Simple Tips to Photograph Children
Between cranky babies and restless toddlers, photographing kids can be a daunting task. Before you —or they— get overwhelmed, try these simple tips that are used by the pros.
Unless you have access to a beautiful, light-filled room, the easiest place to photograph kids will be outside. Try shooting on an overcast day or when the sun is low in the sky to avoid harsh shadows. If that's not an option, seek out a shady spot.
Use window light
When you need to take pictures inside, try shooting near a large window. The diffused natural light will minimize harsh shadows and create a more flattering image (as long as the sun isn't shining directly in). Remember to turn off any indoor lights, which can make your subject look yellow. Shooting in a white room or using a white reflector will help bounce light into the shadows and give your lighting a more even appearance.
Make them look at the camera
Shooting portraits of babies and toddlers can be frustrating, because they don't know to look at the camera. Luckily, there are a few tricks you can use to grab their attention. If you have a camera with a hot shoe (the silver piece where the flash attaches), you can easily attach a colorful Pez dispenser by trimming the base with a pair of scissors. Another option is to tape a squeaky toy to your camera and squeeze it with your free hand. Any tricks you try will lose their power fast, so use them sparingly and only right before clicking the shutter.
Use a high shutter speed
Once kids start walking, it can be hard to slow them down. If you find yourself taking pictures of a child on the move, be sure to use a shutter speed of at least 1/250 to avoid blurry photos. If you're shooting with a smart phone, download an app that lets you manually adjust your shutter speed.
Use a low f-stop
When shooting portraits, it's good practice to use a low f-stop and avoid wide-angle lenses. (We recommend a 35mm lens or higher.) This will help blur the background and make your subject pop. If you don't have a DSLR, you can get a similar effect using Portrait mode on the iPhone 7 Plus, which uses two lenses to create a blurred background. In this image, the photographer used a 50mm lens and set his f-stop to 1.4.
Get help from a friend
It's hard to convince a toddler to smile when you have a camera blocking your face. Try recruiting a friend to stand behind you and amuse your subjects by making noises or waving toys — or whatever happens to work. In this shot, the photographer's wife got the kids to smile by jumping around the bathroom.
Capture the moment
Kids are often at their cutest when they don't realize they're being photographed. Instead of orchestrating a picture, keep your camera handy and start shooting when the moment is right. It's worth investing in a good zoom lens, so you can easily capture the action from afar.
Anticipate their mood
Children are moody little creatures. If they're sleepy, hungry or hyped up on sugar, the most angelic kids are liable to become nightmare photography subjects. Do your best to control for these factors when planning a shoot. If you know something that consistently brings a smile to your child's face, be it playing in the yard or eating chocolate ice cream, use it to your advantage.
Shoot your everyday life
If you're busy being a parent, it's hard to make time to photograph everyday life. Don't forget to document things you'll want to remember down the road, like nightly bedtime stories, bath time or dolls at the breakfast table. Kids don't always have to be perfectly dressed or looking at the camera in order for you to take a great picture.
Focus on the details
Babies and toddlers don't stay small for long. Be sure to capture those tiny toes and button noses before the cuteness disappears. For super-close detail shots, we recommend shooting while your subject is sleeping (preferably near a window, for the best light).
Choose a theme
Everything from a staged tea party to a Yankees baseball theme could be a cute concept for a do-it-yourself photo session. This photographer dressed her twins in matching tutus and scattered heart candies over a white blanket to create a simple, yet undeniably cute, Valentine's Day photo.
Create a home studio
You don't need tons of professional gear to create a makeshift photography studio in your home. In most cases, arranging a backdrop of sheets near a bright window will do just fine. In this image, the parents orchestrated a "cake smash" photo to celebrate their son's first birthday.