Children Photography: Tricks to Get Incredible Child Portraits

Children’s photography is one of the most practiced photographic genres by parents and professionals. It is also the entrance for many people to the world of photography. Who has not tried immortalizing the moments of their children and has decided to stay forever in photography?

Despite being one of the most rewarding, because there is nothing like the sincere look or the authentic gesture of a child, it is one of those that seem easy but, when the truth is told, they are not so easy. Therefore, whatever your situation, if you are interested in children’s photography, as a parent, as a grandmother or as a professional, stay, because today I have reserved it to collect all the information regarding this genre. I intend to create a mega Guide, the most complete you can find on the net, with tips, tricks, resources, inspiration, ideas and tools. All this so you can take amazing photos of children.

I am going to focus on children in general, from 2-3 years old, however, if you are looking for specific information on younger ages, in this article you will find a guide to delve into baby photography.

You already know that all reading is good, taking notes, expanding knowledge, etc. This is phenomenal but… as long as you practice what you read. Seriously, it is not worth spending hours writing this mega guide with all the enthusiasm if, once read, you are going to forget about it and you are not going to practice anything. We make the deal? You read, take notes and practice. Done?

Ok, I can continue now. We are going to talk about all this, I would settle for you, and if it is with a coffee, infusion or something appetizing, better than better, because this guide is going to be very extensive 😉


What is children’s photography?

Children’s photography, in obvious expansion, is one that is dedicated to photographing childhood, either from a more aesthetic or posed point of view, or in a more documentary way on a day-to-day basis or creating magical worlds, something that goes hand in hand with childhood. Magic, fantasy, fun, authenticity, are some of the aspects that mark children’s photography.

And I say in obvious expansion because while the elderly today have three or four photographs of their childhood (hopefully), the democratization of SLRs and the arrival of mobile photography has multiplied this number but up to date. That is, how many photos can be taken of a child in one day? This gives for a debate, but what I want today is to help you to take good pictures of children with the camera you have. So that you get professional images or so that you feel really satisfied with your captures and tomorrow your little one will smile from ear to ear when they see the photo and remember the moment. That is the magic of photography, being able to capture those memories forever.

Define your style in children’s photography

Before continuing, I would like you to do a little reflection on what kind of photographs you like, what photos you want to take, as a father or aunt of the children or as a professional, it doesn’t matter.

I say this because many tips are general, but others are more specific. Capturing a spontaneous moment, fresh or without intervening in the scene, is not the same as taking a photograph in which everything is thought out and prepared to obtain a specific result with a more artistic intention.

Look at these two photographs, they are very different styles, although both are wonderful. What kind of photography do you identify with the most?

Spontaneous photography of Belem (@clickcincocrezando) Fine art photography (Elena Castaño)

This does not imply that you cannot do children’s or spontaneous documentary photography and more elaborate or planned as fine art, which we will see later, would be missing more. What I mean is that it is recommended that you concentrate your efforts on one type of photography, especially if you want to dedicate yourself professionally.

In addition to improving with practice and learning to solve the difficulties that may arise in each type of style, if you are a professional, your clients will know what they can expect from your work and there will be no confusion. On the contrary, they will end up being your fans and there is nothing better than that. I guarantee you.

Photographic equipment for children’s photography

If the only thing that matters to you about photography is photographing your children, you have two options, take advantage of your current camera or, if you want and can invest some money, buy a camera that suits your needs.

Now, if you are going to take advantage of the camera because you like photography beyond immortalizing your children or grandchildren, or you want to dedicate yourself professionally, let’s see what equipment is the most recommended for children’s photos. Although I anticipate that the ideal is a good light team, that is: little and good. You should avoid many gadgets that make your model uncomfortable or intimidating.

Camera for children’s photography

It does not matter if you decide on a reflex camera, an EVIL or even a compact one, I would recommend that you have the following features:

  • Manual mode.
  • Focus speed.
  • Large sensor, 1 inch minimum.
  • Burst shooting, minimum 3-4 fps (photos per second).
  • Works well at high ISO values.

