Notice that the title doesn’t say portraits of children. That’s because kids fully dictate how the photography session is going to unfold, and they don’t usually like to stay in one place while we take pictures. Plus you know that I’m a strong believer in natural, candid moments. Also, none of those tips have anything to do with a camera. It’s just what Ansel Adams said:
“The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.”
Straight horizontal line
Watch out for the horizon line. This is one of the most common mistakes, but it’s also one that can be fixed with zero effort. Next time you are taking a picture, remember to keep the horizontal lines in the background..well..horizontal. Dutch angles almost never work, and when they do, it’s only when it was done on purpose ( usually to add dynamic to the photo ). If there is no visible horizon line, try to look for other indicators. Lines between bricks on the building wall, lamp posts, window frames and so on.
This is just annoying, and also so easy to prevent or fix after. Don’t do that.
Get to their eye level
We always look at kids from one perspective. Looking down. And when we take a picture that way, we are just looking “at the scene”, plus we usually end up with photos of the top of their heads. There is an easy way to shoot from “within the scene”. Get down on your knees or crouch down to their height. Don’t just point and shoot. Get to their eye level or even lower. Not only your pictures will be more interesting; as this is not our normal way of looking at kids and it gives us a unique perspective, you also will become more approachable, and there will be less chance that the photo will have skewed proportions and weird angles.
Getting low allows you to enter kids world, and see things as they see it.
Shoot through moments
Do not stop taking pictures simply because you just took one or two. When your son is drawing a firetruck on the kitchen table being completely focused on what he is doing, and you want to save that moment; do not take just one photo ( or even just 3) Stay with it. Keep shooting. He may stick his tongue out in a minute or scratch his nose or make that face that he always makes when he is thinking. The photo will be infinitely better, and it only takes a minute of waiting. Shoot through the moment. Take the “safe” shoot and keep shooting for the better one.
My daughter reading a book with her friends ( none of them can read 🙂 I shot much more before I decided I have the one and a little more after that. I just deleted most of them.
Try to make sure that there is nothing in the background that you don’t want there. Our eyes tend to go to the most contrasty part of the picture, so a big red bin somewhere in the second plan will take all the attention away from the cute child playing in the first. Also, you don’t want things sticking out from people’s heads like lamps or trees. Usually taking a step to the side or tilting camera up or down will remove the distraction. You can also use the person in the picture to hide things behind. Go up, down, left, right, It will take just 10 seconds, but it will help tremendously.
I just took a half a step to the side and crouched a little. That have change the perspective and allow me to remove the distracting background.
Strong point of interest
Try to think why you are taking a picture. I know we sometimes just want to save the moment, but think about “why”? What is the thing that brings your attention? When your daughter is playing in the sand, don’t just point at the whole situation and shoot. Decide what do you like the most. Is it her feet covered in sand? Her hair being tousled by the wind? The look on her face? Have a strong point of focus and then shoot. Know why you are taking a picture.
Shoot up to give power, shoot down to take power away
Remember the “get to the eye level” advice? Now with that in mind try photographing your children shooting up and shooting down. Shooting up will give your child power, it will give the impression that he is bigger, stronger and more confident. Looking down, on the other hand, will take the power away. Very simple trick that gives very powerful results.
Getting closer so I could shoot up even just little bit, changed the perspective enough to give the impression of power. She looks bigger, older and more confident.
Do it often so they don’t freeze up
My kids don’t even notice me when I have my camera. This is nothing new to them; I’m always with a camera. By I notice that some kids immediately stand still and look directly at me when I lift a camera to my face or they at least smile and go into the “posing” mode. We condition them to do it. Let’s not do that anymore. We all know that real, natural moments are way better than the “cheese” pictures. If you want your photos to show your kids as they really are, shoot a lot. Take pictures every day. All the time. And don’t draw the attention to the fact that you are now taking pictures. Don’t say “smile” or ”look at me” or any of that. Sooner or later they won’t care anymore any your pictures will stop looking the same. Child looking at the camera.
I also want to remind you that all of the advice above are not rules. There will always be a moment when applying any of them will ruin the photo 🙂 Everything depends on the situation and on what you what to achieve in the end. So get out there and shoot some pictures. And have fun.
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