How to Photograph Children

How to Photograph Children

Check out our new eBook – CLICK! How to Take Beautiful Photos of Your Children

How should I photograph my children? This is a question we’re asked a lot at DPS and so I thought I’d put together a few Child Photography tips.

I’ve outlined them below in two parts – ‘settings’ and ‘the shoot’. Keep in mind that it reflects how I photograph children and by no means do I have a monopoly on the only way to do it – feel free to add your own tips in comments below.

how-to-photograph-children.jpgPhotograph by thejbird

Photographing Children – Settings:

Lets start by looking at some tips on how to set your camera up when photographing children.

  • Aperture Priority Mode– I’d start by switching your camera into Aperture Priority mode. This will let you have some creative control over depth of field which can be an important factor in portraits. Learn more about Aperture Priority Mode. If your camera doesn’t have aperture priority mode – it might have a ‘portrait’ mode which can be worth shooting in to get those nice fuzzy backgrounds.
  • Aperture – I’d set my aperture at f5.6 to start with (you can adjust it up and down as you start shooting). This will throw the background out of focus (unless your kids are right up against a wall) but will give you enough depth of field that their whole face will be in focus.
  • ISO – Depending where you are shooting (inside or out) and what the light is like – set your ISO to 200 (lower is better if you have lots of light). If it is too dark and this makes your shutter speeds too long you can pump it up – but try to keep it under 800 or you’ll start getting lots of pixelation).
  • Shutter Speed – Keep an eye on the shutter speed that your camera is choosing. Try to keep it 1/200th of a second or faster if you can (if your kids are running around – to up to 1/500th or more). Like I say – if it’s too dark you can increase your ISO or even push your Aperture up a little. If you’re not confident with shutter speeds and your photos are coming out blurry because your children are moving too fast – you might try setting your camera to ‘sports mode’.
  • Focus Mode – Set your Auto focus to single point focussing. You could leave it on the multipoint focusing mode but I find with kids that move around a lot that you want to know exactly where your camera is focusing quite precisely (this could just be me though).
  • RAW – If you have time (and the ability) to do some post production work on your images later try shooting in RAW. This will give you more license to edit your shots later. If you’re under the pump for time and/or don’t have the ability to edit your work – JPEG will do.
  • Flash/Lighting – I’m not sure if you have a flash unit or not that you can use but my preference is to limit the use of your camera’s built in flash. If you do have an external flash and you’re shooting inside – bounce it off a roof/wall (if they are white) or use a diffuser to give indirect light. Otherwise try to find situations that are well lit with natural light – this is my preferred situation – if you can do it in natural light you’re putting yourself in the position to not have to worry too much about your flash. If you’re shooting into the sun though – consider using your flash to give a little fill flash light.
  • Lens – I like to take a couple of approaches when it comes to lenses. The main approach I take is to use a lens with some real zoom capability. I love to get my 70-200mm lens out which enables me to shoot from a distance and yet still fill the frame with the child I’m photographing (this lens also has the advantage of being fast (f2.8) and having image stabilization) – even my 24-105mm lens gives good range at the 105mm end. The other approach that can be fun is to shoot at the other end of the spectrum and shoot with a wide angle perspective. Getting in nice and close with a wide lens can give all kinds of fun distortion (which when used creatively can lead to some wonderful shots). If shooting indoors or in poor lighting you might also want to go with the fastest lens in your bag.

OK – so we’ve talked camera settings – lets move on to the shoot itself.

how-to-photograph-children-tips.jpgImage by darkmatter

Photographing Children – The Shoot

Before I give some specific tips about the shoot, I think it’s worth saying that you want to get the children that you are photographing as comfortable with you and the camera as possible. Showing kids photos after you’ve taken them, letting the child look through the viewfinder and even take a few shots (if they’re old enough), spending time with the kids before taking shots – all of these things can help set the child at ease. The more relaxed they are the better.

