Jamie and I recently had the opportunity to photograph the two year old son of a couple from our church. Now up to this point, I've done senior pictures, family pictures, engagement pictures, and even a wedding. But I hadn't ever really taken photos of a subject so young. For all of you who have young kids, I'm sure you can attest to the fact that getting a good photograph of a hyperactive little kid can be a challenge. So for any that would like some pointers, here are seven things that I learned while photographing my subject Jack-Jack
Number 1: Have the fastest shutter speed possible
It's no surprise that young kids run around a lot. In order to get a nice crisp shot in the midst of all that movement, you will need a fast shutter speed to capture your subject and eliminate the chance of motion blur. I would suggest a shutter speed of 1/250th or faster. If you have a fully manual camera, you can adjust the ISO and Aperture to get the shutter speed as fast as possible. I went into further detail about how ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed work together in a previous post linked here. For everyone who has a point and shoot camera with out full manual controls, the simplest way to make sure that the shutter speed is fast is to take pictures in very well lit conditions. The camera will adjust the controls as necessary to give you a faster shutter speed in bright conditions.
Number 2: Use Auto-Focus
99% of the time, I have my camera on Auto Focus. But it always seems like I forget to switch it back from manual focus that 1% of the time and end up missing good shots as a result. If your camera has the option to switch between Auto-Focus and Manual Focus, it is always a good idea to check which setting it is on before you begin taking photos.
Number 3: Burst mode is your friend
With the burst mode, you can simply hold down your shutter and take photos in fast succession. With multiple shots, you minimize the chance of ending up with all photos where your subject has their eyes closed, or photos where the subject is on the edge of smiling (but not quite). Now I am not suggesting that you simply hold down the shutter willie-nillie without giving thought to the composition of the shot, or the lighting, or your camera settings, or the many other considerations that go into taking a good photograph. If you take that approach, you will most likely always end up disappointed except for a few "happy accidents." But once you have framed your shot and adjusted the settings for the lighting conditions, the burst mode can be a great way to capture those fleeting moments.
Number 4: Give them something to play with
You might (or might not) be surprised at how difficult it is to keep a grown adult's attention while trying to take a photo. During family photo sessions, it doesn't take long before somebody starts grumbling and complaining. So to expect a 2 year old to pay attention during a photo session is just ridiculous. So the best thing that I have found to do is to give the kid something to play with, such as toys or sticks or rocks. These items help keep the kid happy and also present unique photo opportunities. You can get some great shots while the kid is playing or exploring their surroundings.
Number 5: Just go with it
There are times where it is best to meticulously think about the shot you want to get, adjusting the composition, the exposure, and the various effects you can give your photo. Then there are times when you just need to accept what's given to you. Photographing little kids is one of those times. Just go with the flow and the whole experience will be better for all.
Number 6: Get down to their level
Many times, the difference between a good photo and a great photo is perspective. Great photographers can make you see something that you've looked at a thousand times in a whole new way. And one of the key tools they use to do this is perspective. With young kids, the perspective that I find that works the best is to get low and see the world from their view point.
Number 7: Tickling is fair game
There are some kids who simply don't want to smile. At times like those, you need to pull out all the stops. Anything is fair game. Even tickling
So for all the parents with young children who are struggling to get good photos of their kids, I hope these tips help. I will be in the same boat in a week or two.