Deal 9: Hacking Photography mega-deal
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Last week’s first community workshop went really well with some great discussion from readers. So lets do it again.
This week’s question is about photographing children (a topic I know that many of our readers have experience in) and it comes from Alex B who ask:
“My brother and sister-in-law have asked me to do a photo shoot with my nephew and niece (aged 6 and 9) and I’m a little nervous about doing it as I don’t have children of my own and haven’t photographed kids before.
Would you be able to give me some advice? I have a few questions.
I have a Nikon D40 with a kit lens and was thinking of buying one of the alternative lenses you mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Which would be best?
Also, any suggestions on how to get the children feeling comfortable with me. Last time I photographed them the shots ended up looking quite posed and the kids didn’t look that relaxed?
Any other tips on photographing kids would be greatly appreciated.”
Now it’s over to you. What advice would you give Alex on photographing children? I’m looking forward to hearing your tips.
If you have a question that you’d like to ask the Digital Photography School readership for advice on – shoot me an email.
August 7, 2009 05:34 pm
you can try the new 35mm f/1.8.
or sigma 30mm f/1.4.
better on a d40 than the 50mm f/1.8
November 27, 2007 04:15 am
I've been shooting kids with a 50mm prime because of the sharpnes and fast glass. However this can be an issue when close ups are in order.
I noticed that if one child is even 6-10 inches closer or father, they will be our of focus. Now shooting in continuous mode can partially address this there are still (in my opinion) too many great shots missed.
Just something to consider when it comes for group close ups with children, swap the fast glass for somethng else.
November 25, 2007 10:26 am
Taking pictures of children is one of my favorite things to do. One great thing about kids is that unlike adults, they couldn't care less about how the hair looks or if "I don't look good in pictures." You get honest emotion. No fake smiles unless that's what you want them to do. Shoot in bursts and get down on the floor or ground. Be patient and observant. Friends of mine who have children I have photographed have mentioned to me that my pictures are outstanding and realize it's in part due to just being patient and taking lots of shots. There's no magic to it. Just commitment.
November 18, 2007 03:31 am
Remember to bring your head back up from behind your camera and make direct eye contact with the kids - if you're hiding behind your rig only looking through your viewfinder, trying to align that perfect shot, you'll lose the connection with them.
And definitely get a fixed 50mm - moving from the kit lens to a 50mm USM f1.4 on my EOS 30d was the best thing I could've done in terms of image quality, as well as my own development as a hobbyist.
November 18, 2007 01:30 am
I use a Canon XTi and always use the Canon 50mm1.8 for portraits. Tack sharp and not expensive. Get to know the kids. Talk to them. Laugh with them. Even play with them. I get right down on the floor with little ones. Older kids like to jump, run and be silly. Get outside. Teen girls love to pose, esp 'glamour' shots, and guys sports, cars. I guess get involved and involve your subjects.
November 17, 2007 04:51 pm
Well I own a nikon D200 and for portrait I really like fast lenses like 50mm f 1.4 and 85mm f1.8. You can reach suberb result with soft focus behind the subject and the right sharpness on the eye.
November 17, 2007 12:00 pm
I only started photographing children recently, after becoming a grandmother - and also because many friends of mine have babies/children and know I love to shoot. I really try to use natural light when indoors and a higher ISO to do so. I fill the frame, meaning I get close. This means the kids need to be comfortable with me and associate me with the camera. I think it helps a great deal to be just you and the kids with "helpful" parents out of the area - if the child and parent can tolerate it. This just works best for me. It keeps babies looking at me/camera rather than Mom over there. It keeps older children engaged as well. I also let the kids investigate the camera and poses as well as locations. My granddaughter, now three, and I spend some special moments this way. She'll either be a model or a photographer, or both, for sure. Not getting a fake smile can be difficult as kids grow older and more jaded. That's when props are helpful - let them choose treasures to hold or play with, even if you end up cropping them out. Ask them to talk about their choices. One more thing, I am finally understanding the need for flash outdoors on sunny days. You can't always get cooperation on posing, so use the fill flash. And, if you want a little one to stay put outside, take their shoes off. It makes for a less dated look, too. My best photos came from planning (clothing, location and camera settings) and quick thinking. My granddaughter and I were watering the grass and the light was beautiful, so I sprayed her. She got cold, wanted to change clothes (I had the dress ready). Her hair was wet, so it went under the hat I'd hoped for. I removed her shoes and placed on the kid-size rock and got what I dreamed of before she braved the pebbles underneath. Hope this wasn't too long winded.Have fun and share your results.
