Anyone who has ever tried to take pictures of children knows how challenging it can be. They don’t have attention spans, they don’t listen, and they switch from happy to grumpy within seconds for seemingly no reason at all.
As a professional family portrait photographer, I’ve picked up a few tricks over the years to get good photos with uncooperative kids. Below are all my ‘secrets’ for working with kids, and creating a successful photo shoot with children and families.
Camera and Setup
Take a lot of photos – Children’s expressions change in an instant, as a result, I sometimes take upwards of 30 photos for the same pose. If there are multiple kids, pay attention to each kid and make sure you get an expression you like from everyone. You can always composite the photos later (see next tip).
Composites – With multiple people in the same photo, it’s sometimes really hard to get a usable expression from everyone. If you follow the above tip to take lots of photos and get at least one usable photo of everyone, then you should be able to make a composite in Photoshop.
If the photos are from the same pose in the same lighting conditions, a composite should only take a few minutes once you know what you’re doing.
Use a zoom lens – I absolutely love the quality of prime lenses; unfortunately, they just don’t work for me on family sessions. Changing lenses slows the session down too much, and I don’t want to use multiple cameras because I’m constantly moving around.
I personally use a 24-70 on most of my sessions. The 70mm end gives me some depth (and compression) and the 24mm end allows me to get those wide angle shots, like standing above.
Choose the right focus mode – I use single point focus 95% of the time, but sometimes kids move way too quickly for me to focus and recompose. In those instances, I either use all of the focus points and let the camera choose for me, or use the 3D tracking mode.
Pay attention to the lighting – Photography is all about light. Pay attention to the direction of the light, the color of the light, the hardness of the light, etc. Small adjustments like the direction the child is facing can make a big difference.
Time of day – If you’re shooting outdoors, the ideal time to shoot is during the golden hour. If you’re shooting inside, pay attention to the time of day that the room or location gets the best light.
Shade – The best light for portraits is diffused light. If you’re shooting in direct sunlight, find a nice shady spot to shoot in.
Befriend the kids first, get down on their level – Don’t just show up to the session, jam a massive lens in a child’s face, and start clicking away. Kneel down, introduce yourself, give them a high-five, and chat with them a bit before you start shooting.