5 Tips for Photographing Children

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Photographing Children can be a lot of fun – but also presents photographer with a variety of challenges. In this guest post the team at Aliph Aur Meem share 5 tips for photographing children to get you started.

1. LET THE KIDS HAVE FUN

Children are most expressive when they are being themselves. Give them a little too much direction and you could end up diluting the whole experience for both of you. This is really one of those times when you need to bring your photojournalism chops to the forefront, and genuinely be a bystander observing the kids being kids. If you want to change up the shot or try something else, instead of telling them what to do, have a conversation and lead them to where you want them to go. For example: “Is that your swing set? Do you have any cool tricks you could show me?”, or, “Look at all these leaves. Don’t you think it would be so much fun to just throw ’em up in the air and let it rain leaves?”.

toronto-family-portraits-10.JPG

2. FAMILIAR ENVIRONMENT

Pick a location that is familiar to the kids. It could be their backyard, a nearby park, or any place that is familiar to them. Not only will the kids be more relaxed and natural in a familiar setting, but they will also most likely have a few favourite things about the place they could show you.

ottawa-family-portraits-11.JPG ottawa-family-portraits-12.JPG

3. PLAY THE EXPRESSIONS GAME

One of the things you could try with the kids is an expression game. If they are old enough to understand, tell them that you have a game for them, where you will say out loud an expression or a word, and they have to try and do their best impression of that word. Use words like “Happy, Shocked, Surprised, Sad, Smelly” etc. If the kids aren’t getting a hang of it, ask them questions that will bring out different expressions on their faces. For example, “What if your favourite thing to eat?”, “What is your least favorite thing to eat?”, etc. This generally works better for kids

toronto-family-portraits-4.JPG toronto-family-portraits-7.JPG

4. PARENTS OR NO PARENTS

Some kids feel shy with other people watching them including their parents. Other kids love having an audience. Find out what kind of child you are dealing with and adjust accordingly. We got these cute pictures of this brother and sister duo when mommy was watching. But as soon as mommy went inside for a moment, the kids just totally opened up and started breaking out their own poses!
ottawa-family-portraits-18.JPG toronto-family-portraits-5.JPG toronto-family-portraits-6.JPG

5. KEEP IT RELAXED

Family and especially children portraits are nothing like other high stress photographic assignments like wedding or fashion shoots. Keep it easy, relaxed and conversational. Sell your personality before anything else and the bonds you make will last as long as the pictures.

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  • Perfect examples and points, thanks.

  • I liked this article… its good…. another huge tip for photographing kids – get down on their level…. too many times I see a good picture that could have been better if the photographer werent looking down on their subject…. its ok to have fun, get down low – the kids will respond to that as well

  • Very interesting reading, I think its so important when taking pics other than the expression ones, to let children do their own thing and just snap away. Dont tell children what to do or get them to pose… just let them at it. I often see parents trying to get their chidren to do things for a pic but never works out.

  • Thanks for the tips! The photos’ quality alone shows how good they are.

  • My biggest pet peeve is when people take pictures of kids, but aren’t at their level. For example, pointing the camera down at them and shooting, instead of lowering the camera to their level and shooting. If parents can remember to do this, they’ll usually wind up with much nicer looking shots of their kids.

  • great tip you had hear, I love the shots that you took. Although I’m not very gifted in interacting with kids, my wife definitely is. So this advice would be perfect for her. thanks

  • jd

    Whew. It’s been over three weeks since the last “photographing children” post. I was getting worried I’d have to make it a whole month without those same tips being repeated.

    https://digital-photography-school.com/5-tips-for-young-family-portraits (Oct 2)

    https://digital-photography-school.com/lifestyle-photography-%E2%80%93-photographing-children-in-their-element (Sep 5)

    https://digital-photography-school.com/8-tips-for-mom-a-raz-zo-photographers (Aug 27)

    Quality… not quantity. Please, think of the children.

  • Tom

    Thanks for pointing out those other links, JD, but I disagree with you. Now we’ve got 4 different points of view, which, if you read them carefully, are different and from each I’ve no doubt most of us here can learn things… if nothing else because we’ve got 4 sets of quality photos to examine.

