Photographing Young Personalities With Fun Props

Photographing Young Personalities With Fun Props

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In this quick reader tip one of our forum members Brandon Price shares a tip on photographing kids.

I recently made plans to take portraits of some friends’ two little boys — two and four years old — an age I hadn’t ever done formally. A couple hours before we were to meet, I took a nap and dreamt that the whole thing went horribly. I woke up extremely nervous; I knew these boys wouldn’t take direction very easily, and the whole session was going to be very awkward if I didn’t think of something.

Sidewalk Fun

I realized that they needed something to do while I worked. I made a run to Wal-Mart and bought a big blue ball, some sidewalk chalk, and some bubbles. I thought if I could just get them focused on having fun, I could spend my time capturing that fun.

As little as these kids are, they’ve already been trained to look at any camera pointed at them with an awful smile and say, “Cheese!” Fortunately, it only took a few minutes for them to forget about me and start focusing on throwing the ball with dad. The blue ball didn’t fit with the rest of the scene, so I just shot before and after they would catch and throw it. After a few minutes we moved on to the sidewalk chalk, and then to the bubbles (though looking back, I’d definitely do the chalk last because it was very messy).

Bubbles

Aside from the beautiful shots, the most rewarding part of the day was hearing mom and dad talk about this being the first photosession the kids were able to have fun with. After showing the proofs to mom, she wrote me this note: “I’ve been telling people for years how adorable my children are and it’s nice for someone to capture pictures that really helps showcase what I see in them all the time.”

Bringing fun props allowed the children to have fun, and I was able to capture their personalities, rather than awful stiffness. Putting a little thought into ways to incorporate fun into our shoot made all the difference — both for the boys, and for mom and dad.

Independence

Check out more of Brandon’s work on Flickr.

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Some Older Comments

  • Christi Breerwood January 9, 2011 03:05 am

    Beautiful shots....I've always loved the "catch them off guard" look and you captured these perfectly! Great job!!

  • Justyna Wawrzoenk February 15, 2010 01:07 pm

    These photos look great. Simple, yet so much personality and depth !

  • Formal Kids November 29, 2009 06:30 pm

    Good to see that we are talkking about Formal Clothes

  • John July 8, 2009 01:24 am

    Your tips are a great help. I save them and go back and review them.
    Keep me on your list...I look forward to receiving them.

  • frombrandon May 5, 2009 02:02 am

    Woops, I lied. I went back and check and this one was the 30. Sorry! (By the way, I keep all my EXIF data in tact on Flickr so you can check out all my exposure settings there.)

  • frombrandon May 5, 2009 02:01 am

    @den_lim,

    I used both a Canon 50mm 1.4 and a Sigma 30mm. This was the 50mm mounted on my 1.6x crop XSi.

  • MeiTeng May 4, 2009 04:43 pm

    Good tips! Thanks for sharing.

  • den_lim May 3, 2009 01:45 am

    What lens did you use?

  • frombrandon May 2, 2009 04:08 am

    Sure do appreciate all these comments, guys! Thanks!

  • debbe May 1, 2009 05:44 pm

    great timing. I have done children in photoshoots but still look for new and exciting props. Your ideas are so natural and simple it couldn't come at a better time.
    I have 2 photoshoots this weekend with young children. I'll be looking for the wow factor.
    It would be helpful to hear about angles.
    thanks.

  • Sarah May 1, 2009 01:02 pm

    i am a preschool teacher and love taking photos of my kids best when painting!!!! yep, painting it is.... :D kinda messy as a prop but i love it more when their hands have paints or their faces.... and when they let me see their work - their eyes just seem to glow!!!!

    ANother fun photo op is when they are playing in the sand, or in a small pool (you know those air pumped ones) and a lot of floating balls!!! :D

    my kids are so used to seeing me with my dslr on my neck (when i dont have it, they actually look for it - maybe they think it's a part of my body already) and this way, they are not the "say cheese" kind of group anymore... and they also get to be aware of how to take care of (my) camera. ;)

  • Cheryl May 1, 2009 12:38 pm

    Good article Brandon, nice photos. And April great tips. "April Says:
    April 30th, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    "Certain toys will not be let go of without bursting into tears (which ruins the shoot immediately), and some (like you mentioned) get messy or don’t suit the style of the session.

    Also, do not—under any circumstances—allow the child to see more than one prop at a time. Otherwise you will end up with lots of toys crowding the child, and the child will be lost in the picture. This is a mistake many parents make (give them anything they want so they’ll just smile). One toy/prop at a time. Always."

  • Lauren May 1, 2009 10:02 am

    Great ideas, especially for those who don't have kids.. I've always found that the best ones of my son were the ones where I told him to look up and I clicked before he realized what I was doing.

    I photograph newborns everyday and I carry an arsenal of props (mainly letter blocks and ribbon) and I have moms EVERY DAY say "look how cute THAT is" when I put their brand new baby on their tummy and write their name with the blocks across the curve of their back... longer names like "Christopher" and "Samantha" are even cute because the names are longer than the babies.

    Props are a great idea and I LOVE children and sidewalk chalk!! I've even seen it for engagement pictures, too.

  • Matt May 1, 2009 05:16 am

    Awesome advice, pictures defiantly look better when they are natural and not all stiff.

  • Laro May 1, 2009 04:48 am

    Really nice and helpful post. Thank you.

  • Regina April 30, 2009 11:52 pm

    OMG this is a fab idea. I know it's not rocket science but def a way to remind us of this simple things to make our photos shine. Thanks.

  • April April 30, 2009 12:50 pm

    You touched on this in your article, but having worked exclusively in child photography for a year my advice would be to be very careful about which props you use, and what order you introduce them in.

    Certain toys will not be let go of without bursting into tears (which ruins the shoot immediately), and some (like you mentioned) get messy or don't suit the style of the session.

    Also, do not—under any circumstances—allow the child to see more than one prop at a time. Otherwise you will end up with lots of toys crowding the child, and the child will be lost in the picture. This is a mistake many parents make (give them anything they want so they'll just smile). One toy/prop at a time. Always.

  • Peter April 30, 2009 12:38 pm

    Props are definitely the way to go... earlier I read that as photographers we should stay away from the "cheese" type of photography...and this is a prime example of the great results...excellent job...

    Next time, could you please include some of the "specs" of you shots... sure to be educational...

  • matty April 30, 2009 07:42 am

    really good idea!
    the pics turned out great!