How to Capture Authentic Photos of Children with These Simple Tips

How to Capture Authentic Photos of Children with These Simple Tips

Kids are incredible! They have the ability to brighten your day no matter how grey it seems. Children are our most important legacy. Each generation brings something special to the world. They are full of ideas, enthusiasm and curiosity. Sometimes we forget that when we start taking photos of children.

I photograph a lot of family portraits and despite my best efforts to convince the adults to relax, parents worry about how their children will look. Often I hear statements like, “Sit nicely for the camera”, or “Don’t make silly faces.” My personal favourite is the statement that throws Grandma under the bus, “You’re grandmother wants a nice picture of you.” It’s hard sometimes to convince adults to let kids be kids. Sometimes they are messy little beings. It’s who they are. So here are some tips to help you capture authentic photos of children just being themselves.

The shark mask makes the shot. He's a kid with a fantastic sense of humour and he thought this would be awesome.

The shark mask makes the shot. He’s a kid with a fantastic sense of humour and he thought this would be awesome.

My favourite clients are the ones who let me be creative with the portraits we make. Yes, we get one posed family photo before we set the kids free to play, but the most cherished photos are the ones I capture of their children playing. All too often they will forget about the posed family photo and choose something more unconventional to hang on their walls. Nothing is more satisfactory than when a client says, “That’s my son. That is exactly who he is.” Those simple words make all the effort worthwhile.

This young man loved to swim. So we chose to shoot some portraits at the pool.

This young man loved to swim. So we chose to shoot some photos at the pool.

How do you make authentic photos of children?

A great way to get kids excited about having their photo taken is to ask them to suggest a location. When kids have input into something they start to feel more invested. Some kids become very enthusiastic and start planning different angles at which you can take their photos. I’ve found myself in some interesting positions when trying to do photos of children. In the end, it is all worth it.

We let her play with the leaves on the ground. The smile is so mischievous because she knew she wasn't supposed to put the leaf in her mouth.

We let her play with the leaves on the ground. The smile is so mischievous because she knew she wasn’t supposed to put the leaf in her mouth.

Location – Location – Location

Once the location has been established it’s time to start shooting. Don’t pull the camera out right away. Consider playing with the child for a short time. Join in the game of cards or throw a baseball around for a few minutes. Just try to help the kids relax and become focused on playing, rather than on your camera.

When the child is comfortable it’s time to start shooting. I generally begin a session with a longer lens, something in the range of 70-200mm works very well. Watch them playing to get a feel for how they move around and then starting pressing the shutter button. The key is to catch the child facing you. Shots of their side or back are generally less appealing than a photo in which their entire face is visible.

Playing at home with his favourite toys was the best way to capture images of this little man.

Playing at home with his favourite toys was the best way to capture images of this little man.

Kids love to help – take advantage of that

The idea for this portrait came from the young man. What a great idea!

The idea for this portrait came from the young man. What a great idea!

After a little while, you can move in closer. Perhaps switch to a 50mm lens. At this point, you have to move quickly. Approach the child and ask them if they are having fun. Ask if they can help you out by standing still for a few portraits. Some kids will be very cooperative. Others you may have to negotiate with a little, but that’s okay. I often trade silly faces for more conventional posed shots. The result will be lots of laughter and isn’t that exactly what you want?

Allowing kids to be goofy and suggest some of the poses they take. Can result in genuine fun during a shoot.

Allowing kids to be goofy and suggest some of the poses can result in a genuine and fun shoot.

Kids are kids. They are exuberant, silly, serious, and just plain balls of energy. I say let them be who they truly are. If you want to capture the true nature of a child then take photos of children playing. The photos will be authentic and memorable. They will reflect the personalities of your kids and most importantly, they will make you smile.

Conclusion

Show me some fantastic shots of your kids playing. It will bring a lot of joy to your heart and mine if you show them off. Please share in the comments below some photo of children that show their true personalities.

Funny faces are a great way to relax the kids. They had a lot of fun getting their portraits shot that day.

Funny faces are a great way to relax the kids. They had a lot of fun doing their portraits that day.

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Erin Fitzgibbon is a freelance photographer, writer, and teacher, from Ontario, Canada. She specialises in portrait, sport, and fine art photography. In her free time, she escapes to the backcountry or the beach with her family.