Reading back some of our Hear It! interview pieces, I cant help but to notice one thing - many photographers confessed that children are one of the toughest subjects to shoot! As much as they provide photographers with many unique opportunities, they cant help thinking that children are also one of the hardest subjects to control. They are easily restless, unpredictable and communicating with them can pose quite a challenge. Being a parent myself, I fully understand that it is indeed difficult to capture children behind the lens (I nevertheless kept good records of my child's growing up years! *Smug).
To capture good children-images, you have got to first capture their heart. Try to put yourself in their position and ask why would you want to choose work over play? Children wouldn't care less about having their pictures taken. They have much better things to do than to be surrounded by lights, props and people directing them what to do in front of the camera.
Children photography is therefore all about being quick and fun. You'll need to get them engaged without making it a chore for them. Having the right skills and equipment help as well. Here's how:
If you are expecting the shoot to be all according to plan, you are up for trouble. Sit back, relax and take your time to capture the right shot. Children might be self conscious of the camera's presence but this often wear off once they have loosen up. The right moment will often come to you when you least expect. If you are a short-tempered person, do tell yourself now that children photography is not for you.
Have some fun playing or joking around as these are all good ice breakers and can help children be more at ease. Similarly, include their family or friends in the shoot, or replay some of the shots to hype them up. Last but not least, give them short break intervals! You wouldn't want to overwork them.
Children are usually more comfortable being in their own elements; either being in a familiar surrounding or at the outdoors. So why not transport your shoot to the nearby park and let the children have all the fun they want while you getting all the sunlight you need?! Best of both worlds!
As mentioned earlier, you'll need to get the children engaged without making it a chore for them. You cant expect children to pose for you in front of the camera without having getting disappointed in the end. And the only way to get around this is to have your subject working candid. Take pictures of them while they are working, playing, reading, sleeping, chatting or eating and you'll be surprised how easy it is to get the results you want.
Another simple technique while photographing children includes giving them an item that they have in their everyday lives; for example, a toy or a bolster. This provides a sense of security to the child during shoot and help gives the viewers some idea of the child’s personal character.
When it comes to emotions, no one shows it better than children. Capture those special moments.
Angle and Perspective
- Get down and shoot from a child's perspective. This will give the child a greater sense of individual identity as well as giving the viewers a sense of equality. On top on that, the use of flash can also be distributed evenly on the child's face and the background, appearing much more natural.
- Be adventurous, try taking the shot from below a child's eye-level as if the child is looking down at the viewer. This will give the child a sense of authority.
- Shoot from some creative angles and perspective or tilt your camera to give your shot that sense of playfulness.
- Have your subject placed at the side of the frame to make the entire composition more interesting and dynamic.
- Fill your camera's viewfinder with your subject matter. The closer you get to your subject, the bigger the impact and message it creates. Use this technique to emphasize what is important as well.
- If you are going to include the background and surrounding into your shots, remember not to have those elements distract you from the subject you are trying to capture.
- However it might be, be sure to have the eyes in focus. Whether you are working with adult models, children or animals, it is always the eyes that speak a thousand words.
With digital cameras involved, why worry about taking the few extra shots? Just shoot right on. Life doesn't give you the chance for take-twos so it's better to have surplus than being insufficient.
Depending on what you want to convey, some level of image retouching and manipulation is needed to help enhance the mood or convey your message more accurately. Play around with striking and playful colors to give it some fun or black and white portraits for the dramatic effect.
Children photography are not always a nightmare. Let the child-in-you guide you along.