Achieving excellent portraiture of children is no walk in the park. As a rule of thumb, the older the easier but even the older children come with their own challenges. As a local portrait photographer myself in the Berkshire area (see more about me here) I have a lot of experience with families and have a few key tips and considerations for you to apply in your endeavors.
Atmosphere is key. You must ensure the studio environment is friendly and playful, don’t rush in to shooting. Take time to allow the little one to familiarize themselves to you and their surroundings. Let them switch on the lights, look behind the backdrop, whatever makes them comfortable. This way you may be able to delay the impending “I’ve had enough and want to go home”.
Next is the more technical aspect, and there are two major considerations:
- Firstly, lighting. Unlike family portraiture or headshots children do not stay where you put them. They can drift in and out of your sweet-spot and cause whole series of shots to come out under or over exposed. You must keep in mind rolling your shutter or ISO as you feel the child moving forwards and backwards in your lighting set up. This is something that takes time to perfect and requires practice to implement. Alternatively you can set your ISO to auto but this gives you much less flexibility in you creativity but may be a means to an end while you’re starting up.
- Second is shutter speed, kids don’t stay still. Being able to catch a beautiful smile or a cheeky laugh mid move is key, as they’re always moving. I find that 1/160-1/200 is enough for most general action, if they’re really going crazy you might need to push it.
Keep the shutter speed high, don’t lose the action shots to motion blur.
If things really start to fall apart, you may need to resort to props to keep the children engaged. Obviously introducing these things does affect your pictures so when you first start shooting, try to snap those perfect poses early while the novelty is enough to keep the subject cooperative. We tend to resort to our prettiest toys, bubbles and the all powerful snacks! These are a great option as if you time it between chews then there’s no impact on the image.
Pull out the bubble machine to keep the last few minutes productive
The almighty snack, restores morale in an instant
Really the main tip is to just keep taking pictures, the only way to ensure getting those shots with kids is to overcompensate, we’ll often take a few hundred in an hour shoot, sure you throw a lot away and spend a lot of time sorting images but when you get that perfect shot of someones pride and joy, it’s all worth it.