Capturing photos of children poses unique challenges to portrait photographers. Kids can be the most uncooperative models. They can run around aimlessly, throw tantrums, or even try to play around with your gear. However, taking great pictures of them may be one of the most fulfilling things to accomplish as a photographer. Delivering captivating pictures of them will also make their parents the happiest clients you’ll ever have.
Whether you’re a starting kid’s portrait photographer or just someone who wants to take the best pictures of your children, here are some tips to taking captivating kids photography:
1. Capture them as they are.
The best part about shooting photos of kids is that they can be the most genuine subjects you can take pictures of. Kids are not as self-conscious as adults and are more honest and comfortable than we are in front of cameras. The best-case scenario: you get the opportunity to take pictures of a kid who’s happy.
However, if you do get a kid who’s in a grumpy mood, never force them to smile or laugh. Wait for the opportunity to capture the kid’s smile. They’re not really good at faking their emotions, so trying to force out a giggle is a zero-sum game.
2. Build rapport with the kid.
Kids who are wary of strangers will find it hard smiling in front of you. The best approach is to be friendly with them and speak their language. Don’t be afraid to be playful. In fact, you can even make your session seem like a game to draw out their beautiful smiles. It may also be smart to invest in toys that they can play within your studio.
Don’t forget, too, that it is important to give the kids a great experience in front of the camera. So, throw out the usual adult posture and get ready to play peek-a-boo!
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3. Forget the pose guide.
In connection with our first two tips, forget trying to make them pose. As we said, kids are best captured in their natural behaviors. You can direct them, but do not expect that they will follow 100% of the time. If they have a hard time following, just move on to the next idea. Don’t run the risk of making them feel like they’re doing it wrong. This will just make them tense, or even upset as you proceed.
4. Watch out for the time.
With all the playing around, kids can easily be tired. Make sure that you’re able to take great shots within an hour or less. Never let them tire out completely, because this is not a healthy or professional practice, and it does not lead to good pictures at all.
To make sure you are not wasting time, ensure that you know your gear really well. Do not waste your time setting up equipment or looking at your camera’s screen again and again. Being familiar with everything you use during shoots will save tons of time – not just during taking portraits of children, but for every kind of shoot you will be doing.
5. Use a camera trigger.
An accessory like the MIOPS Smart+ Camera Trigger or the MIOPS RemotePlus Camera Remote. Both accessories will help you take photos faster, without having to be behind the camera all the time. Having triggers that help you shoot remotely will help you build better rapport with the children you are taking pictures of. You can also use both accessories to take HDR shots, lightning photography, or time-lapse videos. Extra gear like these is always a great investment. You can never go wrong.
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6. Get down on their level.
It goes without saying that the perspective in photography is really important. Being taller than kids, you should consider taking photos down their levels to take better pictures of them. Taking pictures of them from the top will only make them look smaller. This will also help you interact with them better, while also helping them become more comfortable around you.
7. Crank up the ISO.
Prepare to raise your ISO because kids move a lot. You’ll be wasting time taking repeat shots because the photos are blurred. We recommend and ISO of 1/160 to prepare for the kids who run around. Also, consider using a wider aperture. Combine with an 85mm or longer lens to give you enough space from the child. This combination will also help with capturing the background for some context.
If you’re still trying to figure out the kinks of kids’ photography, don’t skimp out on practice. You can do this with family or friends who want to have their kids’ portraits taken. Be prepared to invest in some time, since perfecting children's portraiture can take time.
Another important thing to note is to always ask for permission if you decide to take pictures of the little ones. There are always ethical considerations, so, always be sensitive to them. To prevent problems from arising, it is smart to have at least one of the parents present during your practice. Have them observe from a distance to avoid distracting the kid.
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9. Have fun!
Our most important tip of all: have fun! Kids are fun to work with, so just enjoy the process of taking their pictures. It may be generally challenging, but capturing their smiles is priceless. This genre of photography is not for everyone—you have to truly love kids and be comfortable with being silly. If they sense that you are enjoying their company, chances are higher that their mood will be better. This will definitely help with convincing them to cooperate with your ideas.
All the tips above are useful for budding photographers and those who are already making a living out of photographing little children. However, we want you to remember that the most important thing to remember is to make it a fun exercise for the kids. This is key to making them comfortable with the idea of doing it again the next time. Let them have fun, and maybe even involve them in choosing which pictures are the best. The key to being one of the best in this genre is not just having the most amazing pictures of children—it’s being the best at letting kids be themselves while having a fun time with you as their photographer.
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