Photographing children is hard work and a lot of fun too. Children grow up quickly so it is only natural to want to document their progress, from the first day at school to the first sports game. With some extra thought, the casual family snapshot can be something special and worth treasuring.
Show them in Action
There will be certain events and days that as a parent you will want to immortalize. If this is a public or group event, then you need to draw your child out from the crowd. If possible use a telephoto lens with the capability of zooming in. Turn the barrel of the lens until the child is in the center of the frame. Keep the background out of focus by choosing a shallow DOF (depth of field). Choose sports mode if it is a fast moving event and take a series of shots.
Capture their Innocence
Innocence is one of the things we associate with childhood – why not capture this? It could be an innocent expression or a moment of childish fun. Let the child play, or perhaps talk to them about something that makes them think. You can ask them to think of their funniest joke or if they have a secret. Choose a shallow depth of field to keep the child the focus of the shot and a shutter speed that compliments this.
Children are full of expressions and creativity. Try to capture everyday things but rather than asking your child to pose, let them have fun and do their usual thing. Bath time with lots of bubbles usually leads to mischief and fun; use flash indoors if you have a dim lighting and also to freeze the action. Be aware that if you have a lot of white and reflective surfaces, the flash may appear as a bright white circle in the background.
Create Holiday Portraits
The various special holidays provide much opportunity for creative shots, and taking them year by year also charts the child’s growth. For an event like Halloween, get your kids dressed up and ready for the evening and use a fun background – it can be a red wall you have covered with a little fake cobweb. Use flash and a shallow depth of field to keep the focus on the child’s face.
Take Group Shots
There will always be those special days that you will want to capture, such as the first school trip, or the first time they can go out with their friends. If you are dealing with a teen, work quickly and don’t force smiles or any unnatural poses. Get the group together and use flash to freeze any motion. Tell everyone to move in and smile but don’t take more than 3 shots as teenagers will lose patience!
How you’ve Grown!
Children grow quickly so it’s natural to want to capture photographs of them regularly. If you are lucky enough to be allowed to attend one of their classes or school lessons to capture some candid photos, use a telephoto lens and keep out of the way. Zoom in and choose a shallow depth of field so other children are blurred out (f/4 or lower) and don’t be afraid to use a quick burst of flash to keep the face well lit, especially if the classroom is dark.
Working with children means being on your feet and fast – even then sometimes you just can’t keep up! If you are working with a reasonable amount of light then use a shutter speed of 1/250 to freeze action- but you can use a slower speed if you use flash. A shallow depth of field keeps the child in focus, so use an aperture of f/5 or lower, if the lighting conditions permit it.
Use flash to freeze action, either the on-camera flash or a separate one for more power. A separate, dedicated flash is useful if your subject is further away or you are photographing a group of kids. You can also buy a soft-box attachment that goes over your flash unit to diffuse the light and create a soft halo rather than a harsh burst. A monopod can be useful if you are shooting on the go and need to move around quickly.
Children are great fun to work with and will give you lots of expressions and movement. Be friendly and build up a rapport, and don’t force a child to smile or pose; they will not be happy and this will show in their face. Don’t forget that backgrounds, their clothes, their hair and general presentation should be tip top to create a photo worth keeping.