How to Photograph Kids: 5 Mistakes to Avoid

Photographing families and children can be very challenging and very rewarding at the same time. Kids make for great subjects because of their authentic expressions. Getting them to open up to a stranger with a camera can take a little extra effort. I already shared 7 tips for photographing kids. Here, I’ll discuss common beginner mistakes to avoid.

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Photo of Little Girl -

Photo via Bluprint instructor Kirk Tuck

1. Taking yourself too seriously

Remember that your subjects are KIDS. Kids like to be silly and they are entertained by adults who aren’t afraid to be silly too. A stressed out and overly serious photographer will not be able to connect with their young subjects. So get all the serious stuff — like camera settings, lighting and payment — out of the way before kids arrive. I’m not a very silly person by nature, but I’m not afraid to wear a stuffed animal on my head if it means my clients are going to be entertained and give me genuine expressions.

Young Family with Baby - Photographing Children

I’m holding a toy while I shoot to keep the baby’s attention. 1/500 sec at f/2.8.

2. Bad timing

If you have kids, you know that having a schedule is important. Regular eating times and sleeping times are important for child development. Planning a shoot during eating or sleeping time can make your job infinitely more difficult because young kids are CRANKY when they are hungry or tired. Work out with the parents what time of day their kids will usually be in the best mood. If you are planning on shooting for more than an hour, make sure that you build in some time for snack breaks, naps and temper tantrums. Different ages and different personalities will have additional needs. Make sure to talk this over with the parents before your shoot.

3. Slow shutter speed

If you have taken landscape photos or portraits of adults, you know what shutter speed you need to freeze the action and get a crisp photos. Plan to shoot twice as fast for kids. They hardly ever sit still and tend to move quickly! 1/100 of a second or faster is my general rule of thumb. Slower than this and you run the risk of getting motion blur from very quick movement.

Family with Two Little Girls

Shutter speed was just a little too slow to completely freeze the moving child. 1/50 sec at f/3.5

4. Taking too few shots

It’s very difficult to get kids to sit still for a portrait and pretty much impossible for babies. Many times I need to rely on taking a lot of photos in the hope that one of them captures what I want. And if I’m photographing a family of four, I need to take four times the photos because there’s that much more of a chance that one of the subjects will not be looking at the camera, will be blinking, or will have a weird expression. Put your camera on burst mode and fire away!

5. Funky posing

Is it surprising that there are 80 million hits on Google for “Awkward Family Photos”? Don’t let your photos end up in one of those funny blog posts. Take the time to set each person where you want them. Make sure the whole family looks comfortable and the angle you take is flattering for everyone. Don’t be afraid to put a larger family on different levels, with some people standing and some sitting. If parents are holding young kids, make sure that the way they are holding them looks comfortable and natural.

I’m not the best family photographer, but I’ve been able to take some pretty good family photos by being prepared and acting a little bit silly. Stepping out of your comfort zone may help you get to the next level.

Do you have any tips for photographers who want to get better at family photos?

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