School has begun. All the little kiddies are off. Parents with cameras are out in force getting those early images of the school year. From what I have seen, it can be done a little better. I am a husband and a dad first, and then I am a photographer. When it comes to taking pictures of kids at school, I tend to take it a little serious. First thing I do is make sure to acknowledge, when at school, it’s about the kids and making them comfortable. It is not the images. If you get good pictures, fantastic, if the kids start their day super happy, that is the real victory! My kids’ first day at school, this year, inspired this post. A dad with a Nikon D700 and a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S lens with a lens hood on, almost smacked a child in the head with his gear.
It’s About the Children!
The first day of school is about the children! Yes, I am repeating myself, but some parents miss this part. It is not about the images. The images are the icing on the cake, proof to show others that you got your kid this far without harm. Your children will remember you more for showering them with attention and affection than you taking pictures. With this said, you need to remember to give your child the space they need and not interfere with what’s going on (unless a fight breaks out.)
Most parents want the best for their youngsters and to capture all the memories the best way possible. They will buy fantastic DSLRs like the Nikon D700 or the Canon 7D, purchasing what is recommended by a salesperson. No matter what DSLR camera body you are shooting with, you do not want to be in the way. You want to think about your personal space and all the tiny people running around. The best lens in this occasion is a small prime lens like a 50mm lens (or equivalent). Low cost, small, and common among most DSLR manufactures these lenses will not get in the way, while being fast and sharp. If you do not have a camera, and are buying one to take pictures of your kids, you may want to think smaller. Cameras like Olympus E-PM1, the Samsung NX200 or the Fuji X100 are more compact cameras that take great images. With smaller cameras, you can let your kids take a picture of you also!
When and How to shoot
Capturing children (with a camera) is not that hard. I wrote about it before. If you want to get a good shot at school, try to get there 5 to 10 minutes early. That little bit of time makes a world of difference. Many parents will get there right on time, so you get those few extra minutes to really compose a good shot or two. Try not use a flash, as much as possible. It is very distracting at school, especially in grammar schools. If you have to use a flash, make sure you have softer like a Gary Fong puffer or a Lightsphere on your camera to soften the light. Think about your position. If you are pointing your camera down at a kid you make them look small. Come down to their level and bend your knees, it will also give the image a more natural look. Try to get as many candid shots as possible. Continuous autofocus and using your camera’s cross focusing sensor points will work well here.
Do not try to make your kids pose at school. They just want to have fun, talk to their friends, and they need to be as comfortable as possible.
How to hold your Camera around Kids
Around children, how you carry your camera is very important. If you do not feel like accidentally smacking kids in the head with your gear it is wise to think about this. They tend to zip around, and they can run into you. I keep my camera on my Blackrapid RS-7 but I also keep it firmly in my hand pointed up. This helps with getting this quick impromptu shots as well and keeping everyone safe.
If you see other parents at the school taking pictures, get their information, like email and share images. If they get a good picture of your kids and vice versa you can trade and get great images of your kids you would have not seen. You may make new friends also and this is a great way to also help your kids have playdates with other children in the future.
Yours kids are in school and they are growing up. Enjoy it. If you are frantically trying to get images, they will see your actions and respond. The right sized gear and the right timing will get you good images of your kids and others peoples kids. The images will be even better if the children are happy.
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