It is a known fact that kids are the most difficult subjects to photograph. Their unpredictable, hyped-up, cautious nature usually only leads to a whole bunch of blurred photographs, temper tantrums, or petrified-frozen expressions. It’s quite the task, but not one that can’t derive the best results if you know what you’re doing, and are well-prepared.
Firstly, the Camera and Light Settings.
If you’re using a DSLR,
. Use Aperture Priority mode if your camera has the option, as it will give you more creative control on the settings. If you don’t have it, you can use Portrait Mode.
. Use faster, longer lens to blur out the background, like an 85mm lens. It works great for portraits.
. Peruse through this cheat sheet, for the perfect camera exposure settings.
. If you’re not sure about your modes and the kids are extremely hyper and running around the place, best switch to Sports Mode.
. If shooting indoors, pick your fastest lens, and illuminate the subject as much as possible. Natural light is always the best source for brightening up a picture, so you could make use of the light streaming in through a window. If that’s not an option, then there’s always external flashes.
. Try and limit your usage of the in-built flash on your DSLR, as it tends to create very harsh shadows on the subject and the background. In other words, it can easily ruin a good shot.
. Use a Flash Gun. Bounce light off the ceiling by pointing it towards it, or off the wall. If ceiling’s white, it’ll give a softer glow. If not, then use a white sheet.
. Position the child at least 6ft in front of the backdrop. This will make it easier to defocus the background, and to create shadows behind the subject.
. Try Burst Mode at some point during the shoot, especially when they’re moving around a lot. Also, with the help of Post Production and a tad bit of creativity, you can create a fun series of photos.
If you’re using a Point-and-Shoot, or Compact Camera it’s always best to have an outdoor shoot as they produce a lot of noise in dim-lit surroundings. If indoors is the only alternative, pick a well-lit room, and use a lot of lamps to illuminate your subject.
But if you can have an outdoor photo shoot, remember the basics: Don’t shoot facing the sun as it’ll darken out the subject. Shoot with the sun behind you.
Next, the Setup.
. Kids are impatient. So make sure you setup first, then bring the subject in. Also, have all you gear at hand.
. If it’s an indoor shoot, shoot at their home as they’ll be more comfortable in their natural environment.
. Create enough space around you to move around and click.
. A plain colored wall works as a great backdrop.
. Draw back those curtains. Let the light shine bright through the window. Use it to your advantage.
. Don’t make too many changes as it’ll unnerve the child.
. Be prepared for moodiness.
. You can’t rush through the shoot as kids are unpredictable. You may not get the best of them if you’re in a hurry to wrap it up ASAP.
. Make the subject comfortable first, especially if the kid isn’t familiar with you. Spend some time with them before you start clicking. Especially with babies and toddlers. Stoop to their level. Let loose your inner child. Make silly faces, play games. Don’t bring out your camera until their spirits are high. This will give you more natural smiles.
. Candid photography works best for kids. Have props on hand. Let them play, prance about, have fun… anything that makes them happy and smiling all through. The joy should radiate from within, not forced-out of them.
. Dress Code: Comfy clothes that define their personality. Preferably something in plain, bold colors. They should feel free in their attire.
. Shoot early in the morning or late in the afternoon, especially when it’s a baby. That’s when they’re at their best as they tend to get tired and cranky by the end of the day. This is also the time when you get the best lighting. Cloudy days work great too as the light will be much softer.
. If shooting outdoors, chose somewhere fun like the park, the beach, a zoo perhaps. Pick two to three spots for more variety.
. Make sure the kid dominates the shot, and not the background. The scenery’s just there to compliment the photo, not to be the star-attraction. Also, the background should be free from harsh object/colors, for lesser distraction.
. Get down to their level, and try a few shots with an eye-level camera angle.
. Pay particular attention to their eyes, as people are normally drawn to the eyes of a subject even if the rest is slightly blurred. Also, kids have the most beautiful eyes, so focusing on it will automatically give you a spectacular photo.
. You can add a little variety by focusing on different aspects as well. Like their hands, or their shoes, with just a portion of their head in the shot.
. Keep clicking. Don’t stop and wait for the perfect moment. You may just miss out on it if so.
. Having a helper stand behind you can also be useful, as they can help make the kid smile and play around whilst looking towards the camera.
. If they’re still cranky despite your best efforts, show them photos of previous subjects as it may peak their interest.
. If you’re clicking photos of your own kids, make sure you do it regularly as that’ll help them be more natural around a camera. Or they may just freeze when you whip it out suddenly to capture a cute moment.
. Kids over 5 tend to be quite conscious around a camera. So the trick is to just let them be. If you want natural shots, blend in with the background, shoot from a little way off.
. Capture everyday scenes, like when they’re playing with their siblings, sleeping, making a mess when eating, and so on. The point is to encapsulate their childhood, and sum up their life with photographs.
With these pointers, clicking stunning photos of kids will be a piece-of-cake, regardless of how moody they are. Plus, you’re giving them something to cherish all their lives- their innocent days perfectly captured, for countless stories to be told later.