Now that you know the basics, how to edit, and learned some rules for composition, you’re ready to go after your first subject! If you’re a parent like me, this will easily be your child. I have been photographing my children once they were born, but I began my career as a professional photographer in 2008. My speciality was and is still children. I mostly photograph newborns now, but I started with children of all ages. I’ve learned a few things along the way, so today I’m sharing with you how to take better photos of your child.
1. Learn to use your camera, and the basics of photo taking. These will all apply and the process will be less stressful if you are familiar with taking photos already.
2. Forget the idea that the only good photo is one that is stiffly posed and smiling. Just let it go, right now. Those portraits won’t mean much when your little ones are no longer little.
3. Get on their level. This is probably one of the most important tips I have, and it changes the entire tone of the photograph. It also helps children feel like they can relate to you. At the start of a photo session I normally sit on the ground with the little one and just talk casually for a bit. Kids love to feel like they are playing an active role in the photos instead of being given orders.
4. Keep contained, not frozen. I don’t mean lock your child in a room, but to give them incentive to stay in one place. If they are in their bedroom, give them a few toys to play with and photograph them from outside the door to add interest. If you are outdoors, give them something to do or hold, or direction to do something. Jumping is a favorite in our house. For babies I like to sometimes give them tiny snacks (plain puffs are a hit) to keep them still-ish.
5. Ignore them. Some of my very favorite photos are ones where my kids don’t know I’m photographing them. Take your camera out during quiet and candid moments and don’t be afraid to play with lighting or scale.
6. Let them be nosy. If your little one is nosy about the camera, let them be. Interact with them. Some of the best photos I’ve taken are ones where my subject is up close and interactive. Remember to keep your focus on their nearest eye. Always keep a watchful eye on your gear, but just remember that if you get upset when they are near it will turn photo taking time into a scary and unwanted time for them.
7. Encourage play. If you have more than one, encourage them to play together. It’s okay to give them direction like, “Look at your brother”. They don’t need to stare into each other’s eyes, but if they are leaned towards each other or looking in the direction of another it can add details to the story behind the photo. You can even tell them to say silly phrases like, “Kitty cats love pickles!” or anything else to make them laugh.
8. Use fun props. I don’t mean to put them in a tutu bigger and flower headband bigger than their head. Hand them something natural. Anything. For back to school photos, I love to hand kids a single red apple. You can ask them to do things with the prop, like put it on their head or hold it closer to you. My thoughts are the same for wardrobe. Spare Halloween, your children do not need to be dressed in something obnoxious for photos. They should be dressed in something that is comfortable and not distracting. You don’t want to draw your eyes to a hot pink patterned shirt before you see your child’s face in the photo.
9. Do not bribe. Don’t offer them candy or crazy treats for listening to direction in a photo. It creates a less genuine environment, and may set the stage for bribery every time you want to capture photos of your child(ren).
10. Relax. Just go with the flow. There is no moment in life that will be trumped by it’s photos (except maybe a wedding). If you are trying to capture a unique moment and are stressed out about it, you won’t be able to enjoy it. Know when to set the camera down and recognize that your kids want to see you for you too, not just with a camera in front of your face.
I hope these tips help you out. I know photographing children is no easy task, especially if they are your own. I’m happy to answer any questions in the comments below.