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Photographing children can be tricky. One thing that you will learn on your first kid photo shoot is that patience is a virtue. Second thing: you will glorify the person that invented the memory card. The never ending problem with photographing kids is that they are so unpredictable and uncontrollable. But, that makes things more fun, right?
Now, how can you make your job a bit easier when it comes to photographing kids?
Simple, get on their level and don’t scare them off. But, let’s get into more detail. Here are some things you should know about photographing children.
1. Prepare Well Before The Shoot
This is probably the most important aspect of your day. Have several SD/CF cards? Get them all!! Spare batteries? Get them as well! Toys? You can’t go anywhere without a few. Dress appropriately – do not dress in anything intimidating (black, suits etc). Have several lenses with you: one wide, one long and a portrait lens too.
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You never know what the kid will do. If you use a car, keep a spare outfit there because things might get dirty!
2. Don’t Be Scary!
Don’t use flash if you don’t need to. For the child, the flash can be frightening. If you must use it, invent a story about it that is interesting for the child. Be imaginative.
In addition, don’t use a lot of accessories on your camera since it makes it look bigger, thus scarier. So best thing is to either use long lens and distance yourself, or use a wide lens which isn’t big in size and go closer. There are plenty of toys you can stick around your camera in order to look less intimidating.
3. Distractions Can Be Very Helpful
This might be the only way you will take a few shots of the kid. Distract the child from the camera. Use stuff like toys, soap bubbles, food. (Bubbles are FANTASTIC for really small kids). It might also be good idea to bring the family pet, since most kids love them. Parents, grandparents and/or siblings can be welcome as well. They can animate the child since they know it best.
4. Get the Right Gear Set-up
Burst, burst, burst! With kids it is often spray and pray since everything happens quite fast. There is rarely a chance where you can tell the kid what to do in order for you to make the shot. Fast focusing lenses are also a welcome addition since children are energetic and tend to move rapidly. Regular DC motor lenses have hard time keeping track (I have that problem on my 50-250mm). Selecting continuous focus might be a smart thing to do since you won’t have to refocus in split seconds in order to keep track.
5. Take Your Time
It will usually take you much more time than regular photo shoots, and be prepared for it. Often it takes the whole evening, maybe the whole day. However, you will have to be patient and persistent in the same time, so time will fly.
While we’re on the subject of time and since I mentioned patience before, remember to take your time. Rushing things won’t help you, nor will being impatient. You will have to wait for the shot, but be prepared at all times. You will have to learn to predict situations because certain things trigger certain actions. For example, blowing few soap bubbles usually ends up with the child running to get/pop the bubbles before they land on the ground.
6. Think Hard About the Location
It is best to choose a location where the child is most comfortable. Whether it is their favorite park, the house or the back yard, you will have to use the spot that works best for the child rather than the photographer on a lot of shoots. Bringing the kid to unknown areas will often make your life very difficult. Picking a favorite playground will ease your workload ] when it comes to distraction and animation since the kid is already animated by all the props that are there.
7. Don't Forget the Parents
Parents will help you with management and animation, but also they tend to bring out more emotions when they interact with their children. Also, it is good to have few shots which incorporate the whole family since it keeps everybody happy and helps you establish good relationship with your client.
Lastly, be prepared to fail. It might happen. Maybe the kid will simply be grumpy that day, or she won’t be motivated enough to do anything. Everybody can have a bad day. And keep in mind that having 10 good photos out of 1000 isn’t a fail. With that movement and unpredictability it is a given that 90% of the shots will be blurry, out of focus, with bad facial expressions and so on. And less than 1% are “the” shots. A few good images is probably what you should aim for.