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Capturing Children (with a camera)

by G Servo on 02/22/2011

Camera Nikon D90, Lens Nikon 18.0-105.0 mm, f/3.5-5.6 Exposure 0.005 sec (1/200) Aperture f/5.6 Focal Length 105 mm ISO Speed 200

Taking pictures of kids is an adventure. As a dad, and as many other parents out there know, children are kinetic—never static and always moving. This can make photography rather challenging. With the correct settings and attitude any one can get a decent image of children especially if you have a DSLR. Here are some tips to help with that.Note: This post assumes you have a DSLR but some of these tips will be applicable to point and shoot cameras

Camera Nikon D90, Lens Nikon 50.0 mm f/1.8 D, Exposure 0.033 sec (1/30) Aperture f/2.8 Focal Length 50 mm ISO Speed 640

Gear

Have an 8 gig or bigger memory card and a backup, you do not want to run out of space.

- Also have a camera strap like the Black Rapid RS-7 or the Sun Sniper Strap, these straps are like having a third hand securing your camera and allow for quick shots.

- A Lenspen and lens cleaning cloths, with kids finger prints happen.

- Any current DSLR body like the Nikon D3100, Canon T2i, Pentax K-5, or better will do.

The lens you use, however, depends on the situation. If you are trying to get your kids in action on a sports field, or at a party, you can get one lens to rule them all, an 18-200 mm: Canon, Nikon, Sigma, and Tamron make a version of this lens. A lens like this will save you from having to change lenses as the situation changes. This will help you keep the sensor clean outdoors, or indoors. It will all also lower the risk of a kid running into you, and a lens being dropped.

If you are shooting strictly indoors with kids and are worried about lighting conditions, consider a 50mm or a 35mm lens. These lenses are fast and compact and will help you avoid using a flash as much as possible.

To use a flash or not to use a flash

Camera Nikon D90, Lens Tamron 28.0-200.0 mm, f/3.8-5.6 Exposure 0.017 sec (1/60) Aperture f/5.6 Focal Length 200 mm ISO Speed 500

Sometimes you have no choice but to use a flash. I would suggest you do everything in your power not to. A flash can ruin the moment especially in a candid situation. Flash are distracting to children, especially the younger ones. It catches their eye and they think, “Ooooooo a toy!”

If you have to use a flash, try to make sure you have something to soften the light, like the Garry Fong puffer or a collapsible lightsphere if you have an off camera flash.

Continuous Shooting

Camera Nikon D90 Lens Nikon 35.0 mm f/1.8 G Exposure 0.017 sec (1/60) Aperture f/2.8 Focal Length 35 mm ISO Speed 500

When  taking pictures of children, you want your camera to be in continuous shooting mode, also known as burst mode. This will ensure you get a clean shot or a great sequence of shots. Remember kids are always moving and can surprise you.

Position is everything

Camera Nikon D90, Lens Nikon 35.0 mm f/1.8G, Exposure 0.017 sec (1/60) Aperture f/1.8 Focal Length 35 mm ISO Speed 500

With children, as much as possible, you will want to get down and take pictures at their level. It will help the image look more natural. Try catching their eyes. Children do not have to be looking at you, however this will help you get a clear image of their face. Something to consider, is knee-pads and wearing them under your pants. Do not worry about getting your pants dirty, you’re with children, dirt happens. As you get older getting down on your knees can be a bother, and knee pads will help. Another consideration is a towel. Kneel on it, or you can lay it down and sit on it outdoors, and if something is spilled, you are a hero.

Composition

Camera Nikon D90,Lens Nikon 35.0 mm f/1.8G, Exposure 0.017 sec (1/60) Aperture f/2.8 Focal Length 35 mm ISO Speed 500

I find the best shots of children are candid. Letting the kids do their thing and catching them at the right moment. Children do not want to be posed. Some will allow themselves to be posed, but only briefly. Making them, stay posed and asking them to smile will give images a unnatural appearance. You want the kids to be relaxed and in their happy place. Occasionally you can call their name and they will look up, you have a shot. Yes, the Rule of thirds should still be applied, just make sure the kids are comfortable.

Your images will reflect your mood.

Camera Nikon D90,Lens Nikon 28.0-80.0 mm f/3.3-5.6,Exposure 0.002 sec (1/500) Aperture f/5.3 Focal Length 66 mm ISO Speed 200

Children notice moods quickly. If you are in a bad mood when taking pictures of kids, you are in a hopelessly impractical situation. The idea is to smile and be happy. Most kids will smile back at you. Do not be afraid to be a little silly and invite laughter. It will make all the difference.

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