The Complete Guide to Children Photography - Part II
If you got here, you must have read the first part of the complete guide to children photography. By now you should know that the key element to your success is having fun - both by you and by the kid. In this part I will talk about some more tips and techniques for children photography, but this time from a more "technical" angle. Did I say technical? Nothing to worry, I am going to keep it simple.
You can use props in two ways, for setting a theme, or for playing / eating / etc. Kids love stuffed animals, dolls (girls) and trucks (boys). I prefer to use toys at the later stage of the session, when I need to recap the child's attention. The show-me-your-favorite-toy is a sure winner. One thing I recommend is to place the toys out of site until you actually need them, otherwise they can distract the kid's attention. So, what props should you use? Here is a partial list: wooden horse, dolls, Teddy bears, fire trucks, small vehicles that the kid can sit in, rubber ducky, 2 feet long crayons, anything both you and the kid like. (If you have some good ideas, add them in the comments) If you are shooting not the kid's house, ask them their parents to bring some favorite toys. (Hey, I am sorry about the firetruck for boys dolls for girls thing, my daughter is a car freak.
Get real close
Don't be afraid to get real close to the child. As Kappa once says - if your picture is not good enough, you were not close enough. Once you have earned their trust, you can come closer, and get some nice closeups. You can get an eye only shot, though my recommendation is not to cut the face. Instead try and capture the face with something of the child's world in the background / edge of the picture. Even if the object is not in focus (this can be good props usage).
Try experimenting with a wide angle lens. Once you are close you can get some interesting results. Also don't be afraid to use 2.8 or 1.8 apertures. as long as you keep the focus on the eyes , you will get a soft look that complements a child.
Try exploring different angles
Small kids have some interesting facial features. They have cute button noses, big eyes and cherry lips. As a general thumb rule I try to have several close ups on each session, there are some interesting things you can do with the kids face. One of my favorites is the reverse shot (see on the right). Usually you take a frontal picture, the idea here is to take a picture that "starts" at the forehead, and "ends" at the chin. Word of caution - Do not over use this trick, it can be frustrating to see an album of reverse faces.
Take tons of pictures
So, one of the things you will notice pretty quickly, is how fast your kid can go from point A to point B. Yes it is the same exhausting exhilarating temper you have in the garden. You'll find it hard to lock focus, to aim and to press the shutter release in the precise second. How can you overcome this? Take tons of pictures. If you try, you may end up with a nice picture or with a bad picture. If you do not try at all you will surly end up with no picture. As Anthony Kiedis said nicely "It's better to regret something you did than something you didn't do"
This is a true must. As in most portraiture, the eyes are the key to understanding the child. They reveal character, and usually have a lot of expression in them. If the eyes are not is focus, you will fill that something is missing from the shot, no matter how good of a posture you had. There are some exceptions for this rule, for example if the face is out of focus completely, and the focus is on the hands holding an object.
Shoot as if you were three feet tall
It is the nature of the world that small kids are also kinda short. When we take pictures from a high angle, it looks like we are patronizing and condescending over the child (remember those times when you had to look up at adults all the time, how did it feel?) When shooting from the child's point of view of the world, you get the world as viewed by children. You gain authenticity. Also the child will feel safer and equal in the session. So... Don't be shy and "Get Down".
Shoot in couples / groups
Some of the more interesting situations happening when children interact, when you feel confident, you can try and take pictures of two children together. If you like Kitsch, you can prepare some props - some of the nicest pictures are of children handing things to each other. Be careful though to Over-Kitsch it.
All that said, I think that the biggest tip I can give is shoot from your heart and have fun. If you are enjoying yourself, the children are enjoying - you will get good pictures.
Do you have more tips for shooting kids? Post them as comments.