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Tips and Tricks for Photographing Children

October 27, 2016

At first thought, one might think that photographing children is an easy feat, but those in the business will certainly say otherwise! Not only can children be quite unpredictable, but they can sometimes vary between two vast spectrums: a bundle of energy, or as shy and quiet as a mouse.

So exactly how does one go about capturing amazing portraits of children, you ask? I love this quote by Colorado based portrait photographer, Lola Elise, as it perfectly sums-up what makes a photo of a child successful:

Powerful child portraits are much different than ‘look at the camera and smile’ pictures. A true portrait will reflect a child’s personality, energy and uniqueness that every one of the bundle of joys have. [source]

Keeping those points in mind, this article will be discussing the top tips and tricks for photographing children. Let’s get started!

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The #1 rule is that there are no rules

While you might have a specific plan in place when you photograph fashion models or other individuals, all of this goes out of the window once you begin photographing a child. Sure, it’s great to plan certain things ahead, such as the location, theme, props, color scheme, etc. but try not to get too carried away. After all, a child will usually just do what they’re most comfortable with and they certainly don’t want to feel restricted by rules.

It’s equally as important not to try and force them to do anything, as a child will react more positively to a photo session that is fun, free-flowing, and which doesn’t feel like a chore. You might start your portrait session with one particular idea in mind, only to find that by the end of the shoot the direction has completely changed – this is totally normal (and a bit of spontaneity is always fun, isn’t it?).

When you don’t place any rules on the child or the outcome of the session, then it’s also a lot easier for you to not get stressed-out or frustrated if things aren’t going your way. One of the worst things you can do while photographing a child is get angry with them or yell – trust me, it will all go downhill from there (and will involve a lot of tears!).

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Break the ice

Even if you know the child previously, it isn’t uncommon for them to freeze-up or become extremely shy the moment you pull your camera out in front of them. While this would usually not be a very great start to a shoot with any other subject, it’s important to keep in mind that children react quite differently, and a little ‘ice-breaking’ at first can go a long way.

Make the child laugh, talk to them about their favorite topics, and find out what things they particularly love doing (mum or dad are usually of great help with this one). Be patient with them while they become comfortable with the idea of you taking their photograph.

Speaking of comfort…

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Choose a comfortable location

Where can you set your photo shoot so that they will feel at ease? Their own backyard is always a great option, but if a backyard isn’t possible then a local park, beach, or woodland might do the trick!

It’s also a great idea to choose a location that the child’s parents (and you) feel comfortable with. For example, you might not want to shoot at a certain beach because it poses too many risks for the child to hurt themselves.

A location where the child can roam around and explore while you capture them candidly is always a fantastic setting for a photography session.

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Be on their level

This one applies both figuratively and literally!

When working with the child, get down to their level and try not to shoot from above (unless for a dramatic effect). Children will respond much better if you’re crouching next to them chatting, or even sitting down in the sand box with them rather than hovering over them.

It’s also a great idea for you to talk to them ‘on their level’. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to have fun and get a little silly with them – anything to capture them laughing and smiling!

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Incorporate fun props for them to play with

If you want to capture a child’s personality, energy, and uniqueness, then incorporating as much play into the session will work wonders! Give them fun props such as streamers or confetti to throw around, or blow up a balloon and photograph them having a ball with it. How can a child be shy when they’re preoccupied and having so much fun? These are the images that their parents will treasure for years and years to come.

By keeping these tips and tricks in mind, you too can capture incredible portraits of children which showcase the unique bundles of joy that they are. Best of luck!


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