  • My dad once took a brilliant picture of my sister when she was about 3. He did not go down on her level, he went lower than that. She was wearing a red raincoat with the hood up and she gave him an almost arrogant look, which was only made stronger because of how she was looking down on him.

  • Lisa

    I agree tom, I very much enjoyed all those posts and look forward to more!!!

  • There’s some fundamentally good ideas here. These are mine: Get down. Keep it informal. Shoot a lot. I photograph children (and parents) in a way that let’s them pretty much decide how they want to appear on camera, within reason as I’m the one with the viewfinder.

    I recently happened upon an outdoor portrait class being taught by one of the most prominent and well-established family photographers in town. He had a group of dutiful students each equipped with the latest/greatest DSLRs and lenses, clinging to his every word. What I observed was a photographer doing just the opposite of what is being suggested here: Posing the model family down to just where to place their hands, legs, etc., giving precise directions and trying to maintain control over every detail of the shoot. In other words, it appeared more about him, than the family. I’m cure his students will try to do the same thing, which will produce serviceable, though not memorable images.

    Here’s a few of my kids portraits, where I let them just be themselves.
    http://naturalportraits.smugmug.com/Portraits/Portraits/3273171_vNPqi#296359133_xZNSz
    http://naturalportraits.smugmug.com/Portraits/Portraits/3273171_vNPqi#511934861_5nYnH
    http://naturalportraits.smugmug.com/Portraits/Portraits/3273171_vNPqi#519236107_nP7qh
    http://naturalportraits.smugmug.com/Portraits/Portraits/3273171_vNPqi#217816652_tuoWk
    http://naturalportraits.smugmug.com/Portraits/Portraits/3273171_vNPqi#182118572_xq%5B/img%5D

  • Jo

    jd…you went to a lot of trouble to criticize. I agree with tom………………….

  • Javier

    Gret tip! however since I´m starting to use my new camera D90, What are recomended settings? aperture, shutter? etc? shutter priority I guess right?

  • Juan

    I just joined the forum and do have to add that bending down to be at eye level has definitely been a huge difference in the “quality” of pictures that I take. Being at eye level seems to give the children a bit of a comfort it seems and it allows me to capture better facial expressions. I also found that, well at least with my 2.5 yr old, the more direction I gave, the less she listened. I just let her do her thing and I snap away.

  • raghav sahni

    i love to photograph children when they behave like children[img]elika[/img][img]elika[/img]

  • Great article!!!! many of us have started our interest in photography soon after our babies were born in orther to better keep this wonderful adventure of being a father and then you can never stop!!!!!!

  • jd

    “jd…you went to a lot of trouble to criticize. I agree with tom…”

    Good to know that jo agrees with tom… but what trouble? Pasting a few links from the “You might also like…” lists? Isn’t the point of comments to get feedback on the articles posted? Maybe raise the quality bar a bit?

  • The shots with “no parents” are lovely!

  • Sherry Newman

    Great article..I love photographing kids and animals and this article helps so much

  • Once you read them and think about it, all of the tips are just common sense. But I must admit that I have the human interaction skills of a turnip! And unfortunately, I need the obvious pointed out to me. So I really appreciate the article for providing such great tips. But I especially like tips 1 and 3 as they provide a fast and simple way for me to overcome my aforementioned afflictions.

  • I love photographing kids. I take advantage of it whenever I have a camera and kids are around![img]http://jenniferbretonphotographic.com/galleries/Portraiture/JacobTrott.jpg[/img]

  • ferdinand

    very informative and helpfull specially for those who are beginner in photography..ENCORE!!!

  • ferdinand

    if not too much to ask, what is the proper camera setting for children party..? thanks!!

  • Art

    just love the tips and the pictures…please keep them coming…

    Kind regards,
    Art

  • Karen Dalby

    I am new to photography and don’t feel comfortable taking pictures of (older) people. I do however love the challenge of getting photo’s of my younger nieces and nephews. I picked up a few tips from DPS and put them into practice. When my sister saw the results she asked how I’d got the children ‘to do that’ and to sit still together! I told her I didn’t get them to do anything I just ran around after them taking pic after pic and some of them were good!
    [eimg url=’http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/Dobboly/Kids#5480682958921935986′ title=’Kids#5480682958921935986′]
    http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/Dobboly/Kids#5480683554683595842
    http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/Dobboly/Kids#5480683416541776370

  • Nancy

    This was very helpful! The photos are awesome and gave me ideas I wouldn’t have thought of myself. Thanks.

