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Photographing Children: 10 Easy Tips to Get Genuine Smiles

Photographing children for beginners

Taking pictures of children and their pure joy is truly special.

For many photographers, it’s not just about a great photo, but also about saving special moments to look back on. I started taking photos because of my son, Nikita. When he was born in 2018, his big smiles made me buy my first professional camera.

Over the past five years, I’ve taken many photos of him, watching him grow and sharing our fun times together. From all these photos, I’ve learned some great tips on getting real smiles.

In this article, I’ll share 11 easy tips for photographing children from my own experience, so you can capture these wonderful memories too. Let’s get started!

10 Practical & Easy Tips for Photographing Children

You might have asked yourself how to photograph children beautifully. Capturing children in their most authentic form requires a patient approach and an understanding of children’s unique perspectives.

In the following sections, we delve into various practical tips to create kids photography that truly encapsulates the essence of childhood:

#1. Natural Light is Your Best Friend

In my early days, I quickly realized the profound impact of lighting. Natural light in child photography, especially, makes a remarkable difference. Soft, natural sunlight accentuates the delicate features of a child and adds warmth to the picture.

For instance, my photos of Nikita taken near windows or outdoors during the golden hours (just after sunrise or before sunset) have this ethereal glow.

Portrait photo of my son, Nikita, shot during a golden hour

This ambiance brings out his natural colors and avoids those harsh, unflattering shadows.

If you’re indoors, position your child near a window. If you’re outside, overcast days can provide soft, diffused light. Avoid direct midday sunlight to prevent squinting eyes and hard shadows.

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#2. Get Down to Their Level

As I honed my photography skills, I recognized the value of perspective.

Physically getting down to your child’s level makes your photos feel intimate, almost as if entering their world. 

When you kneel or lie down, the child becomes the central element, and the background rises, capturing a world framed from their eyes.

Portrait phot of my son, Nikita, taken from his perspective

This technique has given me some fantastic close-ups of Nikita’s playful and sometimes contemplative expressions. It’s an intimate way to document their growth, making the memories even more touching.

#3. Use Burst Mode

Children are bundles of energy, often making it a fun challenge to photograph them. Utilizing the burst mode on your camera can be a game-changer. This feature allows you to capture several frames in a quick sequence.

For example, in the photo below, when Nikita was trying to catch bubbles, I activated burst mode:

nikita with bubbles

While many shots were just blurs, I got a few where his eyes sparkled with excitement, hands reaching out, with bubbles floating around. It perfectly encapsulated the joy of that moment.

#4. Keep the Background Simple

Background plays a crucial role in how the viewer’s eye is directed in a photo. A chaotic background might overshadow your child’s actions or expressions. When I photograph Nikita, I look for plain walls, open parks, or even a serene sky to serve as the backdrop.

Portrait photo of a small kid playing in a park

Such simplicity ensures that he remains the main focus. Whether it’s him dancing in our backyard or playing with his toys, a simple background captures the essence without any distractions.

PRO TIP: If you are photographing your kid in a busy environment, set the lowest Aperture settings on your camera and come closer to your child. This way, the busy background behind your child will get blurry and there will be a lot more separation between the background and your child, making the photo look a lot better. 

Furthermore, you can also add a little bit of vignetting to your photo in post-production.

Vignetting in photography refers to the darkening of the corners of an image compared to its center. It’s like looking through a tunnel where the edges are darker. This can be a result of the lens design, the use of certain filters or lens hoods, or it can be added intentionally in post-processing for artistic effect.

#5. Capture Candid Moments

Posed photos have their place, but candid shots often contain raw emotion and tell a deeper story. Observing Nikita during his playtime or while he’s engrossed in a new book, I’ve managed to snap pictures that radiate genuine feelings.

Candid portrait photos of a kid playing with toys

These unposed moments, like a spontaneous laugh or a curious gaze, are the ones you’ll cherish for years. They offer a window into their personalities, quirks, and individuality.

#6. Be Patient and Playful

Children, with their ever-changing moods, can be unpredictable subjects. Over time, I’ve realized that approaching a photoshoot as a playful activity rather than a task makes a world of difference.

black and white portrait photo of a kid with reflection in the glass
Shot with my Sony A7III. Settings: ISO: 1000, f/1.8, 1/125sec

With Nikita, turning our sessions into a game or storytelling time often led to spontaneous reactions perfect for the camera. Laughter, curiosity, surprise – all those genuine emotions make for memorable photographs.

