Kids often ham it up in front of the camera. Sometimes it’s cute but more often than not its just cheesy.
Here are 5 tips I always use when photographing children that will help you to take better photos of your kids.
More fun .
1) Create a situation or focus on an activity that children enjoy which involves some interaction with either yourself or another family member. Everything about the photo session can be made into a game. Games equal fun and they will probably be more enthusiastic about it rather than telling them “okay we’re going to take photos now”. Have the camera ready but don’t place too much emphasis on the photos. Hopefully you have already checked out the lighting and background beforehand, taken a test image so you are ready to take a spontaneous shot.
When I’m photographing in the studio I always set up an activity or conversation that will engage and entertain my subject, then I let them be themselves and enjoy the moment. More often than not they forget about the camera and that’s when the magic happens.
2) Don’t ask them to smile; you’ll probably just get cheesy camera smiles. Sometimes kids think they are helping out by “smiling” but it’s often not their most natural smile. Talk to them about things that interest them and give them some breathing space. Some kids need time to warm up. Keep shooting and you will most likely get some interesting reflective expressions. As they warm up be prepared to get kooky and entertaining. I secretly asked mum to whack me on the head with a balloon from behind once and pretended I wasn’t expecting it much to the amusement of her 4 year old daughter who roared with laughter.
Children don’t always have to look at the camera. Sometimes a smile is more natural when they are caught up in their own thoughts. If you have an assistant or another family member with you, direct them to set up a diversion.The image on the left is a typical not looking at camera image I love taking that can reveal beautiful expressions, dad was acting the fool behind me (under my direction).
3) Don’t get too caught up in “happy snaps”. Expressions that show inquisitiveness, wonder, trust, contentment or even melancholy photos are often more beautiful. There are many expressions that can make a beautiful image, smiling is only one of them.
In this image of the teenager I have used a single light source offset from behind the subject at the front of the studio. This melancholy look was mum’s pick for the living room wall. Experiment with copping, the tight crop of this image complimented the art that was also displayed in the room.
Connect at their level.
4) When photographing young children get down to their eye level. Sometimes it means sitting or lying on the floor.
You will form much more of a connection. Find an angle you like and take a few images before changing perspective. Don’t try to keep them too still for too long or they will probably get bored so you’ll find yourself moving around a fair bit. I find that after photographing a toddler or young child I’ve had a real workout. In this image of the two young brothers the camera was lower than my subjects’ eye level. It gives the younger sibling on our left a sense of authority whilst his older brother holds on protectively.
Simplicity works best.
5) Less is often more. I’m talking about clothing, props and background. If you’re outdoors look at the background, what’s in the picture? My dad was famous for always having a rubbish bin in the photo when he took our family photos in the park. Try to have the background slightly out of focus if you can.
Simple clothes often work better in photos, they are more timeless. Headbands, hair ribbons, T-shirts with pictures and slogans take away more than they give. Stripes and checks draw the eye to the clothes and away from your child’s expression.
Unless you are expert at coordinating and styling, busy clothes are just distracting. Imagine how this location image would look if the little girl was wearing a red polka dot dress.