Kids and cameras — they seem like they go together like peanut butter and jelly. It’s perfection.
I’ve been lucky in that I have several friends who have had kids, so I’ve had the chance to take some images of their kids as they grow up. I’ve also had the chance to really try some things out with styles of shooting photographs and vantage points and things like that.
This post is about that — my thoughts on taking photos of kids and things to think about when shooting photographs of your or other people’s kids. With digital SLRs becoming so much more affordable for people, more and more people are going to be getting cameras and will have the chance to really document their kids growing up.
These tips aren’t really on the technical side, so you aren’t going to get info about camera settings, F-stops, aperture and all that good stuff. This is going to be more of a tips post, with my ideas of how I’ve gotten good shots (and with some examples, too)!
So, without further ado, here are my tips…
1, Get up close and personal.
You never know what kind of shot you can get by getting really close to the kid.
Note the photo at the top of this post. I went to the fair with Marc, Chrissy and their daughter, Mayla. We all sat down to eat some dinner, so I started snapping photos of Mayla. As I snapped away, she seemed quite interested in what I was doing. So I kept getting closer with the camera. As that happened, curiosity got the better of her and she started grabbing at and checking out the camera and the lens.
Could I have gotten close up photos with a zoom lens? Of course. But by being closer to Mayla while I shot photos, it made her wonder what was going on. Maybe it was the shutter. Maybe it was the bigger camera. Maybe it was just interesting. But out of that, I got a chance to really get some interesting photos.
One of the keys here, is keeping focus on the person. As you can see from the smaller photo, Mayla’s hand stayed out of focus, but she remained sharp. When I saw what she was doing, I worked on making the focus more on the right side of the photos so it would stay focused on Mayla’s head and not her hand as it came closer and closer to the lens and the camera. I like both of these shots, but the one at the top of this post is one of my favorites because of the way she was grabbing at that point and seemingly framing herself in the process.
2, Don’t be afraid to pose them.
Matt and Pam had their daughter with them at the Ultimate Idol finals in Oneonta a month or so back. Through some of the show, Adrianna was munching away on popcorn. However, I couldn’t get a shot of her eating the corn as she was either too quick for me, or was looking a different away. My attempt at being stealthy wasn’t working, either, as any time I aimed the camera at her, she’d either not eat the popcorn or just kind of stare away.
So, I had to resort to the next best thing… letting her know what I was trying to do!
With help from Matt and Pam, we got Adrianna to eat up on some popcorn as I snapped away. I got some good shots of the action, but ones like this where some of the popcorn was coming out of her hand worked out well.
I realize that many times, photos of kids come when they are just, well, being kids. But I’ve also found that kids can be hams when a camera is trained on them. And they will do some funny things for the camera. Even better is when you show it to them after and they get a kick out of things. Then they seem to love that camera even more!
3, Keep the camera on the kids.
This is a photo that I want to hold onto and when David graduates high school, have it blown up to like 11×14 and frame it. I’m sure it’s one he might want to take to college with him, no?
One thing about kids is reactions. They do so many different things. They make faces. They do dances. They do crazy things with their hands or feet. Capture as many of these things as you can.
This image was taken when at David’s grandfather’s house for a little gathering. He was sitting on the tractor, pretending to drive it. But when he talked about the front loader, his Aunt Chrissy noted that he couldn’t do that because other little ones were there. And when asked what could happen, David made this face, basically showing it could have a bad ending.
If I didn’t have the camera trained on him, I would have missed it.
So the moral of all this is if you are going to take photos of the kids, don’t just point the camera at them for a second or two. Keep it on them when they are doing different things because things can change else can change in a snap of a finger. You’ll never get everything, but you might get yourself a couple of the doozy faces!
4, Facial expressions are a must!
The normal smiles are great and all, but when you get the goofy faces… well, ya know.
That kind of attaches with the last part to keeping the camera on the kid. If you just snap one or two when they look cute, you’ll never get the fun things. Take, for example, Mayla in the above photo.
What is this photo telling you? Was she curious? Surprised? Impressed?
This is also a lesson in looking at each of your photos on the computer, not just the camera screen. If you delete photos from your card while still looking at the camera, you might miss some great ones. Photos like this look better blown up rather than on a 2- or 3-inch screen on the camera.
5, Get on their level
Let’s face it, kids are tiny people!
So, you can’t always take photos from your vantage point because then you might miss some good stuff. So get down to their level. Lay on the ground. Get down on your knees or into a catcher’s crouch. Put the camera on the ground and shoot straight ahead. Whatever you have to do to get to their eye level or lower, it’s going to be worth it.
Take the photo of David above. I could have easily stood above him and took images of him playing with his cars. But he was sprawled out on the ground having a good time. What better way to capture and document this time than by getting down there with him? Now this was easier as I stood off a porch for this shot and didn’t have to do much to get to his level, but no matter where you are in spots like this, it’s worth getting dirty if you have to in order to capture shots like this.
6. Go way above.
Go the complete opposite as the last tip. But, again, don’t shoot from your vantage point, go higher.
Get on a chair. On a step ladder. Or, as I do, hold the camera as far as you can above your head, aim down and shoot away.
The shot I took of David and Scotty above was by doing that. It took several shots because I was aiming blindly. I didn’t want to take the camera off them, however, as I was afraid they’d look away and I’d miss the shot. So I somewhat moved the camera a bit while shooting, hoping to get the right shot. I also played with the zoom on the lens a little in hopes of framing the shot well.