Location – Where you shoot will depend a lot on your situation – but try to think of a 2-3 scenes/settings that you could go to before you start shooting. If you have a few hours – pick at least one outside (a park perhaps), one inside (in their bedroom or play room perhaps) and try to find a spot where you have a fairly simple background (something with color can be good) for a few posed shots. Choose places where your kids have fun, where you can show them in their natural playful environment. If you’ve got the time go to the zoo, beach or some other fun place.

location-fun.jpgPhoto by Brian Hathcock

Candid Approach – I try to shoot candidly with kids as much as possible. Get them doing something that they enjoy and just start snapping. You might ask them to stop/pause what they are doing every now and again and to look at you (at the top of a slide for instance) but over time you’ll find lots of moments in the normal run of their ‘play’.

playful.jpgImage by Jeff Kubina

‘Posing’ – With older kids you might find that they respond better to ‘posing’ moments. I find with little kids that they don’t often have the attention span for this (and they tend to pull the cheesiest smiles they can).

posing.jpgPhotography by Larryboi90

Get down on their level – You’ve got young children so unless they’re very unusual they’ll be half your height. Shooting from an adult’s perspective looking down on kids will leave you with average looking shots. Get on their level, make the camera level with their eyes (or even slightly below) – do this and you’ll get much more intimate shots.

photographing-kids-on-their-level.jpgPhotograph by carf

Alter Your Perspective – Having said that – sometimes you can get a really great shot by breaking this ‘get on their level’ rule. Shooting from directly above or below can also give a great result!

alter-perspective-childeren-photography.jpgPicture by bass nroll

alter-perspective.jpgPhotography by ToniVC

Get close/Zoom – you’ve got a lens with reasonable focal length (I’d probably prefer something a little longer myself) but you’ll want to get in reasonably close in order to fill your frame with your kids. At times it’ll be good to zoom out or step back in order to get their context – but your parents want to see your kids faces – so make sure they dominate the shot rather than their environment.

photograph-children.jpgPhotograph by thejbird

Focus Upon the Eyes – Pay particular attention to your kids eyes. If you’ve got the single zone focusing switched on – choose eyes as the focus point. You can get away with other facial features a little fuzzy but the viewer of an image always is drawn to the eyes of the subject.

eyes.jpgPhotograph by Herve Kerneis

Backgrounds – pay a lot of attention to the backgrounds of your images. A background can give context to your shots but also can be a real distraction. Before you start shooting clean up any distracting items. Make at least one of your locations a place with a fairly undestracting background. I like to try to find a colorful wall or even to set up a sheet/background for a few more posed shots with the child just standing there in front of it. Alternatively light your subject in such a way that there is no background.

photograph-children-background.jpgPhotograph by carf

Get Abstract – mix your shots up with a few more abstract shots. For instance take a picture of their shoes, zoom right in on their hands or eye lashes, get them framed so only part of their head is in shot. These more playful shots can be a lot of fun and will add variety to the end results of your shoot.

abstract.jpgImage by melinkita

child-photography-abstract.jpgPhotograph by mpisti

Clothes – my motto with clothes is to choose some that the child feels comfortable in and that reflects their personality. If you put them in their Sunday best but they can’t move freely – your shots will look stilted. The only other advice on clothes is that sometimes bold, plain colors can work well. Perhaps have a couple of outfits on hand that you change them into between locations.

clothes.jpgPhotography by Wazari

Shoot in burst mode – for at least part of your shoot switch your camera into burst mode (where the camera shoots a lot of shots fast). I actually usually shoot a whole shoot in this mode – but particularly when shooting outside or at a park where your kids are on the move it can be very useful. Look for ‘series’ of shots that might go together in a multiple image frame on a wall OR which you could put together into one image with photoshop (a child running, sliding down a slide, on a swing, doing a dance, riding a bike…) – these can be a lot of fun.

continuous shooting.jpgImages by Diyosa

burst.jpgPhotography by Glenn Loss-Austin

Include other People – one good way to help relax a child if they’re a little tense and to give an image a little more context/story is to add another person into the image. Whether it be a sibling, parent, friend – adding a second person into a shot adds another point of interest and introduces the idea of ‘relationship’ into your image. It can also distract the child from you and help them to be a little more relaxed.

