How to Photograph Children::tips from a seattle family photographer

We take and share so many images of kids these days. Here are some tips that should help you be more intentional about your photography, yielding stronger images. 

1. Change perspective: I always hear people say: “Get on the child’s level.” This is sound advice if you are typically taking random snaps from where you are standing. However, I find that changing your perspective rather than staying on the ground can produce more surprising and interesting results.

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2. Leave out the face: You don’t have to include your child's face to capture who they are. Instead, try focusing on details: hand gestures, the familiar way they hold an item, knee scrapes… You have the privileged point of view of a parent who knows your child deeply and can point to something other than their face that truly speaks to who they are at a particular moment in time. I took the photo below because I love the way my daughter (as most toddlers) used to stand in a focused suspense with knees bent whenever she needed to put something in her pocket.

3. Play with light and reflections: This is easier said than done for a non-professional, but chances are, if you experiment enough, you will  get at least one good shot. I recommend you stick to soft light. You could either take pictures against a north-facing wall or go out 2 hours before the sunset (which is more interesting). Try placing your child in contrasting light or taking a picture of their shadow. Find a reflecting surface such as water to add dimension to the picture. If you need more light in their eyes, ask them to look up, place them near a white object, or turn yourself into a reflector by wearing a white shirt.

4. Keep them busy: It is a travesty to make children stand still and miss their genuine movement. They also have an amazing range of facial expressions, and I am sure you, too, realize they are fleeting. That expression they have when  they are looking for something or when they utter a certain phrase that only close family members can appreciate.... Capture it! Use props, toys, or books to keep the children engaged. Older children need more direction as they are used to standing still and smiling in front of the camera. Engage them by soliciting the help of other adults, siblings or animals. You are also more likely to catch movement, which makes for more dynamic photos. 

5. Declutter: Think hard before you include something in your frame. Simple is better. People tend to focus on location in its totality instead of the mood. Resist the temptation to try to include everything around you to give a sense of the place or season. A simple yellow leaf in a child’s hair could be sufficient to convey fall. Dress children in simple clothes. Accessories and lots of pattern, unless used meaningfully and strategically, tend to distract from kids’ faces and personalities.

6. Step away every once in a while: Yes, it is still a portrait. If you do, remember to ensure a simple background. Use an interesting wall or a mural. A cool background and negative space work great for turning your captures into holiday cards. Just add type.