How to take better photos of children

Over the last few years, I've really tried to hone my skills taking photos of the true essence of childhood. My obsession with capturing moments and memories of the ordinary everyday of my own children and now other people's families has driven me to discover and study from some of the best professionals and experiment.  Whether you're using your phone, a point and shoot or 'proper' camera here are some of the best prompts, angles and tips I've gathered to achieve beautiful imagery of children. 

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1. Establish real emotion 

I don's say 'cheese' ever ever ever. I never say 'smile' or 'look at me'. Achieving the real look of emotion be it happiness, laughter, joy and sometimes even moments of sadness can't be faked with kids. That's what I love about photographing them the most. They wear every single emotion like a badge of honour. Not just smiling through their eyes but through their hands, head, whole body really. I love love love it, but it does mean if you want your images to scream joy you have to get real and work for it. And saying 'cheese' isn't going to cut it.

The way I do it is to talk to the children I'm photographing. Really talk to them about the things they love. If it's your own children this should be easy, getting them to say 'cake' or 'tractor' or 'unicorn' for example will make them glow if they're their favourite things. Singing songs from their favourite TV shows or nursery rhymes all elicit happiness. Real happiness. 

2. Get on their level

Literally get on their level! I'm not talking about thinking like a kid, although this can definitely help. It's about getting down low at eye level to take their snap. All too often we snap quick pics of our kids from above (our level). The kids are looking up, often into the sun which makes them squint with necks straining. Get down on your knees and look them straight in the eye. 

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2. Let the kids take the lead 

Whenever I shoot a family session I like to have a rough plan of what we're going to do, but that goes completely out the window if the kids aren't into it. The best photos to take will always be of your kids doing something they're really into be it climbing a tree, playing with toys or just wondering around on a walk. Let them direct the action and the smiles will flow. Following them around you get to see the world through their eyes and children really do see magic. 

4. Take a lot of photos 

I am a self confessed over shooter. In a 2 hour family session I take about 1500 photos! Of course they're not all keepers, in fact I get it down to about 70 images that I love. Now obviously your iPhone doesn't have room for 1500 photos, but in a few minutes you should keep snapping away especially if there's fast moving little ones racing around. Phones are surprisingly good at capturing movement, just make sure you take enough and you'll get a keeper. 

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5. Time is of the essence

Some of my clients are surprised about the length of time I like to have for portrait sessions. Often it's no more than 5 minutes to get one great portrait shot! The first shot is usually the best and when I've got it I call it a day. As anyone with kids knows, they have very limited attention span even more so when you're trying to take some photos and get them to look at you. Photograph in short sharp bursts. Sit them on a stool, chat and get it done with. If you don't quite get what you want, try again a few hours or even days later.

6. Bribery will get you everywhere 

The last tip and possibly the most important! My own kids are so over being photographed, but even at three they know how much mummy loves it and they understand the bargaining potential! Snacks, TV time, a trip to the playground, when the chips are down and you want a photo, don't be afraid to resort to bribery to get what you want!

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