photographing-children-people.jpgImage by dlemieux

Speaking of fun – do your best to make the shoot as much fun as possible. Show the children some of the shots you take, ask them to do funny things, be funny yourself – all of this will bring energy to your shoot, help the child to relax and capture some of their spirit. The more fun they have the more genuine and engaging the shots will be.

fun.jpgPhoto by Todd Baker

Check out our new eBook – CLICK! How to Take Beautiful Photos of Your Kids

These are just some of my tips for Photographing Children – what would you add? Got some great kids portraits already? Share them with us in the Share Your Shots section of our forum.

3 Books for Further Reading on Photographing Children

  1. Photographing Children Photo Workshop: Develop Your Digital Photography Talent
  2. The Art of Children’s Portrait Photography
  3. The Sandy Puc’ Guide to Children’s Portrait Photography (Sandy Puc Guide)

Read more from our 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+.

Some Older Comments

  • Christine Matrangos June 17, 2013 09:55 am

    Which AF mode do you use for say a 6 mth old that doesnt really move much? One shot or AI Servo on a Canon?

  • Roger January 8, 2013 04:41 pm

    Great website with lots of good photo tips. Visit my Squidoo lens at:

  • suraj prakash singh September 26, 2012 10:39 pm

    Thank you Darren! It's a very meaningful article and i believe it will do a lot for me while photographing my new born nephew.

  • Kate September 16, 2011 05:02 am

    Hi, I've been into photography very much for several years. It always just a hobby though. Now, having a tiny bit more than just a camera (Nikon D40, + three lenses) I and my husband want to go a step further. I have a first session on sunday. I am glad that through reading this article, I already knew some things, and glad that I got some more tips as well :) Thank you very much! When I'm done, I'll be glad to share my pictures with you all!

  • Paul Ralte August 6, 2011 03:37 am

    inspiring. Can't wait to try out with my kids. thanks.

  • Tom July 24, 2011 12:35 pm

    Thanks for the great post! My kids serve as models and test subjects for me all the time. I figure if I can photograph a kid then a bride will be easy!

  • Tony_Wedding Photography Braintree May 24, 2011 05:46 pm

    I'm photographing a two year old today and was searching the internet for some good advice. This is excellent many thanks!

  • Avishek October 10, 2010 12:55 am

    This is a great article. My 15 month old nephew is coming over in a week and I am very excited about clicking pics of the little man. Cant wait. This article was the perfect thing to read to prepare myself for clicking endless pics of him. Will be posting some of the pics very soon on DPS. Thanks!

  • Dhila August 19, 2010 02:04 am

    Very insightful. I just picked up a Rebel XTi after years and years of Exilim point-and-shoot. I am about to shoot a toddler with his family and wanted to get some ideas on camera settings and ideas on shots.

  • scott porter July 11, 2010 05:48 am

    2 thoughts.

    1. it is extremely difficult to shoot a child you love and not have a good photo.

    shooting anothers child is easy, but the parents have to relate. natural settings. natural poses, natural actions. or possibly the totally opposite -- to see something they never saw in the child. it depends on their intelligence, emotion, and intangibles.

    2. also a truly good photo tells a story. it may be read in different ways by different people, but a story will be there, nevertheless.

    i dont know photography, but i know balance. your picture selections have it.


  • martha am tambunan June 14, 2010 04:48 pm

    i have 2 kids, 8 n 3 years... i love them sooo muchh..., n i love to take pictures of them...

  • okanagaon photographer March 17, 2010 02:49 am

    beautiful images along with some really great tips.

  • Ken January 24, 2010 03:17 pm

    Great images and advice here! The foundation of photographing children is to like children.

  • SWP November 4, 2009 10:39 pm

    this is a wonderfully helpful post.

  • Alesia September 23, 2009 07:42 pm

    You're God send! Love the article cos I always have trouble trying to take pictures of my little girl. Thank you so much!

