Greetings, you’re listening to the Liam Photography Podcast, I’m your host Liam Douglas and this is Episode 268. In today’s episode I want to about getting better photographs of your children and how you can go about this challenging task.
If you are a mom or dad and have a personal passion for photography and are looking for tips on getting better photographs of your children, hopefully this episode can help you out.
Should I Do Posed or Candid Shots?
The first thing you need to decide on is whether you want to approach this subject shooting Posed shots or if you would rather do candid shots of your children. Now you might be wondering, “What are candid shots and how can I get better photos?” This is an excellent question and many of you are already familiar with posed shots, which is for example taking your children for portraits at a studio. Back in the day you could go to places like Kmart and get children’s portraits done and you would dress up your children and take them to the studio in nice outfits and then a photographer like myself, back in the day, would do our best to get them to laugh and smile so we could capture great portraits for you the parent.
In this posed style of photography, unless you have a person that can do little puppet shows or silly faces and voices, you usually end up with portraits with cheesy smiles or grins instead of the kind of photographs you really want. The photographer controls the shoot and there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it. They direct the children, they are the ones that place them on the “mark” as far as where they stand, they get the children to look at the camera and usually say something like, “Say Cheese!” The child knows their photograph is being taken and they often fidget around and look down when they are supposed to look at the camera, etc.
Candid photography is totally different, this is when you shoot your children use being themselves. In this style of children’s photography, the photographer, ie you need to move around to get the composition you want and it works best if the children don’t even know they are being photographed. The benefit of this style of photography is you capture your children in a more natural way and you get better, more natural moments and facial expressions.
Candid children’s photography is very much similar to Street Photography in that the key is stealth. You want to be shooting the children with them not even knowing it’s happening. Children love to play and do their own thing, so whether they are outside running around or playing indoors in say a “playroom” with action figures, these are the times when you want to bust out that camera and capture some candid shots. To me the best images of children I have ever seen are candid images of them at play and just doing what they do best and it makes for natural images of the children.
You have to learn to resist the urge to force them to smile or look at the camera, think of it as being on a NatGeo expedition where you are trying to capture lions in their natural habitant and do the same with your children. If you try for force them to do posed images they will resist and act out and you will not get good photographs of them, let them be children, that’s all they want is to be themselves.
Today, most modern smartphones have good cameras in them, but they are still not the type of camera to use to shoot your children. When doing this kind of photography you cannot beat a good DSLR or Mirrorless camera and you can use a telephoto lens, but if you use a long lens, then shoot them from a distance so as to maintain the candid style. I prefer to use smaller lenses myself unless I need to be a good distance from them to capture my images. I can get great candids with a 50mm or an 85mm which is far less obtrusive than a big 100-400mm or even a 70-200mm lens. In order to be most successful, you need to be able to anticipate the moment and there are many great photographers out there that can do just that and they get amazing candid images time and time again. Having the skill to anticipate the moment will make you an extremely skilled candid photographer.
Capture Their Character
Children love to be silly and wild and active and you should not stifle this when capturing images of them. Let them be themselves, if your little daughter wants to dress up as a fairy princess and host a tea party for her stuffed animals and get that camera out and let her be herself. If your son wants to crawl around in mud re-enacting a battle with his toy Army men or superhero action figures, get that camera ready!
Anytime your children are playing and being themselves, you will get the moments when right after they do something fun or silly you will get a natural smile and laugh from them and that’s when you want to click the shutter. These images of them just being children are the ones that will become cherished memories. For anyone that wants to “step it up”, there are a number of ways you can get more wall worthy images of your children.
If you are shooting indoors, why not take the adventure outside on a nice day and let them play in the garden or on their mini playground that most parents set up for their children in the back yard. Have them dig for worms if your boys and girls are into that or have them pick some flowers or berries if you have some nearby. If you don’t have a mini playground at home, take them to a local park or public playground and let them be themselves. Children can be a “rollercoaster” of emotions and you want to be there to capture those emotions as they happen. Don’t just capture their smiles, get their silly faces, their surprise when they discover something new or their anguish when they are struggling to do something on their own. You certainly want to capture their range of emotions to get a great variety of fantastic images of them doing their thing.
Ask yourself, “What are they looking at?” My one granddaughter had recently become interested in drawing in chalk on the sidewalk in front of her home. She’s only a little over two years old but she has an artistic side she is developing and it might be good to stand behind them and shoot over their shoulder as they are painting or making chalk sidewalk art. Zoom in and capture a shot of them tying their shoes if they have mastered that skill, this is another great candid moment to capture. To capture better images of your children, you don’t need to always shoot their face, get their activities and what they are doing and observing.
You cannot be lazy and get great images of your children, you have to be willing to move around, think about your shot, your composition and how they fit into the scene. Moving around also allows you to make the most of the available light, get that shot when the sun hits their face from the side and lights their profile. Some people like to shoot true documentary style of their children, which is how I prefer to do things, but if you want to “spruce” up the area ahead of time that is fine too.
Take the shot. Many times when photographing children it is all about split second timing as I mentioned earlier so just take the shot, in today’s world of digital photography if it doesn’t turn out, just delete it later. Make sure you have your cameras up for the conditions you are shooting in as once the moment has passed it is gone forever. Photography is about light and the quality of the light in the scene so make sure you understand your exposure triangle. If it’s getting to be dusk then you are probably going to need to bump up your ISO, if it’s early in the morning you will need to stop down the aperture or increase your shutter speed to compensate for bright morning to mid afternoon light. The best way to learn is by doing, so get out there and perfect your skills with your camera and spend more time on the candid moments which are more natural and you will get far more keepers!
The other option is to hire a pro if photography is not your forte and you don’t want to learn it, you can get a pro to tag along on an outing and shoot it candidly for you. The other advantage here is you can be in the images, playing with your children or exploring their surroundings and be part of the image. It will cost you more to hire a pro to shoot these images for you but again it’s an expense you won’t regret when you are printing them out and hanging them on your wall!
(After end credits)
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