I know, we’ve all been tempted, right? It’s not what you think. If you want to accuse me of using a sensationalist title to draw in readers, fair enough. Guilty.I’m referring to photography. I am an amateur photographer. I like to photograph many things, but one of my favorite things to do is shoot kids. Think of it as going on safari. You stalk them, you grab pictures quick when they’re not moving, and do lots and lots of deleting later.
I am by no means a pro, but I have found over the years that there are some things that can help you get good kid pictures. (Or any pictures, for that matter).
First, closer, closer, closer. I have read this advice numerous times from photographers who are professionals, and I don’t think that this can be emphasized enough. Pictures whose subject is in one corner of the photo are not good photos. They look messy, and busy, and you really can’t tell what the picture is even supposed to be illustrating. Also, all sorts of photo bombs get in there. Make sure your subject (in this case, the kid or kids) completely fill the whole frame as much as possible.
You will also of course need to include at least a portion of what they are focused on – a ball field, a swing set, etc. But you really don’t need to include the whole object of attention – just enough to get an idea of what it is.
Second, if your camera has a sports setting, turn it on. The ability to take multiple photos in rapid succession is very important if you are shooting kids in motion. If you take a ton, at least one or two of them will turn out well. If you only take a couple, you most likely will not get anything worth keeping.
If you are outside, turn that flash off. It will only delay the clicking of the shutter if you are in a hurry to get multiple photos. Often, you can get away turning the flash off inside too, if you have a good DSLR camera that can compensate with correct aperture and f-stop settings. Take a couple photos inside of the same subject, with and without flash. If the quality of the no-flash pics are acceptible, turn off the flash.
Don’t pose your kids, except maybe for a few final pictures of them all together, with a finished product. Say they are making a snowman. You want to catch as many action photos of that as possible. You can pose them at the end, with the snowman, to insure that all the kids are in the pic and facing the correct direction. Just remember that most kids quickly sicken of posing for photos. They want to be DOING something. They will soon ignore you, and the stupid faces and stupid poses will rapidly ensue.
Make as little fuss about the camera as possible. Don’t even mention that you will be taking pictures. Try to maneuver at as much distance as possible, with the lens zoomed in so that the subject is well framed, so your presence is unobtrusive. The kids WILL notice that the camera is there, and at first they will clown around and act crazy. Get a couple of pics of this – one of them might be cute. Don’t ask them to pose or not to make faces. They will soon acclimate to you and the fun at hand will soon take precedence.
Now, snap snap snap. Set up your photos by establishing yourself at a point distanced from them (this is where a long range or zoom lens comes in handy) and adjust focus and zoom until the kids are more or less filling the full photo frame. Test focus on one of the kids – that way the focus will be more or less established when you are ready to snap. Hold the focus, and pan after them with the camera. Adjust focus as necessary, and as soon as one turns their head so that their face is towards you, especially if they are smiling, snap, snap, snap. Stop when they turn away. Focus on a different kid if that one is faced away from you. Make sure you try to frame both kids if you have the opportunity to show them interacting, particularly if they are both faced toward you. Again, snap, snap, snap. Get ten or more pictures if you think you have a good composition. You will edit them later.
Just remember, especially you older folks, that the camera you have is now probably digital. That means you have NO FILM. Back in the day, only pro photographers shot this many pictures, since film development was slow and expensive, especially if 90% of shots are discarded. My mom has been an amateur photographer since before I was born, and she is still timid about snapping multiple photos. There IS NO FILM! Your picture taking now is only limited by the size of your SD card and your patience with prolonged review and deletion of photos. Make sure you have an extra SD card – you may fill this one. An extra camera battery is also a good idea.
Be prepared later on (preferably later that day) to download and look at a LOT of photos. The kids were in constant motion, and most of them will be blurred, or the kid will have turned away at the last moment, or they may have a weird expression on their face. Or, the composition of the photo may just be crappy. DELETE, DELETE, DELETE. If you wouldn’t want to show anyone else the photo, or wouldn’t want to look at it again, dump it. The other day was a snow day and I took almost 800 photos – filled an entire 16 GB SD card. You DO NOT have room in your computer for this many pictures. DELETE. Out of those 700+ pictures I took that day, I deleted until I had less than 100 photos left. Then I made a second and third pass and got them down to less than 50, but those were really good.
You don’t have to be an expert with photoshop to improve your photos. I certainly am not. Most computers come loaded with a photo processing program that is free and reasonably intuitive. All I really do is correct red eye and crop. You can accomplish so many improvements with these two edits! Never print out or upload photos to Facebook, or anywhere else, if the people in those pics have red eyes. Those photos are instantly crap. No one wants to look at vampire people. Red eye correction is super easy to do.
Cropping is the other massively useful ability. You may have a good picture, but it may have been taken from too far away, or there may be photo bombs around the edges of the pic. Crop. If you have a decent digital camera (and they’re all pretty much decent these days) the crop will still have good resolution and not be grainy. If you think the photo would be better composed if just a portion of it was used, crop. You can always undo this before you save. You will develop a feel for the most pleasing ways to crop pictures by moving around the crop box if you do it enough.
Hope this is helpful! Probably most of you don’t need my advice, but these are tips I’ve found useful. Happy hunting!