  • vbee August 28, 2009 12:43 am

    Thanks so much, this is a wonderfully helpful post.

  • hershey August 23, 2009 04:11 am

    The kids are so adorable. Anything they do are great subject to my lens.Thanks for the tips!

  • deepika August 9, 2009 12:51 am

    nice tips thanks!! love this article...

  • Mandy Charlton February 17, 2009 11:50 pm

    This is a great article, although I would have mentioned the 50mm lens, preferably the 1.4 or higher, also I always shoot in manual and use manual flash, it's really changed and helped my kids photography (I've been in the business for 4 years now)progress. For me photographing kids is about honesty, you just can't make up the emotions they share when you have your camera out.

  • natalia January 25, 2009 04:54 am

    Wonderful article, thanks for all the help!!

  • Millard December 27, 2008 09:12 pm

    I have no children or grandchildren so I have no one to practice on really. I think children would fall somewhere between shooting adults and shooting pets, adults being pretty easy and pets being very difficult. I have gobbles and gobbles of photos of my first pet. He is always my first subject when I am trying out new equipment.

  • kishor December 20, 2008 04:58 am

    it is really very helpful for learner hope i will learn more from dps

  • Yuppie December 16, 2008 08:00 pm

    Great article and world class shots. The first one is my favorite.

  • Todd Baker December 16, 2008 04:00 pm

    I'm thrilled to have a photo here. Thanks.
    I'd add maybe one more:
    Shoot, shoot, shoot and then shoot some more.
    Kids are always moving - and every hour of practice you do in similar situations has a huge payback in the number of usable shots you'll get out of a session.
    I've recently tried to be very intentional about this by taking my camera anytime I go into the city and "randomly" picking out quick-moving subjects I can focus on.

  • shrutti December 15, 2008 05:03 am

    really help full! its so difficult to shoot kids as they keep moving and the shot become blur! i love shoting potraits though...

  • b.J. Lee December 13, 2008 01:35 pm

    josh meyer Says:
    Here is an alternate guide. (I have a 3 year old and two 4 year olds)
    Step 1 - Taze child
    Step 2 - photograph child before extreme random movement begins anew.

    Of course, your way is...ummm, okay, Josh...Thanks for the alliterative point of view! LMAO!

  • josh meyer December 13, 2008 06:18 am

    Here is an alternate guide. (I have a 3 year old and two 4 year olds)

    Step 1 - Taze child

    Step 2 - photograph child before extreme random movement begins anew.

  • Jim Little Photography December 13, 2008 12:11 am

    This is a great post! Photographing children can be a rewarding challenge. The candid shots are usually the best.

    Great Site!

  • hazel erikson December 12, 2008 06:48 am

    I find it easy to photograph my granddaughter when she is intrigued with critters and she really wants me to take their photo.

  • Scott Roeben December 12, 2008 05:57 am

    A truly great article! A definite must for anyone interested in getting great shots of kids. The only other thing I'd suggest is a technique I've found is foolproof when it comes to getting kids to relax and be themselves...and to have fun. Two words: Farting noises. Thanks for the wonderful, insightful article. Oh, and please drop by my new children's photography site, and let me know what you think!


  • Shaman December 12, 2008 01:00 am

    This makes me want to get out and shoot some photos of kids. Thanks!

  • b.J. Lee December 12, 2008 12:40 am

    What great advice!
    Looks like I should start putting a step ladder into my rig for some shots, (I am vertically challenged...Grin).
    And the shot with the bubbles...Wow! I want to grab it for a screen saver...
    Well done...
    Great site!

  • Peter December 11, 2008 11:27 pm

    Well done, good tips as well as examples!

  • robhob December 11, 2008 09:57 pm

    Came across the work of Tara McGee on flickr. This lady is brilliant! Have a look here:

  • Aimee Greeblemonkey December 11, 2008 05:00 pm

    Sooooo agree with this post (and forwarded it to a ton of friends).

  • April December 11, 2008 01:30 pm

    All great tips!

    But another really important one is that the child always comes first. Don't force them to do something for "the perfect shot" or they won't cooperate. When they get tired stop shooting, or they'll get cranky. Go with the flow.

    The less you push, the better shots you'll get. And more likely that you'll get some more shots later.

  • David December 11, 2008 08:53 am

    Great photos. I put together a collection of the best flickr photo groups of child photography at my blog. If you want to get more ideas, check it out below. It's worth a review!

  • lakaye December 11, 2008 08:03 am

    awesome article. very useful suggestions. i plan to branch out into child photography, but i don't have any kids to practice on. i will surely use this as a guide!

  • Software RIP December 11, 2008 06:47 am

    Wow, that is a big help. I have twins and want to get every great picture I have. This will be a big help !

  • Jeannie December 11, 2008 06:13 am

    I love this article!

  • ImaNicePerson December 11, 2008 01:31 am

    Fantastic photos. There is nothing more precious than children.

  • marc littmann December 11, 2008 12:41 am

    depends on the camera you use, but my nikon D200 rips RAW files more then fast enough for me at weddings (I don't do a ton of burst mode, but can click off more than enough for lots of action shots where RAW processing is not the bottleneck. using flash (especially a speedlight) ends up being the bottleneck if you don't have a good aux battery to keeping it firing. but going RAW has not been a problem for me.


  • cristiano007 December 10, 2008 11:41 pm

    My only concern with RAW is the longer saving times that could affect your action shots.

  • martin fiege December 10, 2008 08:58 pm

    amazing shots! .. here´s one of mine:

    greetz from germany!

  • Abhishek December 10, 2008 05:01 pm

    Looking at the photos the 1st reply that pops up is WOW!!!
    Amezing photographs n gr8 tips.
    My wprsonal experience is- the best way to take the snap is to let the kids do whatever they want to & keep waiting for that RIGHT moment and just click the button :)

  • Mukesh December 10, 2008 01:25 pm

    Simple and to the point. Some outstanding shots... even inspirational. Thanks

  • themisfit December 10, 2008 12:20 pm

    more great tips and great photos. Thanks for sharing

  • marc littmann December 10, 2008 11:05 am

    was the burst mode image of the girl on a bicycle on the path--is that all done in PS by extracting each shot of the girl and the bike, or is this done some other way?

    lots of great shots! I like to let kids shoot me and their families (with great care!) to help get them relaxed and to get into the shoot.

    bringing in their blanky or special toy can help relax them, too. plus it often captures something very memorable to them that will be fun to look back on when they are older. (but only for a couple of shots do I try this, not the whole shoot).

    thanks for the article!


  • Digital Cameras Australia December 10, 2008 10:41 am

    My gosh they are some of the most beautiful photos I have ever seen!

  • zulfadhli December 10, 2008 08:40 am

    A very detail and easy to understand tips. Photographing children will always makes you smile because of their energy and they don't often feel shy. Great tips

  • Millard December 10, 2008 08:39 am

    Wow!! I am really not much of a kid person, but those are some great kid photos. Thanks for the tips.

  • Deirdre December 10, 2008 08:03 am

    Love this -- and that it doesn't focus only on very young children. The two girls with the polar bear could be my own. At first I thought they were under water with the polar bear.

  • Jill December 10, 2008 08:02 am

    I have a six year old daughter and she has taught me MUCH about photographing children! :-) I actually just wrote an article for my blog not to long ago on the very topic:

    10 Tips for Photographing Children -

  • romrom December 10, 2008 07:39 am

    Excellent article, sum up essential points

    See a child portrait I took in china:

  • boris December 10, 2008 07:37 am

    Great article with some amazing examples. Thank you for the inspiration...

  • Rodrigo December 10, 2008 06:17 am

    My approaches.

    Thanks for the tips !

  • Paul December 10, 2008 04:32 am

    The two images by thejbird are bloody great, especially the first.

  • duckyead December 10, 2008 02:49 am

    very useful tips!! thanks for sharing!!

  • sHERRA December 10, 2008 02:23 am

    Phenominal! Well writen and spot on!