9 Tips for Photographing Kids

We all know that working with kids is as tough as it gets. They’re energetic, fast, and often don’t pay much attention to what is going on around them. Luckily, Tamara Lackey, an expert at photographing kids and families, offers lots of good advice:

1. Control your depth of field

If you have your camera and subjects too far apart you’ll need smaller aperture to capture them all in focus, thus effectively reducing background blur. That means that you risk having distractions in your photos due to all the elements being sharp in the background. The key here is to snug everybody much closer together so you can use a wider aperture (blurrier background) while still keeping every person in focus.

2. Look for catchlights

As in any photography genre, light is everything. Keep it under control and utilize it as better as possible. Lackey mentions catchlights in the eyes. Catchlights humanize the subjects more and make everybody look more alive and expressive. Work with a simple reflector if you are shooting behind the sun or from a different angle where the sun itself doesn’t produce enough catchlight.

children on a bench

Make sure everyone’s in focus.

3. Pay attention to distance

This is closely related to depth of field. The closer you are to your subject, the more background blur you’ll get with the same aperture; but the field of focus also gets way smaller. This works the other way around, too. By utilizing zoom compression, if you go further back and zoom in, you get more background blur and a slightly larger field of focus.

4. Use the rule of thirds

It doesn’t matter really if your subjects are kids or apples and oranges. The rule of thirds is a rule for a reason, and you should use it whenever possible. There are lots of photographers who say that you can deviate from the rule of thirds in certain scenarios, and I would agree, but in order to break the rules you need to know them first.

family portrait

Family Portrait

5. Get on the same level

You don’t want all the pictures of the kids to be from a bird’s eye perspective. Get some shots from their eye level; it just looks better.

children portrait at sunset

Get down to eye level.

6. Bring props

Many of the kids will not cooperate for obvious reasons: they don’t know you or they’re too young to understand what’s going on. You’ll need distractions. Bring some props (toys) with you and ask the family to bring some themselves.

7. Be patient

You might have to wait quite a bit until you get just one good shot. Children are unpredictable and you’ll have to work around that. Set aside more time for a photo shoot with kids than you would for a session with adults.

8. Involve the family

Everybody wants a good picture with their children, so make sure you get some photos of the whole family.

9. Bring spare clothes

Bring yourself extra clothes. Lackey got quite dirty by the end of the video, and that was just 20-30 minutes of shooting. Imagine what would happen after a three hour session!

Though challenging, photographing children can be pretty rewarding. Use these tips to make your photo shoots more fun and successful.

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