Photographing children can be a joyful and rewarding process, but it’s also uniquely challenging, especially at a professional level.
Whether you’re looking to launch a career as a portrait photographer, or just want to capture moments with your family, there’s a lot to think about when it comes to photographing kids effectively. As a professional photographer, who has worked with many of the most prestigious schools in the UK, I have built up some unique, expert knowledge of how to photograph children.
Today, I would like to share some of my hard learned tips, and knowledge, in the hope that I can improve your future work with kids.
The Best Ways to Photograph Children as a Professional
Get them used to the camera
Even as an adult, having a camera pointed at you can make us squirm. And so, it’s no wonder that kids start acting unnaturally when you point a camera at them.
When you need to photograph children, you need to be persistent and patient, while also lifting the camera often enough that the kids get used to it. After a while, they should forget that its even there, and you’ll be able to capture those candid, natural shots you've been looking for.
Be sure to also keep your photography gear light and minimal. Put away any travel tripods and spare lenses, and concentrate on using the bare minimum of accessories.
Shoot them as they are, not as you want them to be
The beauty of photographing children is capturing them as they are, and the best shots are often by accident. As adults, we tend to project what we want you to believe we are. Whereas children are always honest, and are much more comfortable with themselves.
Children don’t usually fake their emotions, which makes their portraits always stand out. As a professional photographer, you need to be ready for candid moments, as children photograph best when they are smiling, laughing, or playing in their natural environment.
Speak their language
The single most important thing you can do with any subject when shooting, especially children, is having a rapport with them. This means engaging with the child, and asking them for ideas, or simply talking to them, which can be more difficult than it sounds!
But be sure to never talk at them, or down to them. Talk about real things, and don’t fall into the ‘so how is school?’ trap. Ask what they like to do, learn about them as a real person on your level.
If you don’t have time to get them used to the camera, try to take some sneaky snapshots of your own kids. A flip-out LCD screen is a good way to do this, since it looks like you’re just checking your camera, and the children won't know you're taking their photograph.
If your camera doesn’t have a flip-out screen, practice shooting with the camera away from your face. Holding it at chest level to shoot whilst still engaging with the child from a distance, will usually mean their eyes will look as though they’re looking directly at the camera.
Utilise continuous mode
If your camera has rapid fire/continuous mode, make use of it when you photograph children.
I'm not recommending ‘spray and pray’, but instead, the ability to maximize your chances of getting that one, amazing shot!
After all, digital photos are essentially free, so don’t be afraid to take lots of them if you’re trying to get that one special moment. Kids are unpredictable and fast moving, so shooting lots of photos at once will help to increase the odds of getting good shots.
One word of advice though, be sure to find time to go through the shots either on your camera, or phone, and delete the ones that didn't work. This will save you hours of culling later on, but just be careful you delete that perfect shot!