November 16, 2007 12:24 pm
I shoot children all day long in a studio and the main key that everyone has hit on is allow the kids to be themselves, Yeah you may get some goofy shots with tongues sticking out or eyes crossed but between those shots be shooting also as they relax and I guarantee you will get some shots that mom and dad will LOVE
One thing I have found works and I will admit I don't use it as much as I should with the older children. If it is possible plug your camera into a tv so they can instantly see what your getting. You will find they will get into it and start saying hey let me try this and then you begin working as a team
November 16, 2007 11:10 am
Interact with them. Make them feel comfortable with you. If that means you not pulling out the camera for a while so you can develop a rapport with them, so be it. Earn their trust, build an interest, ask them what they like, what strikes their fancy. Encourage them to just play, be themselves, do what they want to do, ask questions about them, and be interested in them. You'll get genuine expressions, feelings and capture who they really are at this point and time.
November 16, 2007 05:20 am
One thing I have learned with kids, is that while you have to be quick and constantly ready to snap a shot, at the same time, take your time and pay attention to what's in the frame. An amazing picture can be ruined if you cut something out unexpectedly because you didn't take the time to check your framing. Also, a lot of people have said this, but its definitely great advice- get on their level and play. Picking up the camera in between playing games with them catches them at their most natural moments and I have found that's where I always get the best results.. Good luck =]
November 15, 2007 06:45 am
I've captured several pictures of kids in their natural environment: playing. You can take a look at my online photo albums to get an idea, www.MyTimelessPhotography.com. I'm using an Olympus E-500 DSLR which is great for getting fast shots.
November 14, 2007 02:40 pm
As I am constantly shooting my about to turn 1yr old daughter, I have come to find that a fast lens with natural lighting, along with a little fill flash is a deadly combination for me that has worked very well. Also remember, like a poster before mentioned, be sure to get down to their level to get the best portrait shots.
November 14, 2007 11:30 am
One thing I have tried when attemtping to shoot kids is to bring them out of their world and get them interacting with me in my world. Involving them and showing them what the camera does, sort of treating them like little grownups - sometimes this works, sometimes you get lots of interest from them and it makes for great shots. this young lady wanted a coffee and was enjoying having her photo taken [she could only just talk!] as a grown up... funny! Another method I tried on the weekend [this won't apply - it was for a lil baby] was, as the baby wouldn't stop crying unless it had it's toy, I took its little stuffed toy and draped it over my lens.. little baby started loking directly at the toy / into the lens.. it was great!.. if all else fails, break out the sweets! - Good luck
November 14, 2007 02:09 am
Anytime I photograph my 2 y/o son (or his peers) its all about distractions. I find remote sound makers do the trick. I have an old remote fart maker that not only causes them to laugh and look around, but it always returns their gaze to me shortly after. Childish and immature you say? Possibly. But the photos are adorable and 'spontaneous'. I still find children to be the best subjects! Have fun!
November 14, 2007 01:31 am
I've got a Nikon D40 and borrowed a 50mm f1.8 to see if it would be good for shooting at my 4 year old's nativity play next month. I really struggled with the manual focus just on a static table and decided not to buy one!
November 14, 2007 01:14 am
When I'm doing a photo shoot of kids, I find that the photos that I take when they aren't paying attention are always the ones that turn out the best. My experience is usually with kids a little younger than 6 & 9, but I think it is still the same concept. Make them laugh... tell some jokes or act goofy. Then, when they're laughing, snap the photo. This might be better if you use a tri-pod, since some kids tense up when you put the camera to your face.
I'm sure you'll do fine! Just relax and try to enjoy it!
November 13, 2007 09:08 pm
When I was researching the Epson R-D1s recently someone added an interesting comment to my thread. The R-D1s has a flip LCD screen that can be totally hidden. This person said he found this invaluable when taking shots of his and his friends kids: they lost interest in the camera once they found out they couldn't see the images immediately, and so just went back to playing unselfconsciously. I don't know much about the D40 and it's accessories, but if there is an ever-ready case that has the potential for adaptation so the LCD can be hidden, it might be worth a try. Just another option I thought might be of interest.
