Family & Children Portraiture
Niches, genres, styles, specialties…. Whatever you want to call it, getting to that place where you feel excited to pick up your camera can be easy or it can take you on a longer road. For me it was the day I took my first DSLR (an old Nikon D3000) to my school to snap some pictures of our kindergarteners. Just a couple of weeks before, my husband and I took a trip to Beijing for Lunar New Year and I was excited to try out my new 50mm lens. Of course that was a major rookie mistake, because I soon discovered that a 50mm wasn’t the ideal choice to capture even a piece of a gigantic wall known for its length and size. We now have some questionable evidence of our trip to The Great Wall…
Anyway, after that hard-learned lesson I started shooting pictures of our kindergarteners with my 50mm (I now use my 35mm) and I LOVED it. They ignored every bit of direction I gave them and they did their own thing. Afterwards I was so exhausted and I most definitely failed in my teacher duties for the day but I was hooked on taking photographs of children. That was more than two years ago, and I have learned and grown a great deal since then. I still am.
My approach to family photography is a candid, “unposed” and fun one. I only shoot in natural light and so far in Korea I’ve only worked outside. I have also switched over to my 35mm lens. And lastly I have to admit that I am absolutely in love with black and white images!
Over the past two years I’ve learned some tricks of the trades on how to get kids and parents comfortable and acting natural in front of the camera:
1. Start up a conversation
Diving right into shooting can be weird and awkward for both the parents, the kids and for me. First of all, they’ve never met you before and so you are basically just a stranger with a camera to them. You’ll never get the most natural shots if you just jump right in. So I’ll always make small talk and ask them questions like how old are you, or what is your favorite color etc.
2. Let mom and dad hang around for a bit
I never include dads immediately because men have a universal dislike for having their pictures taken. I’ll focus on the kids first and then after a while when they’ve warmed-up to me I’ll say something like “Go see if you can pick your dad up” or something along those lines. Then dad will automatically start interacting with them. Unless if the subjects babies of course.
Moms are naturally more comfortable, but sometimes they’re not sure what to do at the start of a shoot, so I try to get them to just hang back for a bit and then I’ll slowly include them.
3. Bring out the fun stuff
I always suggest that the parents bring something fun along, like bubbles, a favorite toy or even a snack. This gets kids excited and it makes for great pictures. This is especially great when photographing an only child.
4. Challenge them
You get kids who will just go bananas on their own and then you have more introverted families who need a bit of encouragement. I’ll usually just say things like hug your sister, give mommy a kiss, high five your daddy, make a funny face, or look for the Angry Bird in my camera….
5. Have a fast shutter speed
Last but not least: Crank up that shutter speed no matter how low the lighting situation is. You can always go for higher ISO setting and reduce the noise levels in post editing. I’ve had myself many a blurred picture because of a slower shutter speed, and kids are way faster than you think.
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