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How to Shoot Children

I love shooting children. And in this particular case, let’s assume by shoot, I mean photograph. Children are really wonderful precious things, and I really think they make a wedding wonderful. Why then is it sometimes so difficult to photograph them? I’ll try to break down some of the problems and try to suggest some ideas for overcoming them.

Stop saying “Smile!”

First, children have been told to smile over and over again when they are being photographed. The result is that kids instinctively put on a toothy grin that is anything but natural and authentic. The forced smile is apparent in the photos. So my first suggestion is stop telling kids to say cheese or smile. Ask them to look at the camera and and allow them react how they want for a more authentic image.
[one_third] [single_lightbox url=”https://www.timothyfaust.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/0107-elledge.jpg” image_url=”https://www.timothyfaust.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/0107-elledge.jpg” image_width=”150″ image_height=”150″ title=”I pointed the camera at this little girl until she looking in my direction. I reacted quickly and took the shot before she had a chance to put on a fake smile. The result is an image that shows real, rather than forced, emotion.”] [/one_third] [one_third] [single_lightbox url=”https://www.timothyfaust.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Hall-248.jpg” image_url=”https://www.timothyfaust.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Hall-248.jpg” image_width=”150″ image_height=”150″ title=”With these boys it was as simple as telling one to sit on the fence and the other stand next to it. I asked them to look at me, but didn’t force them to smile. The result was a very natural portrait.”] [/one_third] [one_third_last] [single_lightbox url=”https://www.timothyfaust.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/1002-Pokhara.jpg” image_url=”https://www.timothyfaust.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/1002-Pokhara.jpg” image_width=”150″ image_height=”150″ title=”I photographed these girls at a wedding in Nepal. I didn’t even know how to ask them to smile. I just held the camera in front of them and allowed them to respond.”] [/one_third_last]

Prepare for the Moment

Rather than sit in the front pew during a wedding, I like to follow the bride down the aisle. This enables not only enables me to get a photo of the groom’s face the first time he sees her, but also to photograph the reactions of guests as the turn around in anticipation of seeing her. This is a great time to photograph children.
[one_third] [single_lightbox url=”https://www.timothyfaust.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/0335-Voellinger.jpg” image_url=”https://www.timothyfaust.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/0335-Voellinger.jpg” image_width=”150″ image_height=”150″ title=”This little girl turned in her seat to look at the bride coming down the aisle. It was a perfect chance to create an unposed portrait of her.”] [/one_third] [one_third][single_lightbox url=”https://www.timothyfaust.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/0247-Mack.jpg” image_url=”https://www.timothyfaust.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/0247-Mack.jpg” image_width=”150″ image_height=”150″ title=”This brother and sister glanced at the camera as they were turning to watch the bride come down the aisle.”] [/one_third] [one_third_last] [single_lightbox url=”https://www.timothyfaust.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/0306-Voellinger.jpg” image_url=”https://www.timothyfaust.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/0306-Voellinger.jpg” image_width=”150″ image_height=”150″ title=”This little girl glanced over her shoulder at the camera as the bride was walking down the aisle. Being able to respond quickly to moments like these before she was able to change her expression is the key.”] [/one_third_last]

Use Dirty Tricks

Any time you try to force a kid to look a certain way, the resulting image will always look… well, forced. Allowing children to relax and be themselves is the key to photographs that go beyond the “say cheese” look to create a truly evocative image. One way to do this for kids and adults is to take a photo and tell everyone to relax while you change film, cards, batteries, etc… Then when people are relaxed, I turn around and get a shot that is more natural and authentic.
[one_third] [single_lightbox url=”https://www.timothyfaust.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/MG_0981.jpg” image_url=”https://www.timothyfaust.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/MG_0981.jpg” image_width=”150″ image_height=”150″ title=”It can be difficult to get boys to sit still for a photo. In this image, I told the kids I was done with photos, so they completely unaware when I took this shot. “] [/one_third] [one_third] [single_lightbox url=”https://www.timothyfaust.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/0053-elledge.jpg” image_url=”https://www.timothyfaust.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/0053-elledge.jpg” image_width=”150″ image_height=”150″ title=”This girl looked at me a moment earlier for an posed shot. I left the room and stuck my camera around the corner for this “hail Mary.” The result was and image that captured her being natural.”] [/one_third] [one_third_last] [single_lightbox url=”https://www.timothyfaust.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/0907-Koster.jpg” image_url=”https://www.timothyfaust.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/0907-Koster.jpg” image_width=”150″ image_height=”150″ title=”Not every child at a wedding is having fun. This flower girl was clearly feeling left out. When I saw her sitting on the steps I was able to get this one shot before the shutter noise caused her to look at me.”] [/one_third_last]

Capture a Moment

As a photojournalist, I try to avoid images where the subject is camera aware. One of the best times to photograph children are when they are doing something else. These can be the most powerful and natural images of all. As always, the key is always being ready. I carry two cameras with me at a wedding, and one of them always has a long lens that I can use to capture images that might be too far away for me to get with a wider lens. Always being ready for anything is a must at a wedding. Often times, you only have one chance to get the shot because once the subject becomes aware you are there, you loose the chance to capture an authentic moment.
[one_third] [single_lightbox url=”https://www.timothyfaust.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/0118-McCarthy.jpg” image_url=”https://www.timothyfaust.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/0118-McCarthy.jpg” image_width=”150″ image_height=”150″ title=”I am certain this guy was checking out his backside in the window when I grabbed this shot.”] [/one_third] [one_third] [single_lightbox url=”https://www.timothyfaust.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/0219-Mack.jpg” image_url=”https://www.timothyfaust.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/0219-Mack.jpg” image_width=”150″ image_height=”150″ title=”This was another “hail Mary” image where I just put the camera down in front of the flower girl without looking through the viewfinder.”] [/one_third] [one_third_last] [single_lightbox url=”https://www.timothyfaust.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/0151-Olive.jpg” image_url=”https://www.timothyfaust.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/0151-Olive.jpg” image_width=”150″ image_height=”150″ title=”This shot was also made without the flower girl knowing I was there. As soon as she heard the shutter she turned around.”] [/one_third_last]

Putting it Together

Children photograph best when they don’t know they are being photographed. That means that often you only get one chance to capture an authentic moment before the sound of the shutter causes the subject to be aware of the camera. This means that a photographer really has to be on his or her game. You need to be confident and fast to get the image right, because perfect moments are fleeting. You also might have to resort to dirty tricks by telling your subjects when you are done when you really aren’t. Whatever you do, stop saying, “Smile!”

Timothy

Timothy Faust is an award winning wedding photographer from Breckenridge, Colorado. He specializes in destination wedding photography in Colorado and all across the world.

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