How to Photograph Kids, Babies, Children: A Portrait Tutorial

Hi, I’m Tony Northrup -and I’m Chelsea -and for our book, Stunning Digital Photography chapter 6, we’re going to talk about photographing kids and babies. Really all ages, all the way from babies to teenagers. So let’s start by talking about how to take pictures of babies.

One of the challenges of taking pictures of babies is that you need their parents involved, because they’ll be holding them and keeping them safe and making sure that they’re comfortable. One great way to get a shot of a infant is to have the mother and father put a blanket over them as a backdrop and then hold the baby through the blanket. And then you can take a close up shot of the baby while it’s comfortable and sleeping in a safe place. Yeah you can’t really count on babies to do much of anything but lay there. So basically what happens is, they will alternate between sleeping and crying and if you’re lucky there’ll be a few moments in between where you can actually get them to open their eyes.

So be ready for that moment but also be prepared to take pictures of just a completely sleeping baby cuz i would say seventy-five percent of the time the baby just sleeps through the entire session. It’s also nice to get close-up photos of the baby so you can get pictures of their little hands or their little feet together, any little feature that makes them unique, maybe they have particularly cute little lips or something. Technically you might even need a macro lens or at least some extension tubes so check chapter 12 of Stunning Digital Photography for information on how to do that.https://www.gaycupid.com/ They are awfully tiny. And a word about lighting; you know I really prefer to work with natural light with babies because I don’t ever like to use any kind of direct flash, it’ll just upset them.

If you do need to use a flash just use a bounce flash and bounce it off the ceiling. That will give you the kind of like soft, natural lighting that you really want, because you don’t like any hard shadows on a baby. They have this beautiful soft skin and the way you’re going to really show that form is by nice, soft, even lighting. Next we’ll talk about taking pictures of two to six year olds.

They’re a bit more of a challenge than babies, because you have to interact with them directly. You might want to get to know their hobbies, things that they like, maybe they like cars or princesses or just running around. So get to know them, because interacting with them will be crucial to getting a really nice expression out of them. -And sometimes you’ll just get a shy kid in and with a shy kid or an introverted kid, it might be better to even give them a little bit of space, just let them be by themselves in the area. So it might feel weird to be ignoring them for a little bit, but that will actually let them get more comfortable and then after a few minutes, they’ll be more comfortable talking directly to you.

Another challenge with the 2-6 year old range is that they’re moving around a lot. So sometimes it can be a challenge to keep their clothes or them tidy, so make sure that their parents pack wet wipes, a comb, anything that they might need to keep them from getting a little scruffy during the pictures. Yeah and don’t let the kids pick out their own clothes, because they’re going to end up in these brightly colored things with like cartoon characters all over them and it looks awful.

Tell the parents to dress them in these simplest clothes that they have. A white dress or white shirt and jeans is perfect. When you start taking pictures of the kids, you might want to get down at their level and start engaging them. So you can use little toys like this.

Some people put a PEZ dispenser on their hot shoe to give them something to look at, and one thing that’s popular with little boys are a little lights and things. Now, this is a last resort toy because you can’t give it to them in the photo but you can at the end of the shoot, if they start to get tired say “hey, if you smile then i’ll give you this.” So -yeah, these glow sticks are awesome. I use these for light painting, night photography.

Hi, I’m Tony Northrup -and I’m Chelsea -and for our book, Stunning Digital Photography chapter 6, we’re going to talk about photographing kids and babies. Really all ages, all the way from babies to teenagers. So let’s start by talking about how to take pictures of babies.

One of the challenges of taking pictures of babies is that you need their parents involved, because they’ll be holding them and keeping them safe and making sure that they’re comfortable. One great way to get a shot of a infant is to have the mother and father put a blanket over them as a backdrop and then hold the baby through the blanket. And then you can take a close up shot of the baby while it’s comfortable and sleeping in a safe place. Yeah you can’t really count on babies to do much of anything but lay there. So basically what happens is, they will alternate between sleeping and crying and if you’re lucky there’ll be a few moments in between where you can actually get them to open their eyes.