That said, I do agree with a lot of the comments above. In my experience getting the kids involved initially, and taking a lot of shots that won't be of any use, is a good way of getting them used to being photographed. Maybe it's just my friends kids, but they do soon lose interest and ignore you!
Best of luck.
November 13, 2007 06:51 pm
I've made some quite cool pictures of my sister's and a cousin's kids during an afternoon at the local park.
We took them to the place where there were slides and swings and sandboxes and let them play.
I used my Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 to shoot with my D70s. At 200/300mm focal it provides a nice backround blurring.
I could let them play and be themselves, and not interfere being too close to them.
And I was lucky that the sky was totally cloudy : I had no problems with hard shadows but had a nice even lighting and soft shadows.
November 13, 2007 12:08 pm
Be sure to get their parent's permission before photographing them. You have no idea how many times I've been asked not to take pictures of children. I've felt so unconfortable that I end up leaving. What a world we live in.
November 13, 2007 09:18 am
Get down on their level. When I'm taking pictures of kids one of my goals is to empower them and give them great presence in the image. Shooting from their eye level or even below gives them a strong position and is not your typical snapshot. If you are able to take them outside, you are less likely to need a flash and the kids can really be themselves. Contrary to some of the other ideas, I like shooting with a longs lens and just letting the kids run around and have fun. My favorite is the Canon 70-200 f4. I'm sure there is an equivalent Nikon lens. The kids seem to forget I'm taking their picture and their true selves are revealed. Hope this helps.
November 13, 2007 06:44 am
When I photograph my grandchildren I like them to be themselves so I can shoot candid shots with a small to medium zoom lens.
November 13, 2007 04:52 am
Tim and Jill make excellent points about having the kids feel comfortable around you and about having to take a ton of pictures to get just a few good ones.
Technically speaking, I am no expert by any means, but I've found for photographing kids in general a good flash with a diffuser works really well to provide soft lighting to bring out the eyes or the near perfect skin tones they have. I've been using a Nikon SB-600 with a Sto-Fen Omnibounce for a few months now and love how I can use that for a little fill flash if I'm outdoors or achieve fairly balanced soft lighting indoors as well by bouncing off the ceiling for example.
Depending on the type of photos you are planning to achieve, I've found that getting myself involved in some kind of activity with the kids creates a sort of a comfort zone for them and they become comfortable around new people faster that way. Also makes for some great natural looking shots.
Other than that, keep clicking!
November 13, 2007 04:12 am
Once you get them over the hump of being shy, kids are usually hams. They are also very creative if you encourage them and enjoy the ideas that they come up with.
I find props to be helpful. For example, my daughter and friend were working on a project on folk music for school. We used my acoustic guitar and small keyboard and did an "album cover" photoshoot.
Shoot at unusual angles: from the ceiling straight down, from the floor, have them lay opposite head to head on the floor and shoot from above.
Show them the photos you have taken as you go, and include them in the creative process. If you are honestly having fun doing this, so will they, and that feeling will clearly show in the photographs.
Remember that the goal is not the photographs. This point is hard to explain, but for example, I remember how amazing it was doing the folk album cover shoot. How my daughter and her friend would come up with wacky ideas, cross their eyes, look at each other, look up, look down, trying different poses, one thing leading into another. The photos are the result and reminder of that experience. The experience is the most important of the two.
November 13, 2007 04:02 am
Don't make it a photo shoot. Go out, have fun and take the camera. Shoot from the hip. The best shot I have is of my niece's 7yo boy. I was sitting on a bench running through the camera settings when he hunkered down under the camera peering curiously up into the lens, and asked what I was doing.
November 13, 2007 02:51 am
Pretty much all I take are photos of children...mainly my five year old daughter. I agree with Tim wholeheartedly...let them be themselves and ask them what they want! Forcing children into poses seldom works. You'll get to the heart of their personality and get much more natural expressions if you just let them do their thing.
Having said this...you HAVE TO BE PREPARED TO TAKE A LOT OF PICTURES. I know that when I go out to take pictures of my daughter, I often take over 100 shots to get 5 keepers...but those 5 keepers are well worth it.
