Who doesn't love the spontaneity and expressiveness of children? They share and display their emotions with all their heart. Always moving, always on the go, getting the best digital photos of children can be a tall order. Here are five simple steps for photographing children successfully.
Children are Natural Photographic Subjects
Although I live in Colombia, wherever you might be in the world, children are natural photographic subjects. They simply love being photographed and “hamming it up" for the camera. This represents a marvellous opportunity for you to take some dynamic digital images. Here are five easy steps for photographing children.
Step 1 – Sometimes You Have to Shoot First, Get Permissions Later
Recently, while traveling on assignment, I was captivated by a scene in the main plaza downtown. A toddler was trying to chase down and catch pigeons that were flying and strutting all around him. Each seemed to let him get close, then abruptly take off as he went for the grab. Wobbling and swaying to keep his balance, he never gave up. He never caught one either, but that’s beside the point. The scene was so captivating nearly everyone around was watching.
When shooting images of people, I’ll ask first before taking photographs if the situation calls for it, but the fast-moving, highly volatile nature of photographing children means getting the shot, then getting the permissions afterwards when necessary. When seven year old Kenya Lopez walked into the room to show me her pet “Iggy", I started shooting pictures immediately. Later, I got permission – and then got out of there before I had to “hold" it! At more than three feet in length, it’s still the largest live Iguana I’ve ever seen anywhere.
Step 2 – Get In Close or Zoom In
Most "people photos" taken by amateurs (and untrained family members) are taken from seemingly a mile off from the subject. You know the ones. “Oh, that’s me and Uncle Joe at Dead Man’s Curve". Only you and Uncle Joe could ever recognize the people though because the subjects are a half inch tall in the photo (and probably backlit to boot). With children, you simply must get in close, then optically or digitally zoom in the rest of the way to really fill the frame with those expressive little faces. How could I possibly resist the sly smile of this girl as she passed by me sitting near the beach?
Step 3 – Get Down to the Child’s Level
The taller you are the more distance there is between you and great images when photographing children especially. Squat, kneel, sit down if you can or even lie down if you have to in order to get a subject-eye-view of the lil’ tykes. This is unless of course, you’re one of the “little people". Photographing children is about them, not you. The girl wanted to know, “Are you taking pictures?" Yes, I was – then promptly took one of her. Since I was sitting on the front steps of a beachfront house I was down at her level and got this eye-to-eye image.
Step 4 – Don’t Be Afraid to Fill the Frame
Relax, the kid’s not going to bite you – okay, well maybe some of them might try, especially if you deserve it - but you still need to fill that camera viewing screen before daring to take the shot. Their smaller features virtually mandate getting closer, frame-filling images for greater impact. You can’t be very far away when photographing children. When this little boy dropped a stick he was playing with into the drainage grating, I squatted down to fill the frame and get his quizzical, almost angry look.
Step 5 – Capture the Moment
Photographing children means capturing the moment whether it’s action, displays of emotions, documenting situations, portraying clothing, recording special events, illustrating participation in sports, showing elements of childhood play or creating humorous images of children imitating adults. These two girls playing in a pool looked up as I walked by and smiled as I looked down and took the shot.
Getting the Best Photos of Children
Getting the best digital images of children is all about being prepared and going for the shot, without being intimidating or shy about it. Don’t hang out in playgrounds or around schools like some kind of weird you-know-what. Just be open to including images of children whenever you’re shooting digital photographs. In public crowds, during sports events, parades or at the beach, photographing children can be both challenging and rewarding. Care to try it?