So be ready for that moment but also be prepared to take pictures of just a completely sleeping baby cuz i would say seventy-five percent of the time the baby just sleeps through the entire session. It’s also nice to get close-up photos of the baby so you can get pictures of their little hands or their little feet together, any little feature that makes them unique, maybe they have particularly cute little lips or something. Technically you might even need a macro lens or at least some extension tubes so check chapter 12 of Stunning Digital Photography for information on how to do that. They are awfully tiny. And a word about lighting; you know I really prefer to work with natural light with babies because I don’t ever like to use any kind of direct flash, it’ll just upset them.

If you do need to use a flash just use a bounce flash and bounce it off the ceiling. That will give you the kind of like soft, natural lighting that you really want, because you don’t like any hard shadows on a baby. They have this beautiful soft skin and the way you’re going to really show that form is by nice, soft, even lighting. Next we’ll talk about taking pictures of two to six year olds.

They’re a bit more of a challenge than babies, because you have to interact with them directly. You might want to get to know their hobbies, things that they like, maybe they like cars or princesses or just running around. So get to know them, because interacting with them will be crucial to getting a really nice expression out of them. -And sometimes you’ll just get a shy kid in and with a shy kid or an introverted kid, it might be better to even give them a little bit of space, just let them be by themselves in the area. So it might feel weird to be ignoring them for a little bit, but that will actually let them get more comfortable and then after a few minutes, they’ll be more comfortable talking directly to you.

Another challenge with the 2-6 year old range is that they’re moving around a lot. So sometimes it can be a challenge to keep their clothes or them tidy, so make sure that their parents pack wet wipes, a comb, anything that they might need to keep them from getting a little scruffy during the pictures. Yeah and don’t let the kids pick out their own clothes, because they’re going to end up in these brightly colored things with like cartoon characters all over them and it looks awful.

Tell the parents to dress them in these simplest clothes that they have. A white dress or white shirt and jeans is perfect. When you start taking pictures of the kids, you might want to get down at their level and start engaging them. So you can use little toys like this.

Some people put a PEZ dispenser on their hot shoe to give them something to look at, and one thing that’s popular with little boys are a little lights and things. Now, this is a last resort toy because you can’t give it to them in the photo but you can at the end of the shoot, if they start to get tired say “hey, if you smile then i’ll give you this.” So -yeah, these glow sticks are awesome. I use these for light painting, night photography.

You’ll see in chapter 10 of Stunning Digital Photography. But I found that little boys in particular love them, they’re like tiny light sabers and they’re only like three or four bucks. So if you let them, if you show it to them they’re gonna want to play with it, and if they get it in their hands, they’re not going to leave without screaming. So buy a few extra and plan to just give it away as a freebie at the end of the session. So when I’m photographing kids, I usually like to take the pictures outside.

In a studio they can feel a little confined, it’s kind of a stuffy environment. But when they’re outside they can roam free, they have a little area to run around and I just try to take pictures of them candidly having fun and enjoying their environment. I think that’s a great way to show their personality. But a lot of people also want traditional studio portraits, so you know frankly, the bigger the backdrop, the better.

You can get by with an adult in a pretty narrow backdrop, but the kids they’re always going to move around. So you really need as much space as you can. And I’ve always just try to light the whole room, because you don’t know precisely where you’re going to be so there’s no precision lighting.

But that’s good, because it can be as simple as just bouncing a flash off the white ceiling. That will fill the room with nice, soft light and it’s cheap to do too. When taking pictures of teenagers and pre-teens, my suggestion would be to talk to them beforehand and see what kind of photos they want. You want them to look natural and comfortable in front of the camera and I think that they’re more natural if they have a vision about the picture and they’re excited about working with you on making it.

Yeah, just be careful the pictures that you show them, because people that age can be a little self-conscious so show them pictures, but only show them like the really great pictures and maybe don’t zoom in on any details, at least until after you can process the picture. Up next we have a behind-the-scenes shoot without one of our favorite portrait photographers, Samantha, from that Samantha Annette photography. We asked her to photograph our daughter and her best friend.

