I am huge natural light lover, all of my photos made in that type of light. Although I have a flash “just in case” I actually don’t use it when I make a portrait photo sessions. Today I want to talk about child photography in natural light from my point of view. I present you 7 tips that I follow when I’m photographing a child.
Kids are tough crowd, if they are tired or unhappy they will show it, they will cry, scream and will do anything to ensure that you understand how unhappy they are. You can’t ask them to act some other way despite how they feel especially when we talk about a really-really young kids. In order to minimize the risk of having an unhappy child I always ask the parents to make sure that the kid sleeps well before the session, that he isn’t hungry , too cold or hot, anything that can affect the photo shoot. You can’t eliminate every single problem, and sometimes photoshooting a crying kid also can be interesting but most of the time parents will want to see how happy and cute their kid is, so make everything that is possible to deliver that.
2. Depth of field and shutter speed:
Lets talk some technical sides. I have my ISO always on the minimum, my camera can handle even 800+ without noises but I have some kind of superstition about that and never rise it up above 100. I think ISO around 400 is pretty fine too, so if it’s a little bit dark you can raise it up a little.
There are many approaches towards depth of field, some prefer shallow DOF some prefer deep. I must admit I am a huge shallow DOF fan especially in child photography. The optimal aperture size for me is f/5.6 – most of the things on focus, great decision especially when the kid moving all the time. I do lower my aperture up until f/2.8 but you need to practice a little bit in order to catch the focus where you want it, it works best when the child is calm and not moving around a lot.
I must admit that mostly I use the “aperture priority” on my camera, that saves time when I do a photoshoot and it works well for me. There are times when the kid is moving to much, running, playing, waving hands, then I use the manual and put my shutter speed to 1\200 at least, that allows me to catch the moving kid without getting smeared photos.
Place is highly important (putting aside the parents desire) there are few things to consider when you chose a place to make the photoshoot.
- You need to check out the lightning in this place, is there enough shadows so you can shoot at the middle of the day, for example shady grove or park or the best time to shoot in the place you chose is early morning and time around sunrise so the light is warmer and more gentle at that time, for example beach or field?
- Does the kid like this place?There was a photoshoot that kids mom really wanted it to be on the beach. I checked this beach out, and decided that the only good time to do this is at early morning. When we came there everything was perfect, the light, the absents of people around, the warm weather and fully woke up kid. What can go wrong? Well, there was a factor that I didn’t considered, turns out the kid is terrified of the sea (and mother knew it) he was really scared and cried a lot. In the end, there where few decent photos but most of them well….sad and unhappy kid. So when you chose a location, check out with parents how the kid will feel about this place.
- The last thing that may be not as important but have a big weight for me is amount of people. When I am the one who chose the place I mostly prefer places without huge crowds of people, that way it is more comfortable for me and for those who I photograph.
Literally the most important thing, focus is what makes the photo to catch your eye. It doesn’t matter how wonderful photo is, if the focus is on the wrong thing – the photo is doomed. There are two things I want to say about the focus:
- When you photographing kids make sure your focus is on their eyes. Children have big, expressive, pure and full of light eyes. Catching this will give a huge bust to your photos. If the kid standing with his side to you, make sure the focus is on the closest eye to you.
- Kids move a lot, running and playing, sometimes it is useful to use the follow focus to reduce the possibility to loose focus on the right place.
Here I am not talking about the photography equipment , I want to talk about things you bring with you to entertain the kid. I always ask kids parents to bring something that he or she loves, for example his loved teddy bear or a gun that makes bubbles. Mother of one of the kids that I photographed took with her a little tub with water because the kid just looove that, another mother brought her little dog and we created really nice photos about the dog-boy adventures. Why I ask the parents and not bring things myself? Well first of all they bring things that the kid is familiar with and thus he feel more relaxed and comfortable , secondly parents know better what can make their kids happy. Those things make photos unique and interesting and I think you should not give up on those:)
6. Contact and interaction:
In is highly important to maintain interaction and contact with the child, if he doesn’t respond to you ask the parents to help, kid will surely react to them. The younger is the child the more parents interaction is necessary. If you want the kid look straight to the camera ask one of the parents to stand behind you and call him, let them play together in order to create charming moments. Parents know how to make the kid happy, let them do their job and deliver this bond trough your photos:)
The younger the kid, the less is the possibility that he will do what you ask him to do, you need to be creative, let him run, give him toys to play, ask parents to help with the interaction. Don’t expect the kid to sit there quietly in poses that you want him to do, that is most probably wont work but I don’t think i is a bad things. Kids are so full of life, let them be kids, catch them doing this child stuff, your photos will be much better! I do prefer more photos of “natural” behavior of the kid than photos that have been staged.
I hope this post was somehow useful and the most important – have fun while photographing! 🙂