Tips for Photographing Children

For the last six years my main subject of photography has of course been my daughter Julia. From this experience I have a few tips on photographing children. I think the most important thing is to keep it fun. Most of the best photographs I have of Julia are when we were just playing and I had my camera with me. Because of the speed at which things happen, it is quite common for me to get "almost perfect pictures". These are ones where the picture would be perfect, if only I included her foot, or if the focus was just a little better, or the lighting was at a better angle. In general though I like these "almost perfect" pictures better than I like many of the studio pictures where things are "right", but generally look very contrived.

Well lit, and relatively close-up with the photo take from Julia's eye level.

One thing I have found handy is to let her take pictures as well. She will often take pictures of me and mom and then be quite willing to pose for a picture herself. I usually give her pretty much freedom when she is using the Canon A-1 underwater camera (which she now considers her camera), but generally make sure she is very careful when taking pictures with the Minolta M7.

Some specific advice on taking pictures of children:

  • Get down to their level. You should generally be trying to take pictures with the camera at the same level as the child's eyes.
  • Vary your distance. It is really quite difficult to get too close to a child. A photograph that shows the eyes nicely will always be commented on as a "nice photograph". Try to experiment with framing, take some photos that show only the face, take others that show the head and shoulders, others that just show the whole body. If you don't try to vary your framing, you will probably find that all your pictures show more background than child.
  • Good lighting. The best way of ensuring that photographs have good exposure is to make sure that you take the photographs under nice bright conditions. Generally direct sunlight isn't good, but just slight overcast or filtered sunshine is. If the lighting is good and bright, then you can safely set your camera to automatic exposure and forget about it unless there is some effect you are trying to achieve. (such as blurred motion, or shallow depth of field).
  • Quit while your ahead. As soon as your child stops wanting to get photographed, stop taking pictures. Pictures of somebody who doesn't want to get their picture taken are no fun. Keep your camera handy though, it is likely that your child will forget their objections after a little playing.
  • Take your camera with you. As they always say you can't take a picture with your camera that is back in your closet. This is why it is nice to have a small camera that you can have in your pocket and take pictures whenever the opportunity presents itself.
  • Take lots of pictures. Film is pretty cheap these days, and if you have a digital camera, throw away photographs are pretty much free.