comments

  • Nalanti

    December 20, 2010 07:32 pm

    I agree abou taking photo's of kids in their natural state but every time my kids see the camera they only want to pose so I usaully have to be sneaky when trying to photograph them.

  • aisha

    August 28, 2010 05:55 am

    Wow! what great help. i tried taking shots of my friends kid but every time i called her she moved. god that got to me. then i took some shots of her playing, and they came out great! they were better then i thought they would be. now after reading this, i'm gonna try and shoot kids more.

  • MaryAnn

    June 1, 2010 07:13 pm

    I totally agree with non posed and natural pictures. I personally think pictures of children in their natural state are usually the best.

    I'd also add that for parents and family you should try to make your camera a usual part of your child's life in order to make them feel comfortable around it. It may not be advisable to whip out cameras when your kids are not used to flashes etc. If you are a parent etc you may find this article helpful for photographing your kids http://blogs.koodibook.com/2010/05/28/5-tips-for-photographing-children/

  • kid digital camera

    April 3, 2010 09:00 am

    Very helpful suggestion for parents who have kids which loves taking pictures. Sometimes, as a parent we just teach them how to use it and simply let them to play with it. By reading your article here I get some more lessons about photographing with a kid. Thank you.

  • Michelle

    September 11, 2009 02:02 pm

    I have also found that shots of kids crying are interesting. In my experience, capturing the season of the child's life as it really is keeps it real and kids aren't smiling all of the time--sometimes they cry and the raw emotion makes for very cool pictures.

  • Peter Phun

    August 30, 2008 08:39 am

    If you're the family documentarian as I am, I have my camera all the time. That way when I hold it up, they don't even blink anymore. I carry a point and shoot with me all the time. Having a camera with me all the time allows me to observe and capture moments without protest from my kids and family.
    Read some tips of my own for photographing children

  • Mike

    December 6, 2007 02:11 am

    I've found that the worst thing you can do when taking pictures of kids (especially younger ones) is to say "smile". Smiling is not something younger kids know how to consciously do and it almost always looks forced.

    I try to make them smile or even laugh by making stupid faces or whatever works for the kid. Sounds obvious, but it took me awhile to get out of the "say cheese" habit.

  • Ryan Azad

    December 4, 2007 03:08 pm

    oh good...was getting scared for a second about the poor baby ;)

  • anne glasser

    December 4, 2007 11:28 am

    Hmm. Just in case anyone is wondering, I am talking about the feathered boa, not the snake!

    Anne :)

  • anne glasser

    December 4, 2007 06:29 am

    I have found another great thing to do with babies is to use what is around you. For example: One day I wanted to take some creative shots of my baby, so I grabbed a boa, stripped her naked, put her in the pose I wanted, using the boa to cover parts. I put the extra boa piled up behind her to create an interesting background. Then I put a small flower tucked behind her ear.
    Another time, I grabbed a big mixing bowl, set her inside it with a large wooden spoon next to her and a few ingredients in front of the bowl (egg, bakers chocolate.. etc.). These were all items I had around the house that made great, creative and fun shots.
    I have also found using natural lighting, as much as possible, really makes a picture look great.

    Anne :)

  • Tim

    December 4, 2007 06:22 am

    One thing I like to remind people about is that when it comes to kids, one size does not fit all. 4 year olds are nothing like 8 year olds. And if you treat a 11 year like a 3 year old, you might as well just pack everything up and go home.

    Make sure you keep in mind that each child will be different. There are no tricks that always work. Get to know the child. Understand how they think and what they want. Children have brains and are WAY smarter than grown-ups give then credit for being.

    The pictures you are trying to take of the child, the ones that people just love, capture the spirit of the child. Unless you know yourself what the spirit is...you are just taking snapshots.

  • David Bradley

    December 4, 2007 02:45 am

    My other favorite tip, one I have to repeatedly tell me kids' granddad, is to get down to the kids' eye level instead of shooting the tops of their heads. Does he ever take notice, does he heck as like.

    db

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