Photographing children can simultaneously be the most rewarding photographic opportunity and the most exhausting experience of my day. As a portrait photographer, I can go from chasing a toddler around the park to coaxing a smile from a shy tween, from soothing an irritable baby to stylizing a high school senior. But, no matter the age of my subject, all of my portrait sessions have a few key elements that make capturing these images easier and more successful.
1 GET TO KNOW YOUR SUBJECT
Although it may not seem like a photo tip, getting to know your subject is one of the most important steps in capturing their genuine personality and real expressions. Before I start any of my sessions, I put down my camera and just talk or play with my client. This doesn’t take too much time away from the session and it helps my clients relax. This interaction establishes a high level eye contact with them. They are much more willing to interact with me and my camera if there is already a connection.
2 FIND A GREAT LOCATION
As a natural light portrait photographer I like to find open, shaded areas where my subjects can be easily ISOlated from the background. I gravitate toward uncluttered, natural locations. Although local parks make up a huge part of my shooting style, you may find that shooting in an urban environment or at the client’s home is more your thing.
3 GET ON THEIR LEVEL
I like to see the world from my client’s perspective. If my subject is a young child I photograph them from their vantage point. Many times you will see me sitting, kneeling, or laying on the ground to grab the shot.
4 ISOLATE YOUR SUBJECT AND FOCUS ON THEIR EYES
When shooting a single subject, I like to ISOlate them from any clutter in the background. Whether my location is a picturesque park or a fantastic urban rooftop, my goal is to highlight the subject. My main focus of the subject is always the eyes when I am photographing a client’s face. Focusing on the eyes will immediately draw the viewers attention to the subject.
5 FOCUS ON THE DETAILS
A young child’s hands or eyelashes won’t look the same in a few years. A toddler’s cubby cheeks will thin out. A young teen’s sparkling eyes will give way to laugh lines. But not yet. At this point in their lives, the child’s physical characteristics are a telling sign of their development. As a photographer, it’s our responsibility to freeze this moment in time to tell the story of who they are.
6 CHOOSING THE YOUR GEAR
My favorite setting for portraits is aperture priority. I tend to use wide open apertures like f/1.8 and f/2.8 when photographing a single subject. This allows me to defocus the background while highlighting and ISOlating my subjects.
Invest in a high quality portrait lens. I prefer the 85mm focal range to the 50mm focal range, but that is just a preference. My personal favorite lenses are the M.Zuiko 40-150mm f2.8 PRO and the M.Zuiko 75mm f1.8. Beautiful portraits can be made at a variety of focal ranges. However, investing in a professional lens will make a big difference in the quality of your work.
Because I like to shoot from a variety of vantage points, I love the vari-angle and tilting LCD screens on the OM-D E-M1, E-M5 Mark II and E-M1 Mark II. Adjustable LCD screens allow me to shoot at a multitude of angles and help to insure I don’t miss the shot.
7 MY RECOMMENDED SETTINGS
I’m not one to worry about my shutter speed unless I am photographing quickly moving subjects and I want to freeze motion. If that’s the case, I make sure to have a minimum shutter speed of 1/250 sec (faster shutter speeds are necessary for quick moving subjects if you want to freeze motion).
I like to use a low ISO when shooting portraits. I tend to stay around 200 ISO and 400 ISO. My colors stay vibrant. My subject’s features stay sharp. Overall, I just love the crisp feel of these ISO’s.
I have a tendency to overexpose my skin tones ever so slightly. This makes the retouching PROcess much easier and faster. Because I do very little post PROduction to my pictures, I find that a slight bump in exposing skin tones, mixed with the use of maximum apertures, leads to an overall soft feel to the skin while still drawing attention to the subject’s eyes.