It can sometimes be the Nirvana of child photography - getting images where your child looks happy, full and joy and completely carefree…..unlike the moody pouty face you normally get :-)
But it is totally doable! There’s just a few things to keep in mind.
In this week’s blog post, I’ve got five tips for you that will help you capture the joy of children, whether you are photographing your own family, or for client sessions if you’re in business.
1) Create Fun moments!
Well, there’s a shocker.
Yep, for capturing fun, joyful images of your children, you have to make sure that they are doing something that they ACTUALLY enjoy. (Yep, blew you away with that one, didn’t I?!)
So think about your session not as simply a way to get joyful expressions, but about what would truly be incredible fun for the child. What do they love to do? What makes them laugh the most?
If you are photographing your own kids you’ve got a great start here, because you know your child better than anyone.
If you are photographing someone else’s kids, ask!
It could be as simple as jumping on the bed (my son’s favourite) or play fighting with Dad (another favourite) running along the beach jumping into the water, playing on the swings or just being thrown in the air.
Once you have your fun activity in mind, then you can decide the location.
Just a couple of things to bear in mind when you are considering this:
!) Make sure that wherever you choose has plenty of space for the child to do the activity, and for you to capture it. For example, play fighting on the bed in your child’s room might not be suitable because the room is too small, but ideal in the main bedroom!
2) If shooting indoors, make sure you choose a location that has great natural light coming in.
3) If shooting outdoors, make sure you are in a location that the children are free to run around in - there’s not much fun in having to keep making sure a toddler doesn’t fall into a lake for example (which would lead to more tears than joy!)
2) Don’t be afraid to use props
I know that many people think of elaborate styled photo shoots when they think of props, but props don’t have to take over the image! They can simply be used to help get happy faces from your children, and rather than take over the image, they actually add to it.
Think things like…
Large Candy Lollipops
Dress Up Clothes
A colourful blanket for playing peek-a-boo
Those are fairly classic, but if your child’s favourite thing in the world is an aeroplane, then adding one into the scene can be a guaranteed joyful expression for that child.
When using props, just make sure that you are happy for whatever you use to be in frame (so for example, go for a classic looking wooden train track rather than the latest plastic singing version) and that’s it something that the child actually enjoys, rather than just because it will look good in the photo :-)
3) Increase shutter speed
Of course there are some practical considerations too.
Where there is joy, happiness and laughter there is usually a lot of movement, so shutter speed is going to be really important factor in making sure that you get a sharp image.
Although there is a rule about never moving below 1/125 for a photographing a person, for photographing an active child, you need to go waay higher!
So for a stationary child I never go below 1/250, and for a moving child, at least 1/800.
If you need more help with what settings to use when, be sure to download our FREE MANUAL MODE CHEAT SHEET! It will help you with aperture, shutter speed and ISO, so you can get the perfect shot.
4) Isolate the emotion
If you really want to make the joyful expression on your child the main focus of the image, it can help to make sure that it’s the ONLY strong element in the image - in other words, remove anything else from the scene can could distract from the expression.
An easy way to do this is simply to get in closer - having your subject up close and centre will help isolate them in the frame.
Another trick for this is to use a longer length lens - longer focal lengths pull the background closer, so that you simply get less of it in the frame! This can help ensure that you get all the attention on your subject.
Finally, you can also blur out the background to help bring focus and attention to your subject. You can do this by using a wider aperture (smaller F number) and bringing your subject away from the background. (You can read more about how to do this in how to get a blurred background)
One word of caution though - moving subjects and a shallow depth of field can lead to lots of out of focus images, so be sure you’re really confident in your focusing abilities before you try this one!
5) Make sure there is sparkle in the eyes
One of the things that can really help give life and joy to the eyes is a little bit of a cheeky sparkle!
These are called catchlights - simply because that sparkle is caused by the light catching the eyes.
If you are shooting indoors, make sure you position your subject close to the window so that they eyes pick up the light - keep turning them until you see the light reflected in their eyes.
If you are struggling outdoors to get light into the eyes, a simple trick is just to have your subject look up at you. This helps the eyes fill with light.
If you are using backlight, using a reflector (bought or natural) will help bounce light back onto your subject and into their eyes!