I am going to fill this column with tips for shooting children (with a camera).
Numero uno tip is to be prepared: have the proper lens on, the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture all set and ready to go. You don’t want to fumble around with camera settings when the kids are ready.
Shoot fast shutter speeds to stop action; 1/250 of a second and use a high ISO such as 400–800 ISO, or if you have a fully automatic camera then put the camera in SPORTS mode.
Use a telephoto lens on the camera so that you will not be in their faces while taking the photographs and fill the frame with the child or try filling the frame with just the child’s face.
Should you be shooting indoors, bounce the flash off of a white ceiling or a white wall to get a much softer light. Please don’t make them sit there with a “cheese” expression on their faces: let them be themselves while you photograph, bring them to the dike, the water park, or the woods and set them free.
Relax, be patient, and be yourself; kids know when you are overdoing it. If you are photographing someone else’s kids then get rid of mom and dad or make sure that they understand that they cannot intervene.
You might be lucky and get to have a full hour to photograph them before they get bored with the camera. If you take the photographs while you are standing up then you will get a lot of tops of heads. Instead crouch down to the child’s level to take the photographs. If the entire image is out of focus but the eyes are sharp then you have a photograph, so make sure to focus on the child’s eyes.
If possible do not take photos between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., as the sunlight is very harsh at that time and creates heavy facial shadows. Should you decide to take photographs with full sunlight on the subject then use a fill flash. Most but not all automatic cameras will fill in the deep facial shadows when you turn on the flash outdoors. Try it and let me know.
Keep the background simple, move the subject further away from the background and use a large aperture such as f4 or f5.6 to blur the background while the child is in focus to give your images that 3D look.
Try shooting in burst (continuous) mode to tell a story.
Be sure to take lots of silly shots, you will love them in 10 years. Bring some old clothes and hats with you and let them play dress-up. Shoot a gazillion photographs and cull them later.
Any questions? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or see me online at www.silverstonephotos.com.
Norman Silverstone teaches photography through North Island College and Eldercollege in Port