Photographing children can be a challenge. We often need to make the MOST out of the wee bit of time your little one gives you. Let’s face it. They’d rather be playing, coloring, raiding your fridge or rolling in the floor. Anything other than sitting with you and that big old camera. Usually? You need to have a plan, move fast and offer treats at the end. That’s exactly what I did on this day with my little Caroline.
First? I noticed the light by my back door was “just right” to create lovely skin tones and catchlights. Also, it was falling off rather quickly. Which means, about 3 square feet of the floor was very nicely lit, but right behind it? It was shadowed. It wasn’t a harsh line of shadowing, but rather a quick fall off of light going back into my living room.
Next, while Caroline played nearby, I quickly cleared the area and background. I also grabbed Baby (her lovey) and sat her down so that I could get my settings together. Of course, Baby’s fur and Caroline’s skin tone are not even remotely related, but I needed to have an idea of where to start before I called Caroline over.
I also didn’t want her in that yogurt stained t-shirt so made sure she had a different, less distracting, shirt on.
Once I had everything together with her clothing and my thoughts? I sat just outside of the backdoor and called her over to sit in front of me. I knew I had to work fast. I asked her to THINK about her favorite animals. I didn’t want her to talk because she gets so very animated. I just wanted her to SIT. No smiling. No talking. Just. Sit.
Once I knew I had that shot, I asked her to hug her legs up and think. Again. BE SERIOUS.
Now, I knew that lighting was very flat, but I will admit that I LIKE flat light sometimes. Once I knocked those shots out of the way, I had her lie down at a 45 degree angle from the door. That way, I was able to use that lovely side lighting in order to create nice form and shadows along her cheek. I also had her stand in that same spot and look down at her toes as well as out to the deck. Remember when you are using side light, meter off of the brightest part of the skin and let the rest just fall into the shadows.
Do you remember what I said about the smiling? All this time I am NOT asking her to smile. I’m not expecting anything out of her except for her to stand, lie down or sit. I don’t say “look at me”….”over here”….”head up”…”SMILE SMILE SMILE!!!” I simply allow her to just…..BE. Every once and I while I will say “hey” in a soft whisper and she’ll look at me. It takes less than a second to get that shot. You only have to wait for it.
Finally, once I knew I had all of those shots and I had moved her all around, I sat her back in the even light and sat outside again. (when I say “outside”, I’m just sitting right in the doorway right on the doorframe) She had been holding those grins in for a while. She hadn’t been talking at all and I had been whispering every now and again. We were very calm and quiet. So, when I asked her to lie down and I loudly said the words, “POLKA DOTTED UNDERWEAR!!!” She lost it. I simply waited for her to stop giggling and I got this…
I was able to get so many images in less than seven minutes with her. This was such a quick session with her, but resulted in some of my most favorite images of my smallest girl. If you plan a mini session with your little one? Here are some tips to remember in order to make the most of your time:
Tips for photographing children
- No.01Plan, plan, plan
Notice the light. Prepare your area, your thoughts and your settings. “Clean up” your child.
- No.02Don't direct
Don’t get bossy. Just allow your child to BE as long as he/she is sitting in the same spot. No “SMILE” or “LOOK LOOK LOOK!” is allowed.
- No.03Don't be pushy, but move quickly
Be patient and use a very quiet voice. Rushing and being pushy with your words will stress your child and he/she will refuse to cooperate under pressure.
- No.04Use all angles
Get down low, stand facing the light as well as use the side light.
- No.05Don't ask him/her to do anything that you wouldn't also do
If you ask the child to lie down? You lie down. If you ask her to be serious and not talk? You don’t talk.
I know this may seem completely opposite of what you are used to doing when photographing children. Acting crazy, being silly, jumping and going wild is usually what we think we need to do in order to get them to cooperate. However, trying just the opposite is highly effective as well. Just try being quiet, moving quickly, having a clear plan, and not expecting your child to perform at all. Just sit. And just wait.