And I’d like you to really pay attention to the way that she talks to the girls, because she provides excellent direction without ever intimidating them. I’m here with Sam and she’s going to show us how to take pictures of kids ages about 9 to 10 and I’m going to be acting as her assistant. So what’s the first thing that you would do in a shoot like this, Sam?

I’ll look at them and see if there’s anything that needs to be fixed, the strap here, maybe ask mom or whatever parent was here, if the bracelets on the arms come off or things like that. I’ve got my ISO to about 200, my shutter speed’s at about 1/60. Well, we’ve got two girls here, so i’m going to probably shoot somewhere around 3.5, 3.2. And I’m just going to take a shot and see what it looks like. I tend to like my images a little bit on the, not over-exposed side, but brighter side.

So I’m actually going to go down and see what 125 looks like, 1/125th. -1/125th of a second! -Thank you. I always say to kids on a shoot them, I want you to have fun, it’s not supposed to be stuffy or you don’t- it’s about having fun. I want you, if you feel like you’re going to burst out laughing at something. I say it’s okay to laugh, it’s okay to be silly.

And i’ll give you a little bit of direction but I don’t want you to feel nervous about anything okay? Okay good. So maybe I could have you guys just actually sitting kind of the way you are, but maybe for this one, you guys are cousins? So can you put your arm around her?

Yeah that’s so cute. So your hair is in her face a little bit, so let’s push it back. Yeah, what’s that song? “I Whip My Hair”?Aand so we’re just going to take one shot here.

Good! And Maddy, see how your hair is pulled back a little bit? Why don’t you pull that forward a little bit.

You can pull it right around the side -I can help her too. So it’s like, like this? Yeah let’s try one like that. Ok.

And let’s see, can you scootch your bodies a little closer together? Yeah, oh that’s very sweet. -They’re cute -I love it. -Aw, I really liked that a lot. And sometimes I’ll show the girls what I’m doing in the first shots -yeah -just so they can see what they’re actually, what’s being produced.

And sometimes they’ll say “oh it’s so cool!” So that’s a nice shot of you guys, pretty smiles. Let’s have you guys put your backs to each other. That’s so cute, okay, and maybe let’s see, can we flatten her dress a little bit? There you go. -like this? Yeah it was just popping out in the in the front, yeah, awesome.

And maybe just fix the strap on her, yeah. -I’m gonna tighten your strap. -oh that’s so sweet! So I want to know which one of you guys has a boyfriend? Hahahha -Quincy! Okay, hands down.

So which one of you has a boyfriend? -Both -Both? Ahh! Good! So sometimes I’ll say silly things to get them to laugh or make them feel comfortable.

That will definitely get good emotion out of them. -That’s a good idea. So you’re working on eliciting an emotion? -Yes always. -Boyfriends are a good thing at this age, right? -Yes Or sometimes with with this age or younger, I’ll ask them if they’re married and that always is like “I’m not married!” So that will give a good emotion. I would say shooting children, I would never say “say cheese” or anything like that, because you will end up with a stiff face. [through teeth] this doesn’t look good. Never ever say cheese and you will hardly ever hear me say smile.

I don’t like artificial smiles. Yeah so I don’t ever ask for them. Kids naturally kind of smile in front of the camera if they’re happy anyway, so I never really have to say it. Sometimes if they’re really unhappy children, I will get on the ground and make animal noises, or hop like a frog. I have done that many times and it gets kids to crack up!

If I got on the ground right now and I started taking pictures like this, you guys are gonn crack up. Because it’s funny, right? And then that makes the best pictures. So we’ve moved Maddy to another spot over here not far from where we were before.

The light is a little darker over here, so I’m going to make some changes to my settings. Initially I was at 1/160th and 3.5 and ISO 200, so I’m actually going to start with slowing down my shutter speed versus increasing the ISO, because i want to keep that as low as possible. So i’m going to go down to 1/125th and i’m going to also bring my f-stop down, because instead of two girls I just have one. So i’m going to go down to 2.8 and 1/125th and see what I get.

And this is just a test that you can just relax. So that actually is right on, I’m happy with how that looks. And so I’m actually going to take a couple shots. Hmm, maybe, just see how her hair is really like.. yeah, and yeah and maybe we can just smooth out a little bit.

