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Capturing Energy and Emotion in Children

Looking for a little inspiration and instruction in your photography of children? Today Kelsey Cook (see some of her work here) shares a few tips.

More often than not, we all find joy in youth. There are little ones running around all over the place and one way to capture and preserve that energy is through photographs. I have several younger cousins, nieces and nephews that often pop up in my viewfinder. Through out the years, I’ve learned several things that create a serious impact on the outcome of the photos as far as a display of emotion goes.

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Tell A Story

The most important element to a photograph is the significance behind it. Why did you take that shot? What are you trying to portray? What was going on at the time? I believe that the most often mistake photographers make is that they say “Smile!” That is probably the last thing you want. Although, these shots can make for great memories later on, the mood is often masked with a fake smile or some times a silly face, maybe even a hand covering the eyes. If the child you’re photographing is in a pensive, quiet state, capture that. If the child is bouncing off the walls, capture that. If your child is staring at you, annoyed and unsatisfied, capture that. You don’t always have to place your subjects into a situation that is photo worthy- the photos are always waiting to happen, without assistance.


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Test your Lenses

When you think of portraits, you probably aren’t thinking telephoto are you? If you’re using a point and shoot, try zooming in and out for different effects. Photos don’t always have to be face or body shots. You can mix it up by framing your shot to include scenery (such as a large tree) or zoom in to show maybe just part of the face and torso. My favorite effect is the fisheye- it includes the area around your subject and distorts whatever is in your foreground. Practicing different framing choices and lenses adds another element to your photography.


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Control your light

We often use ambient light or flash. Though, there are several other alternatives that make for fun and interesting effects. For example, flashlights or candles. Illuminating a certain part of your subject, such as just the face or hands, can create a mysterious feel to your photographs. Another alternative is practicing movement with rear curtain sync. By using panning (moving your subject and your camera) and rear curtain sync, your subject is sharp and bright while the background is colorful and blurred. Backlight, although often discouraged, can create beautiful silhouettes as well.

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Release Your Inner Child

With the stress of work or school or everyday life situations, how often do you get to be on your hands and knees, getting dirty, just having fun? I’ve found that the best way to improve in photography is to not get stressed. To not believe that you have to get “that shot” and to just go out and shoot. Don’t limit yourself to standing upright or shooting from above. Get down to their level. In this shot of my neice Lola, I was swinging with her, moving at the same pace as her while the background blurred by. In this other shot of Lola, we were both jumping on the trampoline. Even though the shot is centered, you can only see from the nose down. (Going upside down is fun, too!) Don’t be afraid to jump around or get a connection with your subject, even if you’re only photographing for your self.

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