  • Lisa

    I love all the points made. But as I am trying to capture fun shots, I find it hard to get the whole frame to be in focus. Even when I use sports mode, something is always out of focus….and not in a good way. For example, the shot of the leaves being thrown up in the above picture. How do you make sure the leaves aren’t fuzzy?

Some Older Comments

  • Lisa November 11, 2011 02:19 pm

    I love all the points made. But as I am trying to capture fun shots, I find it hard to get the whole frame to be in focus. Even when I use sports mode, something is always out of focus....and not in a good way. For example, the shot of the leaves being thrown up in the above picture. How do you make sure the leaves aren't fuzzy?

  • Nancy March 11, 2011 07:34 am

    This was very helpful! The photos are awesome and gave me ideas I wouldn't have thought of myself. Thanks.

  • Karen Dalby June 9, 2010 06:20 pm

    I am new to photography and don't feel comfortable taking pictures of (older) people. I do however love the challenge of getting photo's of my younger nieces and nephews. I picked up a few tips from DPS and put them into practice. When my sister saw the results she asked how I'd got the children 'to do that' and to sit still together! I told her I didn't get them to do anything I just ran around after them taking pic after pic and some of them were good!
    [eimg url='http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/Dobboly/Kids#5480682958921935986' title='Kids#5480682958921935986']
    http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/Dobboly/Kids#5480683554683595842
    http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/Dobboly/Kids#5480683416541776370

  • Art November 5, 2009 01:09 pm

    just love the tips and the pictures...please keep them coming...

    Kind regards,
    Art

  • ferdinand November 4, 2009 09:39 am

    if not too much to ask, what is the proper camera setting for children party..? thanks!!

  • ferdinand November 4, 2009 09:37 am

    very informative and helpfull specially for those who are beginner in photography..ENCORE!!!

  • Jennifer November 4, 2009 01:20 am

    I love photographing kids. I take advantage of it whenever I have a camera and kids are around![img]http://jenniferbretonphotographic.com/galleries/Portraiture/JacobTrott.jpg[/img]

  • Dave MacG November 3, 2009 05:58 pm

    Once you read them and think about it, all of the tips are just common sense. But I must admit that I have the human interaction skills of a turnip! And unfortunately, I need the obvious pointed out to me. So I really appreciate the article for providing such great tips. But I especially like tips 1 and 3 as they provide a fast and simple way for me to overcome my aforementioned afflictions.

  • Sherry Newman November 3, 2009 08:58 am

    Great article..I love photographing kids and animals and this article helps so much

  • Mei Teng October 31, 2009 01:07 pm

    The shots with "no parents" are lovely!

  • jd October 31, 2009 03:25 am

    "jd…you went to a lot of trouble to criticize. I agree with tom…"

    Good to know that jo agrees with tom... but what trouble? Pasting a few links from the "You might also like..." lists? Isn't the point of comments to get feedback on the articles posted? Maybe raise the quality bar a bit?

  • Guillermo October 31, 2009 02:22 am

    Great article!!!! many of us have started our interest in photography soon after our babies were born in orther to better keep this wonderful adventure of being a father and then you can never stop!!!!!!

  • raghav sahni October 30, 2009 05:48 pm

    i love to photograph children when they behave like children[img]elika[/img][img]elika[/img]

  • Juan October 30, 2009 03:27 am

    I just joined the forum and do have to add that bending down to be at eye level has definitely been a huge difference in the "quality" of pictures that I take. Being at eye level seems to give the children a bit of a comfort it seems and it allows me to capture better facial expressions. I also found that, well at least with my 2.5 yr old, the more direction I gave, the less she listened. I just let her do her thing and I snap away.