Objectives for children’s photography

When I said before that little equipment was better and well, it is because it is better to carry, for example, a good lens, or two, than to carry a backpack full of lenses of different focal lengths. Personally, I recommend that they have these characteristics:

  • Being bright is really important, this is what will allow you to achieve those infarct out-of-focus backgrounds or photograph at high speeds in low light situations.
  • The proper focal length for portraits is 50mm. I recommend, without a doubt, the king of lenses for portrait photography (if you don’t have the budget, the 50mm f/1.8 is also a very interesting option). Below 35mm it would not be suitable for portraits because it distorts, but it is if you want to include the context. An 85mm is also an excellent choice for portrait photography.
  • If you want to photograph details (especially with the smallest ones), a macro lens is recommended.
  • The stabilizer is advisable if the body does not have it, but more than anything if it is a telephoto lens or you are going to use somewhat slower speeds, if not, it is not essential.
  • In the event that you are going to amortize it and have a good budget to invest, another versatile lens that I recommend is the 24-70mm f/2.8. A bright lens that will help you cover most situations.

Can you imagine running after a child and throwing yourself to the ground with a heavy backpack on your back? or tell, “Oh! Wait a minute, I’m going to change the lens because with this one I can’t capture the entire scene that I want, don’t move, eh? Stay right there that gives you that beautiful light ». Ni-de-co-ña. That’s why you have to get one or two objectives that work for most situations.

To delve deeper into portrait lenses, you have this other article.

Portrait with a 50mm f/1.8 (@caro_musso)

Accessories for children’s photography

I insist, it is better to carry the minimum equipment. Many gadgets can make the child uncomfortable. If it’s in a studio, it’s different, you have more room to use a decorated stage, a light window, a reflector or any other lighting accessory.

However, outdoors or at home, where you seek naturalness, spontaneity and a relationship with the environment, you should make yourself as invisible as possible. Change the light window for a real one, the reflector for a white wall, the diffuser for a curtain, etc. Improvising will be much more effective than deploying your entire arsenal.

The photographs are different. fine artfor example, later on we will see what this type of photography is about, but I can tell you in advance that the costumes and the props They are a fundamental part that must be taken care of.

Adjustments in children’s photography

The situations can be so diverse that it is difficult to give valid game settings for all of them. However, I can give you some general recommendations regarding settings for children’s photography:

  • Try to have the settings preconfigured before taking action or you will miss many unique and unrepeatable moments. It’s important to be quick, you can’t stop to fiddle with buttons and change settings while the little one gives you a moment, except for the most basic ones.
  • Unless they are asleep, Manual Mode is not the most appropriate mode in these cases. Better try the semi-manual modes (Aperture Priority if you want to determine the aperture, or Shutter Priority if there is motion and you want to make sure it’s sharp).
  • Better high ISO and raise the shutter speed if necessary. Starting values ​​to configure the ISO:
    • ISO 100: Very sunny
    • ISO 200: Some clouds
    • ISO 400: Very cloudy or bright interiors
    • ISO 800-1600: Dark interiors and dusk/dusk
  • Starting shutter speeds:
    • Sweep or panning: 1/30s
    • Static children: 1/125s
    • Children playing or moving:1/250s
    • Children running: 1/500s
    • Children jumping or to freeze very fast moments: 1/1000s
  • Recommended openings:
    • Blurred backgrounds: f/1.4 – f/3.5
    • Groups or several children: f/5.6-f/8
    • Defined background: f/8-f/22
  • Continuous focus (AF-C or Al Servo) when there is movement.
  • Evaluative or matrix measurement, especially at the beginning. When there are great contrasts in the scene, better punctual.
  • Automatic white balance if you shoot in RAW. In JPG, better check that the automatic is giving you a good result and if not, adjust it to the appropriate mode for your circumstances.
  • Activate the burst.
  • Deactivate the built-in flash, except for specific moments such as filling in shadows.
  • Shoot in RAW, you will be able to get much more out of editing. Now, if you don’t plan on editing your photos, for whatever reason, then they’ll look better in JPG.
  • If you can, decouple the focus from the shutter button.

With the right settings you can achieve images as impressive as this one by Vanesa Royo

meet the children

It is not about doing a master’s degree in child psychology or anything like that, but as a father or mother, you will know what moment they are in, what their needs are, their limitations, their tastes, and what you can or cannot expect from your offspring.

Now, if you are or want to be a professional in children’s photography, you must know your final client, who is the child. It is not the same to deal with a 3-year-old child as it is with a teenager, or an 8-year-old person. Each childhood stage has different characteristics and you can expect and ask for very different things.

Knowing them will allow you to better interact with them and adapt the session to their age. As well as knowing their hobbies or their personality. You can always ask the parents first. However, at the beginning of your session, leave a little while to connect with it, which brings me to the next section, because it deserves a separate mention.

Connect with your models in children’s photography

As I was saying, it is important, at the beginning of a session, to connect with your model. Especially in the case of…