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#7. Use Props Wisely

Props can be an excellent tool in your photography arsenal. They can set a scene, tell a story, or simply add an element of fun.

Props can range from everyday objects, like a blanket or a hat, to thematic items related to holidays or seasons. However, ensure they complement the photo rather than overpower it.

Child photography with props

#8. Capture the Artist at Work

Children have a natural inclination towards art and expressing their imagination through drawing. Watching a child focus on their art can offer a unique perspective into their world. 

I’ve observed Nikita engrossed in his sketches, his little fingers wrapped around crayons, crafting stories on paper. The concentration in his eyes, the occasional furrow of the brow, and the pure joy when he shows off his creation are priceless moments.

Portrait photo of a kid drawing

You can enhance such shots by focusing on the details—like the colors chosen, the smudges on their hands, or the array of drawing tools around. These scenes not only showcase their budding creativity but also immortalize their innocence and dedication to the task at hand. So, the next time your child picks up a pencil or a paintbrush, have your camera ready to capture the artist in action.

#9. Anticipate and Pre-Frame

Children are spontaneous, and their actions often unpredictable. Instead of always reacting, try anticipating their moves.

By identifying these little patterns and pre-framing the shot, I was prepared when the moment happened. Pre-framing means setting up your shot in advance, anticipating where the action or main subject will be.

Photo of a kid driving a cart car

It’s like laying a trap for a perfect moment. By doing this, you can ensure the background is right, the lighting is favorable, and you’re at the correct angle, so when the moment strikes, you capture it in all its glory.

This approach not only makes your photos more dynamic but also ensures you’re ready for those fleeting moments that often become the most cherished memories.

#10. Practice Regularly

The world of photography is vast and constantly evolving. The more pictures I took of Nikita, the better equipped I was to anticipate reactions, understand lighting, and refine my compositions. 

Some days might yield blurry or overexposed images, but that’s all part of the learning curve. Remember, every shot taken, whether perfect or not, adds to your experience.

Photo of a small kid playing with a red plane toy

To Sum Up

Photographing children is a journey full of delightful surprises and heartfelt moments. As we’ve explored, the key to capturing the essence of childhood isn’t just about technical know-how; it’s about patience, understanding, and diving into their world.

From the glow of natural light to the candid spark of genuine emotion, every tip offers a unique avenue to treasure these fleeting years.

In my experience photographing Nikita, I’ve come to realize that every click of the shutter isn’t just capturing a moment, but preserving a piece of his ever-evolving journey.

As you pick up your camera and view your child through the lens, remember that you’re not just taking photos; you’re creating lasting memories, tangible reminders of days filled with wonder, curiosity, and boundless love.

Embrace every moment, anticipate every giggle, and let your photos tell the stories you’ll revisit for years to come. Happy photographing! 

P.S. If you are just thinking of learning photography, I highly recommend you to read the following article.

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Aleksandrs Karevs

Aleksandrs Karevs

Hi, my name is Aleksandrs and I am a full-stack digital marketer passionate about digital photography. In my free time, I enjoy taking photos with my everyday companion – FUJIFILM X100V. Read full story here.

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Aleksandrs Karevs OHMYCAMERA Founder & Author

ARTICLE BY

Hi, my name is Aleksandr and I am a full-stack digital marketer from Riga, Latvia. In 2018 I became obsessed with photography and decided to create this blog to share my knowledge about both photography and marketing. In my free time, I enjoy taking photos with my everyday companion – FUJIFILM X100V.

Disclosure: OHMYCAMERA.com is a participant in several affiliate programs and may be compensated for referring traffic and business to companies from affiliate programs at no additional cost to you.

Aleksandrs Karevs OHMYCAMERA Founder & Author

ARTICLE BY

Hi, my name is Aleksandr and I am a full-stack digital marketer from Riga, Latvia. In 2018 I became obsessed with photography and decided to create this blog to share my knowledge about both photography and marketing. In my free time, I enjoy taking photos with my everyday companion – FUJIFILM X100V.

Disclosure: OHMYCAMERA.com is a participant in several affiliate programs and may be compensated for referring traffic and business to companies from affiliate programs at no additional cost to you.

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