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How To Photograph Children Naturally

How to take natural photos of your children.

|  Portraits and People
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Words and images by Laurence Jones - a leading children's photographer in Warwickshire.

Children

Photo by Laurence Jones.


Create a fun time

Firstly, you know your children. Get the camera out when they are in a good mood, not when they’re tired or hungry. The photos that you’ll probably like best are those taken when the children are engaged in an activity, and being themselves, rather than standing stiffly in front of a favourite scene or colourful flowers. Is the photo of the children, or the flowers? Getting a good image of both is twice as hard! Instead, just concentrate on getting a good photo of the most important thing in the picture – your child.

Very young children especially will become bored after a few minutes, so have your camera all ready to go beforehand, and be patient. Have a break, let them wander off, give them your full attention while you take pictures and perhaps be ready with more toys to distract them with. You may have to follow a two-year old around.

With older children they can play in the garden, you can join in and have some fun yourself, and be ready as the moments come. Directing the children and requesting smiles usually results in a grimace or forced grin, so let them be themselves for a while, join in, and just keep taking the photos - after a while they'll get bored of hamming it up.


What to look for through the viewfinder

Try to look at the whole of the viewfinder area and think of the whole picture, before you press the button. You’ll probably want the children filling a large part of the picture, not just a small part of it. You can either move in closer yourself or use the zoom. Using a short telephoto setting will help in getting the background out of focus, and let you stand back a little from the children so they don't notice you so much. Using the portrait mode, or setting a wide aperture yourself, will also help to put the background out of focus.

What’s in the background? Is it distracting? The washing on the line or a bright red car won’t look so good. Maybe move around yourself to get a plainer background. With a baby, perhaps put the baby on a sofa to get a plainer background. Getting a close-up is another way of avoiding distracting backgrounds - fill most of the frame with your child's head! An upright, vertical photo can fit the shape of people better.

Should you use flash?

Flash is safe to use even with babies. However, if direct flash is the only source of light, as is normally the case indoors, then the photos can capture great expressions but will rarely have flattering lighting on the faces. Direct light from the flash on the camera often produces pasty-looking faces and the dreaded red-eye. It doesn't help to make anyone look their best. If you can, my advice is to wait until you can go outdoors and use natural light instead, or turn the flash off and use the light from a window. Alternatively, if you can, turn the flashgun so the light bounces off a nearby wall.

Find the shade

It's a lovely summers day and the sun is shining. But the best place for portraits is not in direct sun. That produces harsh shadows under the eyes and across the face, and the children may be squinting. Instead, get them to play in a shady spot. The best places are under a roof, a tree or similar that shades the light from above and therefore stops the eyes going into shadow. If there isn't any shade, try shooting into the sun. You'll get that lovely backlit look, but you do need to be careful with the exposure - you'll need to increase the exposure over what the camera suggests, to avoid getting silhouettes.

Words and images by Laurence Jones - a leading children's photographer in Warwickshire.



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Comments


C_G Junior Member 5 12 United Kingdom
I've read an article where a baby went blind because a flash was used too close to it. So not 100% safe as implied here. Common sense not to use a flash too close though.
Nice tips, thanks.

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