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my secrets for great candid photos of kids

March 24, 2012

Let me just start with this disclaimer * I am not a professional photographer! *  Photography is a favorite hobby of mine that I am constantly learning and honing my skills on.  One of the subjects I love taking pictures of the most is children.  They can also be one of the hardest things to photograph.  Usually when kids know a camera is trained on them, this is what you get.













Although cute, you probably don’t want your family albums entirely filled with goofy faces either.

Here are some tricks and tools I’ve adopted through my own experiences.

1.) Get down on their level.  Kids are small (I’m nothing if not profound.) Taking pictures standing over them while they look up at you gives a disconnected feel to your photos.  They need to be photographed in their own environment.  This means a lot of crouching down and getting on your knees.  Look them in the eyes and connect with them on their level.

2.) My secret weapon, the Zoom Lens!  If you are at the beach or somewhere else where your kids are running around playing it is hard to keep up and stay close enough to get great shots of them.  This way you can hang back a little or sit on your beach towel and snap away without having to chase them around.  Just make sure you don’t come off as the creepy loner taking pictures of random kids, cause you don’t want to have to explain to the kids why you get to go for a ride with Mr. Policeman and they don’t. This is family time people!

taken with a zoom lens


































3.) Catch them unaware.  This is stealth photography! When kids are playing they get in a “zone” where they don’t realize you exist.  Use this to your advantage and you’ll get great photos of your kids relaxed and just being themselves.

catch them unaware!

4.) Make it a game or call their name. Sometimes you can’t get away with being sneaky but you can still get great shots if you just stay quiet and turn it into a game of peek-a-boo.  Yelling “hold still” is not going to get you a great photo!  If the child is not looking at you and absorbed in what they are doing simply call their name quietly in a sing-song voice. Don’t say, “Hey, look up here, I’m going to take your picture!”  Be ready to click as soon as they look because you only get one chance on this one.

make it a game or call their name

5.) Give them something to do. You know how awkward you feel when you are just standing there waiting for someone to take your picture?  Now translate that into a wiggly, full of energy, impatient little kid. Forcing them to sit or stand still doesn’t help.  Giving a child something to do helps them relax and focus on that and you’ll avoid unnatural posed looking pictures.

give them something to do


































6.) Get different reactions and moods.  Do you think your kids have to be smiling to get great pictures of them?  Not true!  Also, remember that they are still having a lot of new experiences. Catch reactions to meeting their new siblings or eating their first Orio cookie.  Those first reactions are priceless.

catch them in different moods

capture their first reactions














7.) Don’t be afraid to fill the frame. I love filling the picture up with my subject.  Close ups on kids faces are fantastic.  You can get a lot of detail like round pink cheeks, freckles, and the chocolate stain around the lips. Sweet!

8.) It’s not just about the pretty face! Kids grow up fast. I like to document their little hands and feet. I also love to get “walking away” pictures. For some reason I love those shots. I think they give a sense of the child’s autonomy. Give it a try.

little hands

little feet

the "walking away" shot

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