Kids naturally pose themselves very well typically, so if it doesn’t look awkward and they look comfortable, I would rather leave them how they are then try and maneuver them. Because if you can get a good expression and they look comfortable that makes a better picture than a very posed picture with a half-smile. So, she looks awesome the way she’s sitting there like that, so I’m going to actually just snap a shot.

And you look so good, I love it So nice. And because i’m shooting at 2.8, I will typically take a couple of shots in a row just to make sure that i do have the eye tack sharp in afterwards. So I’m going to take a couple of more and could you relax your shoulders a little bit? There ya go it looks so much better, good job.

Awesome awesome. And can you also see the hand that’s kind of hanging around, can you maybe put that in your lap? Very nice.

I really love it. Okay I’m gonna stand over here and you can follow me with your head. Awesome. So keep your body more over there, yeah, just turn your head. Awesome!

Oh you are pro, i love it, love it. Are you a professional model? You look like one!

So now I’m going to have you facing this way and i’m going to come stand where Chelsea’s standing just to give a different angle, even though we’re in the same spot. Sometimes you can get a completely different look just by moving your feet a little bit. So i’m going to actually have you put both of your feet up here, being very careful. Very good. And um, can you just pull her, so she can still hang on, just pull her dress out towards me a little bit.

There you go and then just push it, yeah. Gorgeous! And your hands look awesome just like that and maybe cross over you’re one of your feet. No just, we’ll go back the way they were, perfect. Awesome awesome awesome awesome.

Hair looks gorgeous, you look like a superstar. Love it, I love it. I’m going to come and kind of close, okay? Like really close oh my god I’m getting really in your face.

Oh my gosh, how much closer am I gonna go ahhhh perfect Awesome. So we thought, as we were joking around, that the wind blowing in their hair looked so great that i did put the ND filter back on because it’s very very bright where we are right now. Normally I would have to shoot probably at the f/16 ish range, but i’m actually at f/3.5 and my ISO is around 200 and it looks pretty decent so I’m gonna let you fan them. -they’re very spoiled -and it looks really cool So I just have to be careful obviously to snap when the fan is not in shot but it looks really cool.

You look like you’re hating the fan, haha. Fantastic. So Chelsea is going to help us out and diffuse the sun a bit cause we are in direct sunlight.

So I’m just going to make sure i’m not going to worry so much about her legs, their legs, but as long as their heads and their arms are shaded i think that that will be sufficient. So Chelseas in a perfect spot, she’s got them nicely shaded. They actually came up with this pose themselve.s and it’s adorable So the only thing i will ask to modify this is to not make a fist and maybe bring your hands together. That looks much better and just careful how that it’s hugging yourself too hard. Very nice, beautiful!

And Chelsea’s feet are is actually in the shot but it’s okay because -I can’t stand -right because she can’t get any further it’s fine that she’s in the shot I can actually just cut her out later or take a shot without her in it and I can, in Photoshop, kind of do an overlay and and just remove her feet. -you would, you would do that -right, we don’t need her in the shot! So i’m going to take a shot here and see how it looks. I’m going to focus my point on Maya’s face because some people may I ask where i would be focusing. And I’m focusing on Maya’s further eye because it’s closer to Maddy and actually this shot looks a little dark for me, so I’m actually going to up my ISO to 250 and bring my shutter speed down to 100 and see what that looks like. And we’re just testing, 123.

And I’d also like to mention, Sam, that you can put a diffuser or a reflector on a stand but if it’s a windy day like today is a little bit windy, it will just pull the stand right down. So it’s easier to have someone hold it. -It’s nice to have help -yeah -so sometimes what I will do if it’s towards the end of the shoot, it’s been a while and I’m starting to lose some energy. i will pull out things of my bags of tricks. today I have with me Nemo right, and Nemo has how a home that lives right in my hot shoe and he’s a PEZ dispenser and this normally works with the younger kids. Normally this would have PEZ in it and I would tell them that Nemo will give you a little surprise if you just help me take one more picture.

