Moving from snapshots to actual portraits can seem like a daunting task, but it shouldn’t hold you back from exploring the realm of child portrait photography, particularly if you have some willing participants. Before you jump in feet first, here are some tips to help you get started:
Gear Does Not Make the Photographer
If you have an older point-and-shoot then you might find an advantage in upgrading to a more robust camera, but there’s no reason why you can’t start with the equipment that you have. In fact, starting with a simpler camera can be beneficial so you can focus on the basics first, before moving up to additional features.
Once you are ready to move up, do your research. While you don’t want to invest in equipment that you might outgrow quickly, you also don’t want to take too much on. Professional cameras can have a ton of options that you might not make use of, or that might make using the camera a hindrance rather than a help.
Start with the Basics
Painters start by learning to mix paint, and photographers start (or at least, they should start) by learning about the magic triangle. This is how shutter speed, aperture, and ISO sensitivity combine to create an exposure. It might seem very unexciting, but starting to learn photography without these basic elements will only hold you back from advancing or taking full creative control of your camera.
Learn About Composition
You might wonder “why don’t my child portraits look like [insert photographer’s name here]?” which is a bit like wondering why your oil painting doesn’t look like a Van Gogh. True photography is very similar to painting and drawing, it’s an art form.
Here are a few basic composition rules to get you started:
Start with a single composition tip, then once you feel you have the hang of it, move onto the next and incorporate it into your photography. If you have trouble with any compositional element, take a break and read a few articles to help you get the hang of it before you move on.
Get to Know your Camera, Really
You might think that you know your camera inside and out, but you’d be surprised at all of the hidden features you haven’t discovered yet. While this might not seem like a lot of fun, start with your camera’s manual and give it a good read. Keep it handy in your camera bag, so you can refer to it when you’re out taking child portraits if you need to.
It can be tempting to use automatic settings since they are so easy. When you’re delving into portrait photography, however, you need to view your camera as a tool that can be wielded in different ways. You wouldn’t use the same paintbrush for every painting, or have someone else tell you what paintbrush to use – the same goes for letting your camera decide what settings to use.
Start with Av mode for portraits, play around with aperture, and you’ll soon be able to move on to incorporate other settings into your child portraits.
Take a Course
Photography courses can go a long way towards helping you incorporate new techniques into your photography quickly, as well as giving you new ways to approach how you photograph your children. You can start with a beginner photography course, but if child portraits are going to be your main focus it can certainly help to find a specific children’s photography workshop.
You don’t have to do this publicly, but it can help your own kid’s portrait photography to look at others. Rather than looking at a photo and thinking “I like it” or “I don’t like it,” examine exactly why you like a particular image, or what in the image or how it is shot makes you not like it as much.
You can find many types of groups online, and you can even submit your own photos for critique. Don’t take anything said personally; just notice whether the critique given could be used constructively to help you improve your kid’s photography.
Other ways to improve your photography can include attending gallery shows or taking a few photography books out of the library, particularly if they include their own critiques.
Change up your Style
You can be tempted to find a style of children’s portraits that works for you and provides consistently good images, but it’s a good idea to experiment with different styles which can provide different results. Again, a photography workshop can work wonders by forcing you out of your “box” so you can see how different styles can benefit your photography arsenal.
Don’t wait until you find the “perfect” photo to make a print, rejoice in what you’ve created and proudly display your images. Once a month, look through your photos and pick the one that strikes you the most. Start a “wall” of your prints and hang a new one each month. Once the wall is full, you can move onto other walls or replace photos that you are no longer fond of.
Keep at it
Like any new craft, photography takes time to master. Just when you do, something new will come along. Photography is not like learning to read, you don’t one day say “I’ve learned all I can,” there will always be something new that you can incorporate into your children’s photos. So welcome to your new lifelong craft!