Babies, toddlers and teenagers (oh my!). They might just be one of the most challenging portrait photography subjects you will shoot. Below we’ve spoken to leading lifestyle and portrait photographer, Brett Harkness, who does this day in and day out. These are 13 of his best portrait photography tips for getting more creative pictures of babies, toddlers and teenagers.
Tip 1: Shoot when baby’s happy
Babies make few demands, but those they do are important: food and sleep. If you want to catch a baby at their best, try to time your portrait just after a nap or feed. In the hour after eating or sleeping, babies will smile and coo for your camera. likewise, babies are at their most active first thing in the morning after they’ve woken up. The later in the day you try to photograph a baby, the more of a gamble you’re taking.
Tip 2: Be patient
Babies are best shot once they can support their own body weight. They’re still easy to pose, but more likely to retain their position. What’s more, a baby will be more expressive when they’re a little older, because they’re more aware.
Tip 3: Let teens choose their wardrobe
When you photograph a teenager, you should pay careful attention to what they’re wearing. people at this age are very self-conscious, so to make them comfortable, treat it like a mini fashion shoot. encourage them to bring as much of their wardrobe as they’d like. Some guidance is necessary, though. Teens are typically fashion conscious, but for the best images you’ll want them wearing neutral clothes. Anything more will distract the viewer or date your shot.
Tip 4: Get teens away from their parents
Adolescents always behave differently when their parents aren’t around. If you can remove them from the equation you’ll make a teen more comfortable. “Start indoors and quickly ditch the parents,” Brett says. “go for a walk and look for interesting backdrops. You get a different response from an older kid when his parents are away, and they end up being some of the best subjects you can have.”
Tip 5: Don’t use flash
It seems obvious in retrospect, but we never think about it until we’ve done it. And then we’re left with a baby screaming bloody murder and a shoot cut short. Flash frightens babies, and often spooks toddlers and young children too, so always use available light if possible. If not, and you really do want to use flash, another option is to use a flash diffuser: the bigger and softer the diffuser, the less noticeable the flash burst will be. you could also try using off-camera flash, as the child will normally be looking at you and the camera lens.
Tip 6: Use props
Kids respond well to props, whether they’re toys, clothes or something else entirely. they give them something to connect with, and take a bit of the fear away from your clunky equipment. Brett, who shot the images used in this article, tells us: “I like to tell kids my reflector is a magic carpet, then put it on the ground for them to sit on. This makes them less afraid of it when it’s being held next to them.”
You can also put teddies and stuffed toys on your lens when taking a child’s picture, which gets them to look at the camera without looking at you.
Tip 7: Make a game of it
Kids have too much energy. Because of this, they’re not going to want to pose for you. Besides, you can better depict a child’s spirit by following them around and capturing them in action. Of course, a moving subject is always more difficult to photograph. To ensure the child is in focus, make a game of it.
Concentrate on one tree in particular, say, then take the kid down to the tree you want them to touch and tell them to run as fast as they can to it then stop. This makes it a little more fun for the child, and you’ll be sure to get the picture you want.
Tip 8: Under-expose for unusual baby photos
For a surreal effect with babies, turn the lights off and use only natural light. move a sofa next to a window and put a dark towel on one of the cushions, then lay the baby on the towel. By under-exposing two or three stops, the top light will throw the background into black and the baby will look like it’s floating.
Tip 9: Show them your pictures
It’s not always advisable to let your subjects see the shots you’ve taken on the rear lcD; people can get self- conscious about their appearance or try to take over the photo shoot and get you to take more shots. This is not normally so much of a problem with kids, however, and letting them see the shots can be a good way to get them engaged.
Tip 10: Bring toys!
Kids get bored easily, so turn your photo shoot into playtime – bring along favourite toys for them to hold an delay with. This occupies them, keeping them still for a few seconds, plus you’ll get some interesting expressions on the little angels’ faces.
Tip 11: Mum & Dad
It’s essential when photographing babies and young children that mum or dad is on hand. This will keep the kids feeling comfortable. Get mum or dad to stand behind you and attract their child’s attention with silly faces, dancing – whatever it takes – so that they’re looking in your direction.
Tip 12: Find the confident one
If you’re shooting a group of children or teens, whether siblings or friends, their collective nervousness is going to manifest itself in reluctance or stubbornness. You can combat this by singling out the most confident kid in the group and shooting him or her first. When they show that they enjoy it, this will demonstrate to the others that you’re not there to humiliate them.
Tip 13: Trust the older kids
With older children and teenagers you might have to be a little bit of a psychologist, as well as a photographer. While in baby photography your main subject is quite happy to let mum or dad run the show, older kids have their own self-identity and vision of how they want to be seen. As a child photographer you need to tread a delicate line of how their parents want to see their children, and how the children see themselves.
Be patient and trust the kids to show you their true nature. Ultimately mum and dad will love your photos because you’ll capture their child acting in a way they might rarely get to see!
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