Inevitably you’ll be asked at some point or another to photograph someone’s children if you own a nice camera. You could literally buy a two thousand dollar camera and store it unopened in your closet but as soon as word gets out that you have a nice camera people will want you to use it. Children and butterfly’s are probably the most difficult subjects to photograph. Neither one wants to stand still and they are both very unpredictable. There are a few things that can make this daunting task a little more bearable.
Studios are a terrible idea for photographing children. Sorry if that offends the die-hard
lazy studio photographer that dreams of all his or her subjects lining up outside their door to get their pictures taken in the perfectly lit environment that has been painstakingly created. Those photos are boring and have been done a million times over, get creative. Take the children to the zoo and photograph them laughing and having fun doing the things they love. Get some candid shots of little Timmy and Susy holding hands as they watch the giraffes pig out on some leafs. Take some shots of the kids playing where they are comfortable, like their room or play area. If it’s winter time then have the children put some ornaments on the tree as you photograph them. In the fall you can photograph the kids picking pumpkins or running in and out of the corn fields. The key to great photographs of children is to get creative and get out of the studios. Honestly, if you’re considering taking the kids to the studio for your family portraits then line up in front of the bathroom mirror and snap a shot on your cell phone… it will be just as interesting (actually more so, and kind of funny now that I think of it).
If there is one thing kids hate its weird people. Don’t be weird, don’t be quiet or withdrawn, and don’t be uptight. If you’re the type that won’t even let his or her kid touch his fancy camera then you will hate photographing children. They want to touch EVERYTHING. Let them see the photograph after you take it, and if they are old enough let them take a photo or two. Get them comfortable with you before you start telling them where to stand or how to look. It definitely helps to bribe the little monsters with treats to get them to look this way and that. Have fun with them, relax, and let them move around and play as you take some shots.
Settings and Gear
Aperture Priority Mode: If you are not familiar with this then read about what it is and when to use it here. I’d recommend this over manual mode due to the speed at which these little buggers move.
Aperture: Set your aperture to around f4 or f5 so that you can get the child’s face completely in focus while slightly blurring the background.
ISO: Set your ISO somewhere between 100 and 800 depending on the light. It’s better to be a little high on the ISO than to have to use a slow shutter speed because the children’s abrupt movement will cause lots of blur.
Shutter Speed: This is key with kids, if you’re too low their jittery bodies will look like ghosts. Strive for a shutter speed around 1/100 or higher.
Flash: If you are able to go without flash then do it. Flash is ugly and harsh. If you have to shoot in a dimly lit room and are forced to use a flash (because you’ve pushed your ISO to the limit) then use a diffuser or an off camera flash that is pointing away from the subject (bounce the light to make it less harsh). If you are shooting towards the sun or a bright light source (like a sun lit window) then you may have to use a fill flash to get the correct exposure.
Lens: Prime lenses will be your absolute best image quality while the zoom lens will be most practical. For a prime lens I’d recommend the Nikon 50mm f1.8D (or if you use another brand of camera any 50mm will do). For the zoom lens I’d highly recommend the Nikon 24-85mm f3.5-4.5 for the versatility and creativity it offers. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to use a wide-angle lens and distort the face or body for a fun different perspective photograph.
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