I get messages almost daily about photography. Which camera do I use? Canon 80d (although I’m hoping to upgrade to the Canon 5d soon). Which lenses do I use? Predominantly my 24mm now, but prior to January, everything was taken with my nifty 50mm. And something I get a lot is: do I have any top tips for photographing children?
So, because of this, I’ve been planning to write this post for months – I just haven’t had time. However, I’ve been in bed with tonsillitis for a large part of the last fortnight, so I’ve finally written it and I hope you find it useful! If there’s anything else you’d like to know, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
7 Tips for Photographing Small Children
1. Get them used to the camera.
I remember when Busby was a baby – she was so fascinated with the camera and the sounds it made. H-Bear was the same. My children are now so used to the camera that they don’t bat an eyelid when I start snapping away (although there is the occasional eye roll)!
When I’m shooting another family, I try to warm the children up a little by chatting to them and showing them my camera. I always find that children are fascinated seeing themselves on my screen and it helps to break the ice.
Whether I’m photographing my own children, or I’m on a family shoot, I usually find that my best shots are towards the end of the shoot. Everyone has relaxed a little (including me!) and if I’m on a family shoot, the children aren’t so focussed on me and my camera.
Don’t go into a shoot all guns blazing, demanding the children “stand here!” or “look up there!”. I’ve learnt the hard way (whilst shooting my two with limited time) that this is not conducive to happy, natural photos and the children end up resenting you – and the camera. So schedule in a couple of hours, try not to stress, and relax into it. Watch the children, follow their lead and be in the moment.
3. Be silly. Or have someone being silly behind you!
My husband is a godsend on our ‘Siblings‘ shoots and he’s how we get most of our laughing photos! Children love it when grown ups make funny voices and pull funny faces, and it’s in those moments that you capture photos of pure joy.
I talk about not having to smile below, but if you do want your child to smile in the photo (and you’re by yourself without anyone to help with a cheeky grin), I find a good trick is asking the child to talk about their favourite thing in the world. Busby’s is chocolate ice cream, and as soon as she starts talking about it, she starts smiling.
4. Take them outside – or give them an activity to do inside.
I love shooting outside – in the woods, the beach or even in the park – if the children are having fun then you’re going to get better photos. And it may seem obvious, but utilising the natural light will also give you better photos than if you’re inside.
Saying that, I love using the natural light within the house too. We have huge windows which provide amazing light – even in winter.
I also have a couple of white studio lights, which I point at the ceiling on really dark days (like in the photo below). I would recommend using these over a house lamp, as the light is more natural.
5. Shoot on their level.
I’ve had so many shoots where I’ve ended up with incredibly muddy knees, a jumper covered in grass or even halfway up a tree. Joining the child on their activity and having fun with them will help keep your photos natural – and it’s always fun to get a bit mucky too! Don’t be afraid to lie on your stomach or kneel down in the wet sand to get that shot.
6. They don’t need to smile.
My favourite photos of the children are candid shots. They tell so much more of a story than a posed photo. Whether it be engrossed in den building, shell collecting, or baking at home.
I also find that as soon as I say something along the lines of “smile!”, Busby pulls a Chandler Bing-style smile and the whole natural look goes out of the window.
7. Praise them and say thank you!
This is so important if you want your children to keep taking part in shoots with you. Phrases like “You have such a gorgeous smile!” or “Oh wow! You’re the best twirler in the world!” or “Gosh! I think that was the biggest jump I’ve ever seen!” will make them feel more comfortable in front of the camera and encourage them. Also, saying thank you at the end of the shoot is a must.
And if you’re not adverse to a little bit of bribery, I find the promise of the hot chocolate or piece of cake when the shoot is over helps with my own children!