Child Portrait Photography: 10 Tips for Candid Photos

Taking photos of your children at home or in a park is a great way to make lasting memories of you and your family. However, sometimes it seems impossible to make the photos appear as organic as real life. From lighting difficulties to your child’s refusal to give the camera their full attention, you may feel like you have to be a professional photographer to get decent pictures of your family. Here are 7 tips for beautiful child portrait photography and for having fun while doing it.

1. Make them Feel Comfortable
Kids respond best to calm and patient energy. Creating a positive, relaxed, and fun environment will show through in the photo and give you much better results. Be patient, follow their lead. Toys, music, and a carefree attitude can go the distance in making them feel secure and camera ready for great children’s portraits.

2. Indoor Versus Outdoor
Shooting indoors is great for rainy days and also for capturing beautiful child portrait photography and memories of your home life. Some good subjects include your child in their bedroom, playing with their favorite toy, or having a bubble bath. Make sure you have enough light, or have set up your camera on a more sensitive ISO. Shooting outdoors can be easier and is a good way to get beautiful natural light. A good option could be the park, which is often a great place to see kids at their authentic, playful best. But make sure that you go to the park when it’s not very busy; if too much is happening, it will be difficult to focus the attention on your child.

3. Create a Mood
Early morning and late afternoon produce flattering diffused light. The quality of light is soft when the sun is low, eliminating harsh unattractive shadows. Morning light is soft and gentle, while sunset is warm and crisp. These are the photographer’s favorite light. Regarding color, think of your photo like a painting. If you want an energetic pop look, choose bright and bold color. If you want a soft and romantic atmosphere, choose pastel tones and light colors. Composing the color in front of you will create harmonious child portrait photography.

4. Let them Explore
Children don’t often stay in one space for long. Knowing this, easing up, and following their pace will promote a stress-free environment for everyone involved. If they still seem to be distracted, giving them a photogenic prop such as a book, puzzle, or wooden toy is great to get them focused and engaged. Blowing bubbles is another fun way to put a smile on their face, a metaphor for the lightness and magic of childhood. If they still don’t want to cooperate, pull out a lollipop that you will have ready in advance. Nothing makes a child more still and calm than a pretty swirl pop.

5. Not Just the Smile
Does your child give you that fake smile when you ask them to look at the camera? Most children are so trained to pose when you pull out the camera that the frozen, forced smile always comes out. Instead, don’t ask them to ‘say cheese’. Get them engaged in an activity where they are enjoying themselves and smile naturally. Call their name and they will look at the camera the very moment you want to capture a shot. There is also much more to a great picture than just the smile. Every child has an arsenal of funny, silly, quirky, cute and even grumpy expressions that are uniquely their own. Asking questions and singing their favorite songs is a great way to get their attention with pleasantly surprising results.

6. Focus on the Eyes
Using a shallow depth of field lens, and making the focus on the eyes will sharpen them while leaving everything else around in a soft blur. This shallow depth of field effect is beautiful and poetic. The directness draws the viewer in and showcases the unique expressiveness of your child’s gaze.

7. Above and Below
Unique and surprising shots come from changing up your angles. Getting down low to their level creates an intimate picture that connects more with the way they see the world. You can also find that positioning yourself up above or below them shows a unique view. Also, shooting close up on your child’s face, hands and little feet can reveal sweet details. Ultimately a distinctive shot comes from playing with your perspective above and below, and your distance from your subject, close and far.

8. Fun and Seasonal
Interesting child portrait photography can happen at any time of the year. In the heat of summer, the beach is a favorite place to catch them running around in a cute swimsuit. Take a photo while creating a sandcastle, or splashing around in the water. In autumn, capture them while carving pumpkins in their Halloween costumes. Winter favorites such as snowball fights, sled races and building snowmen are more classic inspiration for timeless snapshots. Spring is a great time to take out your camera in your backyard while they tend the plants in their gardener’s overalls, or play on the swings and slides in a nearby park. No matter where you are, don’t just keep them still posing for the camera. The aim is to show their natural movement and flow.

9. Get them Involved in the Process
Put them in the director’s seat! Children 6 years old and above may start to have their own ideas about the photo shoot. Kids of this age are curious and creative. Explain how the camera works or even let them take a few pictures! This can be a great opportunity to cultivate your child’s creative side.

10. Final Words of Advice
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get it right the first time! Make sure to be relaxed and take plenty of photos. By the time you look at them on your computer, you’ll have a better idea of what you like and what you don’t like. By taking lots of pictures, you will have many more to choose from, and you can start to learn more about what you like in a good photo. See each shoot as an opportunity to explore new ideas and come up with different ways to get creative and interesting shots. Now go break out your camera and experiment!

Have fun with your family photo shoot!
Lea of Le Studio NYC

Le Studio NYC’S professional photographer gives you  advice for great child portrait photography.

If you’re interested in seeing some of Lea’s professional child portrait photography, take a look at her portfolio. We would love to stay connected with you, so follow us on Flickr, Tumblr, and Pinterest!