Written By Laurence R Jones
Children’s Photography In Natural Settings
As tempting as it may be to collect studio posed shots with bright white backgrounds and cute props around our kids, over time, the best and most memorable photographs of our children will always be those taken in natural situations and conditions.
The natural moments and spontaneous experiences of a kid’s life tells a bigger story of what happened on a certain day than a posed session in a studio. I’m sure all of us treasure those photos more than well set-up and pre-planned images.
Read through Laurence’s article to pick up some quick tips to take better kids photos in natural settings.
Create a fun time
Firstly, you know your children. Get the camera out when they are in a good mood, not when they’re tired or hungry. It helps if you are in the right frame of mind too!
The photos that you’ll probably like best are those taken when the children are engaged in an activity, and being themselves, rather than standing stiffly in front of a favourite scene or colourful flowers. Is the photo of the children, or the flowers?
Getting a good image of both is twice as hard! Instead, just concentrate on getting a good photo of the most important thing in the picture – your child.
Very young children especially will become bored after a few minutes, so have your camera all ready to go beforehand, and be patient. Have a break, let them wander off, give them your full attention while you take pictures and be ready with more toys.
With older children you can play in the garden, have some fun yourself, and be ready as the moments come. Directing the children and requesting smiles usually results in a grimace, forced grin or hammed-up face. It also helps if the children are used to the camera. If you use it regularly, after a while they won’t see it as special and so won’t keep pulling those faces.
What to look for through the viewfinder
Try to look at the whole of the viewfinder area and think of the whole picture, before you press the button. You’ll probably want the children filling a large part of the picture, not just a small part of it. You can either move in closer yourself or use the zoom on your camera if it has one.
What’s in the background? Is it distracting? The washing on the line or a bright red car won’t look so good. Maybe move around yourself to get a plainer background. With a baby, perhaps put the baby on a sofa to get a plainer background.
Try turning the camera round so that you take an upright, vertical photo. This way up fits the shape of people better, so there’s less likely to be heads or feet cut off. If it feels odd to hold the camera like this, practise so that it feels more natural.
It’s also important to hold the camera steady, since if the camera jolts slightly when you take the picture, you’ll get a blurred photo. Keeping you arms in at the side of your body helps.
Should you use flash?
Flash is safe to use even with babies. However, if flash is the only source of light, as is normally the case indoors, then the photos can capture great expressions but will rarely have nice lighting on the faces.
The light from the flash on the camera often produces pasty-looking faces and the dreaded red-eye. It doesn’t help to make anyone look their best. If you can, wait until you can go outdoors and use natural light instead.
Do you need a special type of camera?
You don’t need an expensive camera but there are a few points to look out for. First is something called shutter lag. On many cameras, especially older digital ones, you press the shutter button and then wait for what seems like an age before the photo is actually taken.
This can be a big problem if you’re trying to capture fleeting expressions, or the children are on the move. The answer is to try the camera before you buy!
Secondly, a zoom facility will help (optical zoom rather than digital zoom). It will let you get close-ups, and it will let you stand back a little from the children so they don’t notice you so much.
Finally, it’s not thrilling but reading the camera manual will help you understand what it’s doing and is time well spent. You can always practise without the kids and delete those images.
Laurence Jones is the foremost children’s photographer in Birmingham, England. He travels throughout the West Midlands, Warwickshire, Cotswolds and South of England. To see examples of his award-winning images, visit the galleries at his website http://www.kidsnaturally.co.uk/galleries/