Artistic portraits of kids (who wiggle, move, and make silly faces) can be a challenge. Check out the seven tips below!
A quick disclaimer: There are a variety of wonderful DSLR cameras on the market and each comes with unique language. While the tips below *will* work on a Nikon, I speak Canon.
Today I want you to play with depth of field and aperture. If you've been shooting on automatic, don't panic. I promise, this will be fun. Playing with your aperture setting allows you to get that artsy blurred background. Using different levels of depth of field is useful in creating artistic portraits of kids because it lets your child stand out as the primary focus. Shall we get started?
1. Check the time. While a seasoned photographer can shoot under a high-noon sun, I don't recommend it for getting started. The soft light in the morning and late afternoon will illuminate areas evenly and embrace your subject, aka your adorable child.
2. Find a large area of open shade. Open shade is simply a large area of shade. Nothing more, nothing less. In the photo above, my daughter is sitting on the cement in front of the open garage. The sun was behind the house creating a nice area of open shade.
3. Give your child something to do. We were making a game of Giant Yahtzee, so my lady was busy sanding, stacking, and playing. This kept her entertained so she wouldn't be annoyed with the 101 shots I was taking of her. Please don't force your child to "smile for the camera" when you're learning new techniques. Let them be kids!
4. Set your camera to Aperture Priority. That is the AV option on the top of your Canon.
Basically, this is the option that will allow you to get that cool artsy blurred background, while your subject is still in focus, like the photo below.
5. Play with your aperture settings. If your camera is on the AV option, this should be the only portion of the exposure triangle you are manually manipulating. In other words, the camera is still making two-thirds of the shooting decisions, you're just taking artistic control of this one area. PLAY. I would start by putting your F-stop at F2.8. Experiment by bringing this number as high and low as your lens will allows and see what happens!
IMPORTANT TIP FOR BEGINNERS:
I am going to share the best photography tips I've ever received with you... You will never learn to truly take advantage of the power of your DSLR with your kit lens. Invest in a f/1.8 50mm lens (about $100 for a Canon) for your DSLR camera. This is a FIXED LENS which basically means it can help you learn to shoot in manual or use things like aperture priority (discussed above) with ease.
All the pics in this post were done with my 50mm.
I shoot almost exclusively with this lens. It is a perfect lens for everyday moms who don't want to spend a ton of money on fancy equipment. Once you have it on your camera, you won't want to switch back. If you have any questions about the 50mm, please don't hesitate to chat with me in the comments below.
6. Have more than one subject. Most kids get sick of having their pic taken non-stop. If you can wing it, have a second subject available. My daughter was thoroughly entertained by me taking portraits of our cat. When I would capture an image that showcased her tongue, she would laugh at the screen preview. It was a simple way to keep the photo shoot causal and fun.
7. Sometimes black and white is better. If you have something colorful in your photos that is visually dominating, like an orange bucket for example, try making your photo black and white. Beautiful! You might have photos in your image library right now that you can "recover" simply by making them black and white, too.
If you have any questions about the tips or the 50mm shown above, let me know in the comments!
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Again, all the photos above were shot on a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 Camera Lens. I highly recommend it. Below are a few photography books I recommend as well!
Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
Creative Photography Lab (Lab Series)
Your Child in Pictures: The Parents' Guide to Photographing Your Toddler and Child from Age One to Ten
A Beautiful Mess Photo Idea Book: 95 Inspiring Ideas for Photographing Your Friends, Your World, and Yourself
Expressive Photography: The Shutter Sisters' Guide to Shooting from the Heart
Elevate the Everyday: A Photographic Guide to Picturing Motherhood
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”