If you have kids that will hold the pose a bit, you can do more. But if it’s more of a reaction shot, as above, you might want to just snap away and hope for the best. That’s the thing with kids photos, sometimes there’s no chance to set it up!
7, Black and white rules (at times!)
This is more of post-processing, especially with digital cameras. If you are still with film, then you’ll be needing black and white film.
Let me say that I love black and white in most cases. But with kids especially. Black and white gives the photo something special, I think. An old-time feel. The best part is that color, often enough, is not needed with the kids. Black and white gives that cool feel to things.
Take the photo of Mayla above. Does it need color? What exactly would color have done to this photo? Though color is a wonderful thing (and I like it more often than not), black and white gives this photo a cool touch, I think. The shadows, the shades — everything — just seems better in black and white with this shot.
The best part about digital photography is you can go back and forth from color and black and white to decide which you like better. Heck, you can try sepia and everything else, too!
8, Capture the moment
This can be said for just about anything of which you are taking a photo.
But even more with kids. For this, I’ll use sports as an example. This becomes the journalist in me when it comes to this. Not everything has to be an action shot. You are capturing a story. Documenting something. It’s more than throwing, catching or hitting. (Though action shots are important, too… read on!)
Sporting events — or performances, or parties, or anything else — put kids in a situation other than in their normal setting. So document it. Show all sides of it. Take for example the above photo.
Dean, who helps coach his son’s team, gives Tanner a slap of the hand as Tanner heads out into the field. It’s a simple shot, but one that speaks many words. It shows a connection between father and son. It shows a connection between coach and player. It shows so much more than a hit or a catch. It’s a priceless moment caught in time. And it happens often. But too many times, people don’t have their camera up anymore. The game hasn’t resumed or anything like that.
There’s no action.
Let’s remember, too, that in youth sports, there are usually a lot of kids on each team. That means most don’t play every inning or every minute of every game. That doesn’t mean photo chances aren’t there. Take the photo of Christopher as he watches the game. Look at the glove. Check out how he’s just watching. It’s not a shot that is taken often, but it has that interesting factor. Something different.Same thing with the photo of his sister, Emily. It’s not a shot that screams action, but it’s an important part of the game as she’s finding a bad she thinks will work well for her.
That’s what I mean when I say capturing the moment.
It seems, in many cases anyway, that people are always focused on the action. I don’t disagree with that. I’m a big fan of sports photography and consider it my strongest point when it comes to a subject. But sports allow so many ways of thinking outside the box when you are shooting a game or an event.
Sometimes, it even comes down to not shooting the people you are there to take photos of.
This past spring, I went to a track meet to see my niece and nephew participate. I got action shots of each that I was quite happy with. But toward the end of the event, my other niece Catherine arrived. She had been at ballet practice and still had a whole heap of energy and was jumping around, doing gymnastics-type moves and running around.
By turning the camera on her and snapping a few shots, I got one of my favorite shots of the whole year. A simple shot, but there’s something about it that I really liked because of the colors, the framing and the spur-of-the-moment feel. And if I had been focused only on the action, I never would have had this chance.
In the end, remember one thing — you aren’t just capturing images or memories, you are documenting life as these kids grow. No matter the age — from birth to teenagers — these images are a part of their growing. Capture more than the memories that everyone else can do.
Think outside the box. If you do that, I’m sure the shots you will come up with will be keepers and ones to help you remember the growing process. As we all know, kids grow fast. So while they are still small, silly and fun — capture them on that memory card and have something to look back on!
You can see more photos of my friends and families kids on this Flickr set. And if you have any tips that has worked well for you, share them here as well in the comments section!!
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Lauren Margaret says
I love this post! My friends are beginning to have babies (rapid-fire: one after the other!) and I can’t wait to break out my camera around them. My uncle did when I was a baby and I treasure those images.
I really appreciate that you gave these tips, and especially that you lent some inspiration 😉
Lauren — if friends are having babies, take these tips and any others you find and have a lot of fun. Kids are a blast to photograph as you never know what they’ll do!
Cute shots! I’m always taking pictures of the kids I nanny, but never feel comfortable posting pictures anywhere. (still need to ask the parents, but feel awkward asking!)
Just to add to your B&W section, I find that with infants B&W is much better because there skin isn’t always in the best condition.
…Also, I’m a BIG fan of NATURAL light with kiddos 😉
Erika – I’m pretty good with asking folks etc. Especially with really young ones. And agreed on B&W on the real young ones. Works really well. And I’m usually a fan of natural light always, but that’s because me and flash/external lights don’t always get along!
Annie Goodall says
Way cool photos!! I think I like the ‘doh’ moment with David the best. It’s almost like you can see his little thought process & he didn’t like how it was working out!! 🙂
So…. what’s your advice for folk with four-legged furry kids. Have you done much photography of dogs & cats??? I’d love to see it if you have.
Annie — Thanks for the thoughts. As for the four-legged folks, I don’t have much by way of tips for them. I don’t take many animal/pet photos. 🙁
BTW, this post gave me the push to ask finally (thanks)! Haha. I don’t know why I feel awkward asking but I do. 😉
Annie – Put a dog treat on your head. That dogs (if they don’t attack you) won’t be able to keep their eyes off of you!!hehehe.
Erika – Awesome! I feel awkward if I don’t know the people. If I know them, it’s no biggie!