Every new photographer believes that with camera in hand, their ready to take fantastic children’s portraits. Most end up making the same mistakes and look back later with regret with the time they lost struggling with common problems. Let us help by pointing out some of the common mistakes made with children’s portraits and provide tips for avoiding each.
Mistake #1: Underestimating Lighting
If you find that your photos are a bit dull, then lighting might be the culprit. You need to understand the different types of lighting and how they can change the look of a children’s portrait. For starters, work indoors with the light coming from a different location (behind you, behind the subject, to the side) and employ a reflector as a second light source as well.
Next, try outdoor children’s photography with the same concept. Don’t forget to compare the photos to see how different types of light/locations can change a dull photo into a dramatic one.
Mistake #2: Investing in Equipment, not Experience
Does buying more expensive paint make you a better artist? No? It’s funny, though, that many newer photographers expect that if they spend a few thousand dollars on equipment that they’re automatically going to take better photos. However, sometimes the opposite is true – with all the additional bells and whistles on more professional cameras, the less we tend to focus on the art of photography.
Rather than investing in equipment, to start, consider investing in your own knowledge. Take out a few books, take a course, or read some blog posts to learn how to make memorable photos. Once you have a few basics under your belt and have learned all about your camera’s functions and the other types of equipment and their purpose, then you can consider upgrading.
Mistake #3: Focus Failure
Nothing distracts from a children’s photo more than blur in the wrong place. While blur can certainly be used creatively, blur in the wrong place can ruin your image. When you’re working with large apertures, as most photographers do with portraits, it’s more important than ever to ensure that focus ends up exactly where you need it to be. This might require starting with a smaller aperture, learning how to lock focus, even working with different focus modes for kids who move around. Once you’re comfortable, and your focus is reasonably sharp, you can start increasing your aperture.
Bonus Tip: When reviewing photos on your LCD screen, use the “+” button and navigational buttons to zoom in on your focus point to ensure it is sharp.
Mistake #4: Over Editing & Filtering
In these days of Instagram filters and photo editing for everyone, there is a lot of temptation to keep tweaking photos to make them “perfect.” Sometimes (many times) the effect can be less than desirable. There are two reasons why you don’t want to depend on editing and filters. One, it cuts down on how much you try to get a “good” photo in camera (hoping that you can fix/improve everything afterwards). Two, excessive editing and filtering can cut down on what’s important in your photo – your kids.
Mistake #5: Positioning and Cropping
Point, focus, click – it’s that easy, right? Sorry, but if you want to improve your children’s portrait photos, you’ll have to do a bit better than that. It all comes down to your focal point, which in portraits tends to be the eyes (or the eye closest to the camera). Now, you can snap away and hope that you can crop the photo, or you can ensure that the focal point appears where it needs to be – using the rule of thirds.
If the crop isn’t perfect (often the case with fidgety toddlers), feel free to adjust with editing software, but by having positioning in mind when you are photographing your children, you can ensure that more of your photos come out perfect.
Of course, if you really want to kick start your children’s portrait photography, consider taking a photography class to help you learn the basics – and avoid mistakes.