Photographing children can be challenging but there are already plenty of tips to get you going. Personally I took many photos of my children as they grow up. Some of the tips I learned on the Internet helped me greatly. So today I am going to share some of my favorite tips on how to photographing children.

  • Get a DSLR. Today’s point-and-shoot compact cameras are getting better but they are still no match for a digital SLR camera in terms of image quality and responsiveness. If your camera takes a second or two to focus, you will be missing lots of good photos.
  • Have the camera ready. Children’s mood swing quickly and they are active. The opportunities for capturing the great moment can be gone quickly. If it takes you minutes to take the camera out of the camera bag and have it all setup to go, there may not be good photos to take. At home, my camera is always on a shelf with one of my large aperture lens attached. My favorite lens is the AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D, which is a low-cost but excellent lens for low light indoor photography.
  • Make it natural. I learned to take photos of children when they are not paying attention to me. When they are happily engaged in their activities, the resulting photo can be more appealing than the ones that are clearly posed (with the fake cheese smile). Sometimes I do want to have them look at the camera. Instead of first asking them to stop and look at the camera, I get into the position, frame and focus, then I will call their names. At the moment they turned their heads, I press the shutter release down.
  • The best moment comes and goes and comes again… Sometimes you might have missed an occasion to take a great photo but it doesn’t mean you cannot get a similar photo later. The tip about having the camera ready above is important but you simply have to take more photos at any possible occasions.
  • Anticipate. Anticipate what they will do next and get to the position with camera ready. This also helps to make it natural (tip above).
  • Use proper camera settings. I typically use continuous focus mode (AF-C in Nikon language) when children are active. It seemed to help quite a lot when shooting in doors with a large aperture. The shallow depth of field associated with large aperture makes accurate focusing more critical. With continuous focus mode, the camera will try to focus until the last moment the shutter release is fully pressed. If I need to do focus-and-recompose, continuous focus mode will not be appropriate. In many cases, it is possible to use a off-center focus point and still use AF-C mode. Continuous shooting mode (don’t get confused with continuous focus mode) can be very helpful in getting that perfect moment. Instead of taking one photo and hope for the best, you can take 3, 5, or more photos in a second and pick the best one.
  • Experiment with different angles. One of the most common advice I saw was to get down to children’s level. That’s a valid recommendation for several reasons. First of all it avoids the strange distortion that makes the child’s head seem out of proportion. Secondly it can make you less intimidating to children that are not familiar with you. In practice though, I found that the top-down angle sometimes capture wonderful photos especially when they look into the camera. The eyes will reflect the sky and make them appear bright. The faces tend to show nature smiles. Another benefit of the top-down angle is that you can easily isolate the child from busy background that may be difficult to avoid when shooting at child’s level.
  • Be safe. The camera can be a hazard due to its weight. On a few occasions the camera swung away forward from my neck or shoulder as I bent down to tend to the needs of my children. Luckily nothing serious had happened. So be safe and secure the camera before helping your child.

I hope the tips are helpful. If you have anything else to add or share with us, please feel free to use the comment box below.

Posted in: Tips and Techniques on December 30th, 2011. Trackback URI
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