How To Photograph Your Children


Photography has inspired generations throughout the years, from Fox Talbot taking the oldest surviving photograph of a window, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon, the nanny Vivian Maier in the 1950’s taking a photo every day of life in New York, celebrities acting as their own paparazzi, to the astronauts currently on the space station sending their images to NASA’s Instagram account.  Photographs are an everyday part of our life, we photograph meals in restaurants, our pets, our toes on beaches - selfie is even a recognised word in the Oxford English Dictionary.

But there are lots of hints and tips to help you improve photographing your children, and it’s never too late to learn.

Take into consideration the camera you are using to capture your images.  We’re not for one minute suggesting you rush out and buy the most expensive camera kit and lens (save that for the professionals!) but if you are relying on your i-phone or tablet camera, you will only ever have access to those images digitally, or as small prints.  The quality is not good enough to blow them up to a large canvas or print in an album.

A good option is a bridge camera.  Better than a point and shoot, and not as complex as a DSLR, bridge cameras have only one lens, but have a great shooting range and work really well in auto setting.

Below are examples of images taken with different cameras to give you an idea of what to expect.

An image taken with a tablet camera.  Nice to have digitally as a reminder, but a print would be very sub-standard in quality.

These images have both been taken with a camera phone. There are lots of apps available that allow you to get creative with your images by adding filters and textures, but bear in mind they will invariably look a better quality on your screen than as a printed item.  And the more apps / filters you apply, the more you reduce the resolution quality.

An image taken on a point-and-shoot camera.  Notice how everything in the image is in focus.  This would look even better if the background was slightly out of focus, making the child the main focus of the image.  This is called "depth of field" (or DOF for short).  DOF cannot be achieved with tablets, phones and point and shoot cameras.

 An image taken with a FujiFilm bridge camera on auto settings.  The camera has coped nicely with the cow in the foreground being backlit by the setting sun.

This image has been taken with an expensive DSLR camera and expensive lens.  Notice how the DOF ensures the girl is the absolute focus of this image.

Same girl photographed with an i-phone and by BANPAS member Helen McGlynn Photography

The beauty about cameras these days is you can easily delete images, so take lots of photos - this will eliminate any blinkies or mid-speech faces.

Let's look at the different ages you might want to photograph :

Photographing Your Newborn Baby

Don’t shoot up his nose.  This is a classic error people often make when photographing a newborn.  Choose your angle carefully - there are far nicer things to look at on a newborn baby other than the inside of his nostrils.

Switch your flash off. All cameras, including mobile phones, have the option to switch the flash off.  Babies are very sensitive to bright light, and the light from a camera flash is never flattering unless used correctly.

Flash and nostrils all in one image!

Get their attention. Newborn babies can only focus on something within very close range - get their attention by waggling your fingers very close to their eyes and then you will be able to focus your camera on the area where they are looking.

Image credit : BANPAS member Wings Photography

Wear contrasting colours. Again, newborn babies can only differentiate between contrasts in colour (think of the black and white Lamaze mobiles) - so if your camera is silver in colour, wear a dark top and your camera will stand out against it and they will be more likely to look in the direction of the camera.

Safety. Keep their environment warm and safe at all times.  Never try to recreate an image you may have seen in a professional photographer’s portfolio - chances are, they’ve used their photoshop skills.  Never put your baby in anything or on anything they could fall from - babies have a startle reflex and can pack quite a hefty kick and easily push themselves forward.

Don't let this happen for real - read more about working safely when photographing newborns here

Siblings. Always consider their safety and comfort too.  Don’t force them into holding their new sister if they’re really not confident in doing so.  A shot of the newborn sleeping with a gentle kiss on the forehead from big sister is much nicer than a photo of an unsure sibling awkwardly holding a baby.

Image credit : BANPAS member Magic Photography

Image credit : found on Pinterest 

Which photo looks happier? 
(Don't try this at home - leave it to the professionals!)

How to Photograph Older Babies

Dignity.  Remember their dignity at all times - they are people who will grow into adults.  It won’t be very nice for them to know that mum or dad had published photos of their private areas for the world to see online, even if it was an innocent photo of them splashing in the bath. 

Posing.  If they can’t yet sit unsupported, don’t make them sit in a pose hoping to capture a shot before they topple over.  As stated above, never put your baby in or on anything they can fall out of.  If you see images of a baby in a container in a professional’s portfolio, they will have used their photoshop skills and applied the compositing technique (read more about compositing here)

Be silly!  Be prepared to make stupid noises and pull silly faces - kids like nothing more than seeing mum or dad making a fool out of themselves.  If this is out of your comfort zone, you can download apps for your phone that will make silly noises to get your child’s (or pet’s!) attention.

Angles.  Once you’ve got your child’s attention, change your position and take different angles of the same pose. Move up above them, down to their eye level, even lie on the floor.

Image credit : BANPAS member Clare Metcalfe Photography

Distract them.  A balled up piece of sticky sellotape can distract a curious baby that has hand control for a while, giving you the chance to photograph them in deep concentration.  Just have someone on standby, or be ready to stop them yourself, the instant they inevitably try to put it in their mouth.

How to Photograph Toddlers and Children

Get fit!  Be prepared to move fast!

Make believe  If you’re struggling to get your child’s interest (because let’s face it, the world is a distracting place!) tell them a fairy / pirate / dinosaur lives in your camera lens and will wave at them if they look really closely.  Be ready for them to walk right up to the camera to see for themselves!
If your child is too old to believe you, ask them if they can see your shutter opening and closing when you take a photo - tell them they have to sit really still to see it.

"Can you see the pirate waving at you?"
Image credit : BANPAS member EM Westwood Photography

Action!  If it’s a sunny day, ask them if they can jump on their own shadow for some great jumping shots.

Capture everything  Not just when they’re happy and smiling, but also when they’re sat peacefully engrossed in Peppa Pig, or sat sucking their thumb with their blanky.    Include all family members - when mum is reading a bedtime story, when dad is walking ahead of you holding their hand.  These times will pass by all too soon and these will be the normal everyday memories you want to remember when they’ve left home.

Toys  Take photos of their favourite toys to remember how innocent they once were.  It won’t be long before they are replaced by technology and new toys - think of Toy Story 3!

5 years later and look at Reggie now ...

Show their growth  Take the same photo on the same day each year.  Try to recreate the pose and location each time - this creates a brilliant and fun sequence of images to look back on.

Photoshop has been used to create this fun photo - but you could do the same with images side by side

How To Photograph Older Children and Teens

Bribery! Serious, monetary bribery!
Sorry about that.

One thing any professional photographer who has children of their own will tell you, all children are cheeky for their own parents!  Here are some images from our members of the times they have tried to photograph their own kids - with hilarious results!

But get someone else to photograph them and they are sweetness and light .... 

As a photography association, we would urge you to consider booking a local professional photographer, who can capture timeless pieces of artwork for your family and future generations.  Lots of our members don't only photograph newborns so please visit our directory of members to find a photographer near you.

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