  • Javier October 30, 2009 02:43 am

    Gret tip! however since I´m starting to use my new camera D90, What are recomended settings? aperture, shutter? etc? shutter priority I guess right?

  • Jo October 30, 2009 02:41 am

    jd...you went to a lot of trouble to criticize. I agree with tom......................

  • Norml October 30, 2009 02:21 am

    There's some fundamentally good ideas here. These are mine: Get down. Keep it informal. Shoot a lot. I photograph children (and parents) in a way that let's them pretty much decide how they want to appear on camera, within reason as I'm the one with the viewfinder.

    I recently happened upon an outdoor portrait class being taught by one of the most prominent and well-established family photographers in town. He had a group of dutiful students each equipped with the latest/greatest DSLRs and lenses, clinging to his every word. What I observed was a photographer doing just the opposite of what is being suggested here: Posing the model family down to just where to place their hands, legs, etc., giving precise directions and trying to maintain control over every detail of the shoot. In other words, it appeared more about him, than the family. I'm cure his students will try to do the same thing, which will produce serviceable, though not memorable images.

    Here's a few of my kids portraits, where I let them just be themselves.
    http://naturalportraits.smugmug.com/Portraits/Portraits/3273171_vNPqi#296359133_xZNSz
    http://naturalportraits.smugmug.com/Portraits/Portraits/3273171_vNPqi#511934861_5nYnH
    http://naturalportraits.smugmug.com/Portraits/Portraits/3273171_vNPqi#519236107_nP7qh
    http://naturalportraits.smugmug.com/Portraits/Portraits/3273171_vNPqi#217816652_tuoWk
    http://naturalportraits.smugmug.com/Portraits/Portraits/3273171_vNPqi#182118572_xq[/img]

  • Lisa October 30, 2009 01:42 am

    I agree tom, I very much enjoyed all those posts and look forward to more!!!

  • Eveline October 30, 2009 01:31 am

    My dad once took a brilliant picture of my sister when she was about 3. He did not go down on her level, he went lower than that. She was wearing a red raincoat with the hood up and she gave him an almost arrogant look, which was only made stronger because of how she was looking down on him.

  • Tom October 29, 2009 07:49 am

    Thanks for pointing out those other links, JD, but I disagree with you. Now we've got 4 different points of view, which, if you read them carefully, are different and from each I've no doubt most of us here can learn things... if nothing else because we've got 4 sets of quality photos to examine.

  • jd October 29, 2009 05:30 am

    Whew. It's been over three weeks since the last "photographing children" post. I was getting worried I'd have to make it a whole month without those same tips being repeated.

    https://digital-photography-school.com/5-tips-for-young-family-portraits (Oct 2)

    https://digital-photography-school.com/lifestyle-photography-%E2%80%93-photographing-children-in-their-element (Sep 5)

    https://digital-photography-school.com/8-tips-for-mom-a-raz-zo-photographers (Aug 27)

    Quality... not quantity. Please, think of the children.

  • John Kim October 29, 2009 02:53 am

    great tip you had hear, I love the shots that you took. Although I'm not very gifted in interacting with kids, my wife definitely is. So this advice would be perfect for her. thanks

  • Chris October 29, 2009 02:34 am

    My biggest pet peeve is when people take pictures of kids, but aren't at their level. For example, pointing the camera down at them and shooting, instead of lowering the camera to their level and shooting. If parents can remember to do this, they'll usually wind up with much nicer looking shots of their kids.

  • Phoenixheart October 29, 2009 02:29 am

    Thanks for the tips! The photos' quality alone shows how good they are.

  • Ben@Photography Social Network October 29, 2009 01:22 am

    Very interesting reading, I think its so important when taking pics other than the expression ones, to let children do their own thing and just snap away. Dont tell children what to do or get them to pose... just let them at it. I often see parents trying to get their chidren to do things for a pic but never works out.

  • Addie Talley October 29, 2009 01:13 am

    I liked this article... its good.... another huge tip for photographing kids - get down on their level.... too many times I see a good picture that could have been better if the photographer werent looking down on their subject.... its ok to have fun, get down low - the kids will respond to that as well

  • quicoto October 29, 2009 12:55 am

    Perfect examples and points, thanks.

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