Portraits of babies and children or pets can be difficult to execute well because they are generally unreliable models who can’t take a huge amount of direction and they move in unpredictable ways. That being said, I believe that is all part of what makes them such interesting subject matter. I have comprised a short list of tips that can make photographing children and animals a little easier; along with examples of my own work to illustrate such tasks…
- Have the subject in a situation where they feel comfortable.
2. Ensure lighting is apt and check the aperture is appropriate (it’s likely an f/stop number on the lower end will be required) so that a shorter shutter speed can be used. This will mean that movement isn’t captured which will blur the photograph.
3. Try to incorporate interesting dynamics in the shot by capturing emotion, just as you would with an adult/human portrait.
4. Keep taking many pictures in the hope that you’ll catch a particularly interesting moment, as chances are, you will.
5. Experiment with distances and angles as similar subject matter can produce very different images by just altering these simple factors. This will then give you a feel for how you like to take pictures of children and animals, which means you’ll be able narrow down and practice what you are good at.
6. Use the appropriate lens. I used my prime lens to take this photo (Nikon 50mm f/1.8). Prime lenses which are fixed in focal length as opposed to zoom lenses are the most suited to portraiture as they produce very crisp images which focus on the subject and leave the background to blur so that it doesn’t distract the viewer’s attention.
7. Try out unusual situations. Having children or pets in unusual situations can be very thought provoking or amusing, depending on the setting; this can be very interesting photographically.
8. Concentrate on your subject. In everyday life, young children and cute pets are often the centre of attention, you can apply this in photography too. Make sure your model is the main focus of your image by concentrating on the composition and shallow depth of fields will always help here.
9. Use a shallow depth of field so that the subject is clearly in focus and the background is blurred so that it doesn’t distract the eye. This can be achieved by using a narrower aperture (higher f/stop) as less light is allowed to reach the sensor meaning the matter which is further away will not be captured in focus. However, as I said earlier a wider aperture (lower f/stop) will usually be required; this is when prime lenses come into it. As they have a fixed focal length, the lens will focus on your subject at it’s optimal focal length, leaving the distance to blur.
10. Capture the model’s personality. Animals and children are individuals just as human adults are and this can be captured in photographs. Just make sure to filter through your images and take time to select the best ones, but don’t purely base this on quality which can be easy to do, as with unreliable subjects, you probably will take many unusable images.
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