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How to Get Great Photos of Your Kids

Posted on 30-09-2021
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Written by digiDirect

Kids always seem to have an unlimited amount of energy, especially when you bring out your camera and want to photograph them! Sometimes it seems like a futile effort as time and time again they foil your attempts to get them still. Don't give up just yet! We will walk you through some simple techniques to capture fantastic images of your young kids - but when it comes to photographing teenagers, you're on your own.          

A critical consideration when photographing your children the dynamics of child play. How do your kids respond to being asked to smile for the camera? Is there a better way to capture their photo? Should you take the shot when they are in their natural state of play? Or does quiet contemplation produces the best results? Another critical consideration is how to get the best shots when your kids are amongst their friends. Birthday parties and playdates are chaotic, but they are also essential memories for you and your child. You want to make sure you capture those moments.

Further to this, capturing great images of your kids at different ages will produce different challenges. Babies and infants are not so quick to get around, but they can be quick to change their mood depending on their immediate needs. On the other side, trying to capture a four or five-year-old can result in a bunch of blurred images. We will guide you on how to be ready when those opportunities to get great photos of your kids arise.           

Understanding the Dynamics of Child Behaviour

Kids of different ages have different patterns of behaviour. By understanding those dynamics in your child, you can prepare for and pick the best opportunity to capture their image. For example, most preschool children have relatively consistent patterns of behaviour as those mostly revolve around playtime, sleep, food and activities with parents.            

Baby with blue eyes
Toddlers and babies are less mobile, which can make photographing them a bit easier

Choose the Best Time to Take Your Photos

We don't need to tell you that, as you are the expert in your child's routine. What we can tell you is the best time to have your camera ready to take a winning shot. Just before sleep times or mealtimes can be a hazardous time to capture a great image of your young child. Children are primarily focused on meeting their needs, and not yours. However, if after a nap, you set up a new play activity for your child, they will be far more engaged in that activity. Such is a great time to frame your composition and take your shots. Gently calling the child by name can result in them turning to face you.           

When we consider taking great photos of your kids at an older age, the concept is no different. You know your child best and know what sort of activities get them fired up and energetic and what gets them to calm down. Understanding those dynamics will again allow you to prepare for and capture beautiful images. Older children have a considerable amount of energy to burn off throughout the day so getting them to stop or at least slow down is a challenge. Being present will allow you to see and capture moments in-between activities when your child is deciding what to do next. If it is approaching a time when you know your child will want a break or a change in activity, be ready. Those moments will not last for long.           

How to Get Your Kids to Cooperate

So far, we have discussed being able to capture your children in their more natural state of play - it is what kids do best. Getting them to change their routine, behaviour or activity to take a more formal image is another story. Getting your kids to cooperate in a photoshoot is about as enjoyable to them as sitting through a poetry recital probably is to you. A child's attitude will be that they don't have time for this and that they just don't want to do it at all. So where to go from here?          

Bribe Them!

Trying to break a child's will in this situation will just result in an upset and determined child and frustration for you. If you must take formal portrait-like images of your young child, then we recommend a couple of simple solutions. The first of which is to bribe them! Of course, we jest - just a little. By taking a few moments to explain to your child what is going to happen and what their role is with the photography, you can then provide them with a reward for their taking part. That is a very adult-sounding sentence, but try to frame that concept in a way they will understand. Perhaps that means turning it into a bit of a game - the exact tactic will depend on your child. But at it's core you want to make them feel important about their part. What that reward is will depend on what you believe is the best currency for your child. But by offering their involvement, highlighting it's importance in a way they can understand, and then doing something that they love to do as a reward, you will be better placed to gain their participation.

Kids eating ice cream
While you don't want to make a habit of it, the occasional bribe can help you get the photos you're looking for

Visual Distractions

Depending on the age of the child, visual distractions can be an excellent way to capture focus and eye contact between a child and the camera. Younger children may stay still and attentive in the process longer if you can use a prop such as a toy. Holding the toy just above the camera lens and out of the frame is perfect. The child should engage with the object and result in your getting a clean shot. Toys that make noises such as squeaks and rattles can also gain a younger child's attention for those precious few seconds.

Candid is Sometimes Best

If you cannot get your kids to sit still for a more formal photo shoot, no great loss. As we have mentioned several times, playing is what kids do best, and it is one of their most formative learning skills. So, why not make the most of those times and photograph them while they are in the middle of some essential learning time? Photographing kids more candidly is the most natural way to photograph children of all ages. Yes, you can also shoot teenagers that way. But, heaven help you if they catch you posting those images to social media!