And it looks ridiculous, up there that this fish on the top of my camera, which looks absurd. So we moved to a spot that’s actually only about maybe seven feet away and it is yet and even darker space, so i will need to adjust my settings again because i am now shooting Maya. And what I’m going to do is just have you lean against the tree while I set my settings I’m going to have your body in this open space here for the moment and you can just lean on your shoulder on it. Perfect.

And just don’t worry about that leaf hanging on your head, we’ll fix that. I just want to see what this looks like. So it’s very dark.

Right now my settings are at 3.2, I think I just hit it to 3.2 while i was chatting, I wasn’t shooting at that before. I’m 1/125th and 200. So, because i have the 50 millimeter lens i can still slow my shutter speed even more so I’m going to go down to about, I’m going to start at 1/100th and i’m going to go back to 2.8 and i’m going to see what that looks like. And that’s awesome.

So I’m happy with that. So what I would like to d,o we have a couple of shots in mind, because you’re so beautifully tall I think i would love you to reach up and just hold on to that top this branch right here, the closest one to you and we’re going to move- if you can wrap, see that hanging piece- if you can hide it somewhere… Perfect. So one hand is going to be on this, on this lower one here, yes and that let’s put the other one kind of up there.

Awesome, beautiful. And let’s have you take one step forward with one foot and the one foot back. Awesome.

So relax your shoulders down. Beautiful. Behind Maya is a very bright, sunny garden. So the back is very blown out, which for the shot is nice because that’s the look I was going for so let’s have you bring your face a little little more forward, yeah.

Awsome, supermodel. Awesome, so let’s drop your arms and you can just kind of lean against the tree. When I have people lean against things i always like to see a little space between that arm and your body, so yeah that’s awesome.

And then maybe bring that hand behind you a little bit and maybe put it on your waist. That’s cute, I like it. Good job. Ok now let’s maybe put your back to the tree. wee how right now the base of your back is leaning on the post?

Let’s have you have the upper part of your back, yep perfect just like that. Just turn your head a little bit more towards me, beautiful. And relax your shoulder, there, good job. That was so pretty.

You’re doing really really good. It’s important when you work with kids to always let them know how they’re doing, because if they don’t it’s like less motivation to keep wanting to do great. So I always tell them, “you’re doing a really good job” they they like hearing that and it makes for a happier photoshoot along the way.

So great job! So let’s have you sit down and we’re gonna have you put your back against there, yea you can actually -the way she sat down is actually better than what I had envisioned! Again, kids tend to do that. So i always get down to their level and so I’m going to come down here.

I’m going to explain this pack that i have on my waist. I always tend to, before i had this, I was always running back and forth to my equipment and my gear to grab a sip of water or to put on the neutral density filter or to grab a prop. And so a friend of mine made a joke that I should go back to 1985 and get a fanny pack, so that’s what I did. And a friend of mine actually gave me this fanny pack and it’s, any fanny pack will work.

It’s got some extra pockets, I keep an extra battery, an extra memory card, a water, my business cards. Because it’s inevitable that when i’m out shooting people want to know who I am. Ok so we’ve had Maya sit down, her pose is beautiful.

Maybe if we can just move the leaf that’s by your finger there, that’s perfect. Just throw that off. I’m going to back up a little bit if that’s all right and i’m going to take a shot here.

I’m gonna, I need to back up more am I going to still be in the frame? -Yeah -Ok. It looks beautiful! -You can show them to Quincy -oh my gosh, oh yeah. Is Quincy the boyfriend?

Yeah that’s awesome. I’m gonna try two things: one, if I can ask you to grab a reflector. and we’re going to try and see if that brightens up her eyes a little bit more, because even though i have catch lights here, because Mayas eyes are very dark, i would like to try and bring them out a little bit more. And we have beautiful sun coming in from in front of us, so i would love to try and take advantage of some of that light and bounce it back onto her.

So what’s your boyfriend’s name again? Haha. Ok what, do you have any pets? What’s your pet’s name? -Mumu Is it a doggy or a cat? A dog?

A dog named Mumu? Who thought of that name?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *