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How to Photograph Children

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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.
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Darren Rowse

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+.

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