Candid photography allows you to capture your kids when engaged in their daily routines and activities. It is especially rewarding when you catch your kids having fun with a new activity, playing with a friend or interacting with a close relative. We recommend that if you want to document the development and growth of your child, then your camera should always be within reach. Those precious moments somethings only last for a few seconds and to be able to capture them is gold.           

Kids playing in a field
Capturing kids candidly when playing can impart a ton of energy into your photo

Photographing Groups of Kids - Chaos!

Generally speaking, when kids get together, the dynamics will change considerably. Add a healthy dose of candy and birthday cake, and you have the makings of a riot! But there can be beauty in the chaos and being able to capture that will result in some priceless memories. Finding the right currency for the age-group is your first challenge. If it is your child's birthday party, then consider getting all the kids to pose for a group shot. But the deal is, they must all stand together for the photo before you can move on to the next party game. This example can produce mixed results depending on the particulars of the children in question. That's ok. Work with what you have and be content with that.

Camera Settings to Capture Great Photos of Your Kids

We have talked extensively about understanding the behaviour in your child and picking the best opportunity to capture them. You are breaking into their routine and their playtime, so making the photographic experience quick and painless is vital. We recommend a few camera settings that will significantly help you in capturing those moments.           


Having a camera and lens with a fast autofocus is essential in ensuring that the images you capture are as you saw them. There is nothing worse than seeing a priceless moment, and your camera takes too long to focus. Having a camera with effective auto-focus performance is excellent in this situation. A camera such as the Sony A7 III has incredible autofocus performance that will ensure your camera grabs your subject in sharp focus. A further benefit of this camera is that it also features eye-autofocus. This feature will see the camera search for and hold focus on a human eye within the focus area. That strong and crisp focus will stay while you take a single or several shots of your child, even if they are in motion. When capturing great photos of your kids, having the eyes in crisp focus is especially desirable.           

Shutter Speed

The shutter speed setting on your camera controls how fast the shutter opens when you take a shot. The longer the shutter opens, the more chance of motion blur being evident in your image. That is not inherently a bad thing, rather it can be a personal preference. When photographing your kids, using motion blur creatively can help to tell the story of what they were doing in that instance. If they and a group of friends are running wildly through a playground, then motion blur accentuates that wild moment. Faster shutter speeds will have the opposite effect. With faster shutter speed, every in-focus element of the composition freezes in time with no motion blur at all. When capturing images of your kids, use faster shutter speed when trying to obtain a more standard image.            

Little girl with paper airplane
A good autofocus system and a fast shutter speed are important to properly capture your child in motion

Depth of Field

Depth of field dictates how much of the image is in sharp focus. Having a deep depth of field will result in all of the image in full focus. Such a setting would be especially handy when photographing a group of children as it is something impossible to get them to form a straight line. By using the full depth of field with your camera, children at the front of the group and the back will be in full focus. Conversely, using a shallow depth of field means that only a small area of the photo will be in focus. This is an artistic look often used in portraits. But for children it can be difficult to make it work, as it requires more precise focusing and minimal movement to get right. If you can get your child to sit still long enough, using shallow depth of field can provide a beautiful look to your images, but using a deep depth of field will be the safer option to ensure you get the important areas in focus. Try experimenting with both shooting styles.          

Child reading a book
Using shallow depth of field can be trickier to pull off, but it can result in beautiful images 

Framing & Lighting

As with any style of photography, understanding how you are framing your image is critical. Try to use proven compositional rules like the Rule of Thirds to get the best results. It is also essential to  consider if there is enough light on them and around them to capture a beautiful looking image. If the room is too dark, then your child will appear too dull in the photo. Further to this, you should take a moment to be aware of the surrounding environment. Having the television switched on in the background is only going to be a distraction in the final image. Likewise, in a more formal portrait of your children, take some time to consider what they are wearing. Also, think about how that looks against the background or environment.           

One very important compositional point when photographing children is to get down to their level. An image shot from your height pointed downwards at them is not going to have a great impact most of the time. Instead, crouch, sit or lie down so that you are shooting at their level. This will make the final image more natural, and will allow you to see your child's expression from their point of view. In addition, getting down to their level will likely make your child pay more attention to you, which can be just what you want when photographing.    

Children colouring, show from below
Getting down on their level will result in much more natural images

Despite the energy kids possess, we believe that there are simple and effective ways to capture great photos. Timing is of the essence as is always having a quality camera nearby to capture your precious memories. Equally, having a camera that has excellent autofocus capabilities will increase your chances of catching your kids in motion. Remember that for kids, play is their work. So make photographing them in the middle of their working day fun and engaging.

Looking to capture great images of your kids but need some gear? Speak to helpful digiDirect staff who can recommend the right equipment for your needs, always at a great price. Contact us today.

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