Photographing Children

Remember standing there in your new clothes, in front of the hedge, squinting into the sun, while dad or mom backed across the yard, pointed the camera and told you to smile?

Our family has years and years of pictures like that all made in front of our grandparents house. Flipping through the albums you can follow the year-to-year changes in the children as well as the changes in the bushes and trees that take up most of the picture.

Nelson and Taylor enjoyed the go-carts at Lost Treasure Raceway and Golf for afternoon of fun during our family vacation at Ocean Bay Villas in Pine Knoll Shores, North Carolina during the week of July 30 to August 6, 2005. [NIKON D2X, Sigma AF Zoom 18-125mm f/3.3-5.6G, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/320, Focal Length = 250]

These old photos bring back memories for us because we were there. For a stranger, looking at the same snapshots, the pictures show them nothing, because the children are too far away to really see what they look like and the poses tell them nothing about the children themselves.

Chelle looses her second tooth on Monday, September 26,2005. Her gum was irritated and red. She went to the dentist to be sure it wasn’t infected. While there they found no infection and asked Chelle if she wanted it pulled. They pulled the tooth. [NIKON D2X, 18.0-50.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 400, 1/90, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 75)]

Here’s an idea. Get closer. Always get closer and the pictures (almost any picture) will improve, especially pictures of children.

When we travel the pictures we make of children we see usually are quite different from those of our own kids.

Togo, West Africa [NIKON D5, 35.0 mm f/1.4, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/2500, ƒ/1.4, (35mm = 35)]

We make photos of children playing, being themselves and not all cleaned up. The expressions and colors of their clothes are what draw us to make these photos.

Introduce yourself to the adults supervising the children and ask for permission to photograph them. You may have to do this with gestures if there is a language barrier.

No matter if it is your own kids or ones you photograph on trip get down to the child’s eye lever. Crawl on the floor with a toddler or get on your knees to photograph preschoolers. Not only is this a better camera angle for children, but the kids like it when you are on their level.

Jeff Raymond gets on his knees to get eye level with the small children in Togo, West Africa. [NIKON D5, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 800, 1/200, ƒ/9, (35mm = 14)]

The trick is to take the time to let the child become comfortable with you and your camera. When they begin playing, in their own world again, you can peak in with your camera and capture something of the real child.

Children often mimic their surroundings. Give them a pot and spoon or some other grownup stuff and let them play to their heart’s content.

To add to the story value, place a toy in the photo of the child playing with the grown-up things. Use a wide-angle lens or set your zoom at it’s widest setting. Get close to the child and show their surroundings.

Chelle, our daughter, enjoys getting a hug from Georgia Tech’s mascot Buzz at the Georgia Tech Women’s basketball game against Miami on January 5, 2006. [NIKON D100, 18-50mm , Mode = Manual, ISO 100 , 1/250, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 30)]

Take a lot of photos. With today’s digital cameras there is no cost to making many photos; just edit them on your computer before you print.

So take lots and lots of photos. Truly explore your subject in their world.

By following these suggestions your pictures will be true treasures and even a stranger will be impressed.

Chelle’s Dress Rehearsal for her first dance recital. [NIKON D100, 122.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1250, 1/50, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 202)]