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Photographing children

Photographing children - Even though the new school term has started it doesn't mean all child portraits have to be taken by the school photographer.

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Category : Portraits and People
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Photo by Annabel Williams
Photo by Annabel Williams.
When you're setting up your photography shoot Annabel Williams believes you should first work out where you'll photograph the child, by looking for backgrounds where they can move around without you worrying about something distracting behind them. Look for consistent, even light, usually top shaded so if they run around, patches of sun won't spoil their faces. After this, just let them play - this way the shots look really natural because they are!
 
photo by Annabel Williams
Photo by Annabel Williams.
Annabel often finds that getting involved in the child's activities and giving them directions will help create great pictures.
 
I often give them little tasks to do, such as 'making a cake' - I give them a stick, and then put a pile of stones or leaves on the ground and ask them to stir it up with their stick – so long as they're under five it works every time – it keeps the child in one place, interested in something other than me; and I can call them to look up at me, and get lots of natural shots of them from all different angles.
 
A shoot has to be fun or the child will look bored! Although, sometimes it's great to get wistful expressions - so they don't always have to be smiling or laughing - but the overall shoot needs to be fun in order to achieve that trust and developing a relationship with the client will help with this. Annabel will spend around an hour with the whole family, having coffee first, and she involves the children in the whole process. She asks if she can see their favourite clothes for example - young children love showing her their toys, dresses and football shirts.  This breaks the ice and gets them on Annabel's side, as they're choosing what they're going to use together - so they're involved from the start. From there, she might ask them to help her find her way around their garden, which makes them feel important and again involved, so by the time Annabel gets her camera out, it's just not an issue, and it's not really photography, they are just playing a game really.
 
Photo by Annabel Williams
Photo by Annabel Williams.
If you're working with young children setting things up for them to do, then asking them to make their cake or run towards you etc. is fine but if you're working with older children they will take direction much more.
 
If Annabel had the choice of studio or location work it would be location every time.
 
It's much more creative and inspiring for the photographer, as you don't know what to expect.  Shooting in a studio can be very boring as you have to plan everything first, and if the child doesn't cooperate with your plans you've had it!  Studios are alien environments to children - the lighting is intimidating, and it doesn't take long before a child gets bored with their surroundings - it's much harder work altogether. Outdoors there is always somewhere else you can go, something else you can do - it never fails!
 
Of course, the problem with the outdoors can be the weather but Annabel has a solution for this too – get them to wear a hat or hold a brolly! These items, apart from a child's favourite teddy, are the only props Annabel will ever use in a photograph and can produce great images.
 
Photo by Annabel Williams
Photo by Annabel Williams.
In all, Annabel spends a full day on a shoot, but she breaks up the day into very short intervals – sometimes five minutes, sometimes twenty – depending on the age of the child and how they are reacting to her.
 
I constantly think on my feet, and I take a lot of refreshment breaks - it's no good trying to get the best out of kids if they are tired or hungry!  It's also no good feeding them sweets or biscuits while you are trying to shoot them - they just want more, get crumbs all round their mouths, and you can't photograph a child actually eating and get a good expression. Always take a break to eat and refresh the kids, then start again in a new outfit and a new location - don't go back to the same thing - it will only backfire.”
 
Photo by Annabel Williams
Photo by Annabel Williams.

For more information on children's portraits visit Annabel Willams' website.

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Comments


Goggz e2
7 2.3k 72 Wales
19 Oct 2009 8:52PM
Some great ideas there Smile

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AlexHD57 4 19
24 Oct 2009 12:18AM
Great advice Annabel. A bit of preshoot planning helps with most photography but I think with children this is doubly, or more, so!

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