Sunday, July 13, 2008

Kids Garden Portraits

Here are some tips to help you with photographing kids in the garden:
  • Rely on props. Hand a child a flower or have them bring a favorite doll into the garden. A prop helps the child relax and stay calm.
  • Do not aim to get full seated pictures throughout the portrait session. Instead, go with the flow. Start with "formals" and then let the child move around. Try seating them again only if they are willing.
  • Action photos of kids are great. They often create the best memories. Be prepared to run after an active kid with camera in hand. Think of it as play time with a camera.
  • If a child does not like to dress up, use the garden as a perfect opportunity to show off his natural state. Overalls, grubby clothes, and wrinkled shirts belong in the garden. Take inspiration from Norman Rockwell and capture a child's precious personality as is.
  • Converse with the child as you go. Try to take the focus off the camera if necessary by talking about the child's interests. Try putting the camera on a tripod and trigger the camera remotely. If a child can see the photographer's face, he is often more comfortable than if you are hiding behind the camera.
  • Talking about what interests a child is also more likely to elicit a smile. And, instead of the classic "Say 'Cheese!'" try this line: "Say 'Daddy has smelly feet!'" I've also been known to sing and dance for children for a laugh. (The grown-ups watching often stare at me dumbfounded. I even once sang kids' show songs for an extended family I photographed. I do not recommend this because it can have a negative effect. The grownups think you have gone loony and look uncomfortable in the photo.)
  • Let the kids see the photos you take. (Again, I don't recommend this for adults. Adults will usually get uncomfortable or start criticizing the images they see, not bearing in mind that they haven't yet been edited.) Kids love to see themselves and will often ham it up for the camera after you let them view a picture.
  • Don't expect kids to put up with your picture taking for more than 20-30 minutes.
  • Remember, the photos may need to be edited. All professional photographers edit their photos in some way -- from simple color adjustment to more complicated artistic editing.
  • Keep practicing and make photo taking a game. Grab a camera whenever the mood strikes you in the garden. For my personal family pictures, I have been known to stop in the middle of weeding for an impromptu photo session. Let nature be your guide. Whether you are struck by the sunlight or by your child's interest in garden activities, don't be afraid to grab your camera and just go for it.

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