Also, have patience and remain calm and lighthearted about the whole ordeal. I know that sometimes I can get frustrated when I'm not quite getting the shot I envisioned and nothing can shut a kid down faster than when you show frustration or impatience. There have been many shoots where I might not have gotten the picture I had in my head ahead of time, but got several that I loved even more after seeing them on the screen or playing with them a bit in PS. Perfect example...my recent Halloween photo shoot...didn't get what I initially envisioned, but ended up with some GREAT pics (I think!).
If you're interested, I have LOTS of examples on my blog.
November 13, 2007 02:40 am
2 things - I'm an asiring pet photographer, so I can relate a little. I learned just this weekend, not to wait for the pose, but anticipate it and have that button pushed as the pose is happening. . . . I think my best pictures come when I keep camera in hand and just be there to play with them (click as you are making the funny sound, not after) - or, when things are quiet, tip toe around and get the unexpected. Pets are kids too!
thing #2 - This is not November 13th. I know for sure, because yesterday was my birthday and it was the 11th - time doesn't go that fast!
November 13, 2007 02:00 am
As far as picking up another lens, the 50 f/1.8 is always a good standby, only difficulty is that it's manual focus on a D40 . . . not so great when you're trying to photograph children.
Best advice is just to hang out with them while you're taking the pictures. The first pictures in the set aren't going to be the ones you want, but you'll have to take them anyway, just to get them used to the camera.
November 13, 2007 01:47 am
I totally agree with Tim; make it fun and not gimicky. Get them involved; get them take a few photos of each other and you with your camera. Talk with them and not to them about what they want.
Ask them what they like doing; reading, drawing, jumping... whatever and photograph them doing that. This will give you nice relaxed and almost candid photo's.
November 13, 2007 01:20 am
If you'll have the room, I'd suggest picking up the 50mm 1.8, or even the 1.4. After I bought the 1.4, it didn't leave my d70 for the better part of a month, all shooting pictures of my daughter.
Can the d40 control an SB-600 with CLS wirelessly? I don't remember, but if it can, set one up on a bookshelf or someplace else high, and bounce it off the ceiling. It'll give you a nice even light, and you wont have to think about at as you play with/photograph the kids.
And as has already been said, embrace your inner child and play with them. Let them get comfortable with you, and with you taking pictures, and then you'll be able to get the natural shots.
November 13, 2007 12:55 am
The kids you are going to be shooting are 6 and 9 years old. These kids aren't dumb. Little kids tricks will work with little kids, but these aren't little kids. At this age, you will need to be on their terms. Kids at this age can actually be quite the hams in front of the camera, depending on how much Mom and Dad have made them do. You may find you need to dial back the hamminess of the kids.
Try asking them what kinds of pictures they want of themselves. Shoot these. Use them as leverage.
The best you can do, over all, is just hang with them and let them get comfortable with you. My guess is you want some fun pictures, so plan on having fun. Let out your inner-child and play. Be patient.
These kids aren't toddlers or babies, so REALLY avoid the silly gimicks to get kids to smile. Tapping a lens cap is just going get you a really strange look from a 9 year old. Don't insult them with the gimicks. Once insulted, you've lost them.
November 13, 2007 12:37 am
Two things from my experence:
1) Let them be natural. I told a story to a group of kids while taking their pictures. The rule was they could listen to the story if they looked at a certain part of the camera (which of course was ok if they didnt). This way they all had their natural smiles when they laughed or just enjoyed the story. I over dramaized the original story of chicken little... so over framatized it would embarass my friends and I would never live it down if they knew.
2) The lens cover:
The lens cover is your best friend. Hold it in your hand and tap on it to get attention. Children will always look up to see what is going on and wonder what the heck is in your hand. For the really little ones (under two years old) if you feel darring... give them the lens cover a while into the photo shoot... seems to give you a few more chances for a good shot if they are getting antsy (if not a peice of tape works really well with them too!)
Just my thoughts!
November 13, 2007 12:20 am
The day before "The Shoot" go over to their house and hang out with them and your camera. Kids are usually shy about photos, but if you start showing them the photos (has to be digital) they usually get excited and start doing silly poses. Doing this gets them used to the camera and less afraid so when you do "The Shoot" they are like yeah we did this yesterday and it was fun!
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