10 Tips for Photographing Small Children

Photographing small children can be tough. Whether you are a professional, a hobbyist or just a mom with a camera, kids can turn even the most prepared photographer’s plans upside down. They’re fast; they have selective hearing when it comes to listening to directions, and they like to get into everything since they know you’re so busy trying to photograph them. Photographing small children can also be a lot of fun and with today’s tips, we hope you’ll be even more prepared to tackle photographing kids. 

1. Get On Their Level

One of the best ways to capture a child of any age is to get down on their level. Small children see the world at approximately 2-3 feet tall, so get down on your knees or lay down on the ground so you can see the world through their eyes. Relax, be yourself and have fun. Children will mirror our behavior. If you’re having fun, so will they.

2. Location Location Location

When planning a photo outing with your child, consider a location where they can have fun. Also consider a location that may offer a scenic background. Taking your child to the beach, a park or an old farm will create an awesome background and inspire their curiosity.

3. Continuous Shooting Mode

Small children are constantly on the move. Embrace it! Instead of trying to contain them to a studio backdrop or single location, all them to explore. They’ll be a lot more cooperative when you do ask them to do something specific (examples: jump, sit here, stand over there, look this way, etc.) if you are allow them a little bit of freedom. Any activity that shows your child having fun, such as dancing or jumping, children on swings, slides, merry-go-rounds, playing sports, etc. make for wonderful action shots if you have the right camera settings. These types of activities will also produce natural smiles and giggles that may be difficult to capture otherwise. If you want to “freeze” the action, use shutter priority mode, sports mode or continuous (low or high) shooting mode. By shooting multiple frames per second, you’ll be sure to capture all those silly faces.

4. Get Them Involved

We’ve already established that children are usually active and not always willing to listen to instruction. Contrary to any plans you may have, they are the boss during your photo shoot. So, talk to them. Discover what makes them unique. Watch them and be prepared with your camera.  At some point, your child may take an active interest in creating photographic moments. Ask them what they’d like to do, how they’d like to pose or what you should photograph. Take their direction and encourage them to be a part of the process. Let them see your shots. Even hand over your camera (if they’re old enough or give them a less expensive camera) so they can photograph you. Before you know it, they’ll be suggesting poses and working the camera like a model.

5. Be Patient

Relax. Children know when you’re anxious. If they sense that something is important to you, they’ll do everything in their tiny bodies to mess it up. However, kids respond authentically when you act normal. If you’re trying to capture a specific type of shot, allow time in your day for that moment to emerge naturally. Set the stage and wait. If you rush the process or chase your children around, desperately trying to pull out a smile, you’ll get what you asked for but it will be forced and strained. If you can be patient and go with the flow, you’ll eventually get what you’re looking for. 

6. Encourage Creativity

Try coming up with situations that will visually tell a story about what is important to that child. Get creative. If they love to paint, give them some finger paint (or try this natural non-toxic paint for small babies). If they love watching you put on makeup, give them a mirror and some makeup brushes and allow them to explore. If they like trains, take them to ride a train. Or, just set the scene for your child to make their own fun.

7. Get Help

Children tend to have relatively short attention spans.  While you can certainly photograph your child or children on your own, you may be more productive with the help of an assistant. This person may be your spouse or a friend who can stand behind you and encourage your child(ren) to be their cutest self. Position this person directly behind you so that your child’s smile is looking right into the camera. However, bringing along too many people (or the wrong person) can be overstimulating or distracting.

8. Choose the Right Lens

Use a zoom lens. Let your child(ren) run. Meanwhile, find a good spot to sit. Then wait for that perfect moment. After a while, your child will be too busy playing to avoid the camera and you can snap away. You could also use a prime lens such as the 50 mm and zoom with your feet. Prime lenses allow you to create beautiful blurred backgrounds.

9. Crying?

No one wants to make their child upset, but if they start crying, keep shooting. Children aren’t happy all the time, so capturing a child crying is capturing reality.

10. Say NO to CHEESE!

We’ll keep this one simple. Avoid saying the word “cheese” at all costs. Yes, you’re likely to get a smile, but it will be incredibly unnatural. 

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Although we did talk a little bit about choosing the right lenses, taking photos of your kids has little to do with the camera you’re using. Anyone has the potential to take great photos of their children with a little bit of patience and a whole lot of energy. Just have fun!

Make sure you check out this post on 10 Tips and Tricks for Photographing Your Toddler

Photo Credits: Ashley Sisk and St. John Photography

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Ashley Sisk

Ashley lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children and Kitty Paw. She's a work-from-home mom with a natural light photography business and a passion for sharing everything she knows. Since leaving the corporate world, she now spends her time chasing her preschooler, nursing her new baby, writing and finding ways to enjoy life. You can find her on Facebook, Google + or on her website.

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