Portrait Photography: Working Well with Young Kids

Written by Backdrop Express Photography Team on . Posted in Baby & Child Photography, Photography Tips, Portrait Photography

young red head girl with pigtails on orange background

There’s no doubt that portrait photography with young kids can yield delightful results, but there are definitely some different factors and conditions at play. Child photography often requires extra time, patience and preparation. It can be challenging to say the least; however, the rewards can be priceless. Here are some tips to help your studio photography with children to go as smoothly as possible:

1. Capture Emotion and Relationship

One of the keys to successful child photography is the ability to document expression and emotion. Try to capture facial expressions exuding from their relationships with parents, siblings or friends. Doing so will tell a story and make for great photos. Look for those meaningful expressions as they respond to people around them.

2. Toys

Of course, children love toys, and they all have their favorites. To help kids stay in one place for their photo session, shoot them while playing with a couple of their favorites. If you do studio photography, keep an assortment of props on hand. Look for moments and expressions that show a connection between the child and the toys. Try a couple of creative shots that focus just on their hands while playing.

young boy writing a card  on blue backdrop

3. The Eyes Have It

When shooting a portrait, the eyes should be in focus. If shooting at an angle, focus on the eye that is nearest the camera. Since kids rarely sit still for long, select your focus point at the beginning, but be prepared to adjust as the child shifts and moves.

4. Watch the Foreground and Background

Be selective about what shows up as background in your photography. Kids are active enough; make sure the background is not too “busy” or cluttered. Choose a photo backdrop that complements what they are wearing. If you don’t have the flexibility to adjust the background or move the location, try a different camera angle that results in a less distracting background. Zoom in for a tight shot if needed.

5. Experiment with Composition

Traditional centered portraits are nice, but don’t be afraid to break with tradition. When it comes to composition, use the “rule of thirds”. Divide the basic frame visually into three sections and position the child off-center at one of the four main intersections. Try unexpected angles and creative use of negative space for dramatic effect.

young boy smiling cheesy on brown background

6. Go for Eye Level

Keep in mind that photographing kids from too high or too low an angle can create an unpleasing perspective. Try and keep your shots at eye-level with the child. Get down on one knee or lay on your stomach if needed.

7. Lighting

If shooting outdoors, try and work during the early morning or late afternoon. That way the angle of the sun will be low and quality of light tends to be softer and better overall. Shadows will be less harsh. If you can’t help but be out in harsh sun, look for a shady area such as under some trees or where the sun is shielded by buildings or other structures. While shooting indoors, go for soft light near a window if possible. For a gauzy look, use a curtain to diffuse the light even more.

young boy holding basketball

8. Know Your Camera

This is probably a no-brainer, but be sure you’re adept at using your camera optimally, especially before working with kids. There will be enough distractions as it is. Practice and play with all of the settings so that using it becomes second nature. Try different apertures and shutter speeds ahead of time so you’ll know what to expect. Try manual exposure settings to allow for more flexibility.

9. Be Patient

Know ahead of time that children tend to be active and don’t always take instruction very well. However, you can build a connection with them during the shoot by talking to them, smiling and making them as comfortable as possible. Plan for and expect the most chaotic scene you can imagine — that way you’ll be prepared. Who knows — you might even be pleasantly surprised with children that act like little angels!

young girl sticking tongue out on white background

10. Take a Lot of Pictures – and Have Fun!

Remember that child photography should be fun! Kids are masters at having a great time, and you should try and do the same. Whether you favor portrait photography or location shooting, keep the mood light. Also, take lots of photos — in this age of digital photography, extraneous shots can always be deleted. Taking a lot of photos increases your odds of capturing those precious moments and priceless images that parents will cherish for a lifetime. Photographing children is different from other studio photography, but you can still get amazing results. Be prepared, follow these ten tips, and you’ll be creating amazing children’s photos in no time.

How to you get the best expressions out of young ones?

-Backdrop Express Photography Team

Interested in reading more about photographing young children? Check out 8 Best Tips to Child Photography!

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