Now that practically no one uses camera film anmore, we don’t have to worry about wasting money developing awful pics of our kids. But we still have to worry about wasting time taking dozens of pics. In this guest post, Ken McDonald tell us how to up your chances of geting that gorgeous shot of the kids without having to keep everyone captive for hours.

There’s in old adage in the film production world that says: “Never work with children or animals.” This logic can be applied to portrait photography as well. That’s because, as any parent can attest to, getting a young child to sit still for an extended period of time often proves to be a difficult undertaking. But that’s no reason portrait photographers should shy away from children subjects. Under the right circumstances child photographs can turn out particularly well. Not only that, but a good child portrait can provide a lifetime of happiness to the parents.

So with that in mind here are some tips for making the most of your child subject. Some of this involves ideal camera settings for the photography while other tips are geared more towards coaxing as much personality as possible from the subject.


This setting opens up the camera and gives the photographer greater control over their depth of field, which often results in better portraits. A good starting point is to set the aperture to around f5.6, which will keep the background out of focus and the subject’s face in focus. Those cameras without an aperture priority mode often have a specific mode to shoot portraits, which can work as well.


In standard photography, the ISO level corresponds to how sensitive the film is to light. In digital photography, the ISO level represents how sensitive the sensor in the camera is. When photographing children, it’s best to ensure there is lots of light so the ISO can be set at 200 or lower. This will allow the photographer to keep a fast shutter speed as well – something in the neighborhood of 1/200th of a second is appropriate.


Try using a location with as much natural light as possible in order to minimize flash usage. For those shooting inside, try utilizing the flash in front of a white background or get the indirect lighting effect via a diffuser.


This is crucial for putting the child at ease, which in turn will make them a better subject. It’s important for photographers to spend a few minutes with the kids they intend to photograph and get to know them. Letting the kids check out the camera and look through the viewfinder is always a good way to establish trust, as is showing the subjects other photographs from the author’s portfolio.


In many instances of portrait photography the location will be set in stone. But if the parents give the photographer room to suggest various locations, the photographer should certainly take advantage of this freedom. That means coming up with three or four diverse, potential locations. Try to find good outside locales as well as interior locales. And if taking the kids to a fun location such as a zoo, park or beach is an option the photographer should jump at it. After all, children in playful locations often yield great shots.


It’s important for the parents to provide multiple wardrobe options in case the primary outfit doesn’t work. Plain, bold colors work well in child photography, but above all else the subject must be comfortable. Putting carefree child in a restricting suit or dress stifles their physicality as well as their personality.


It’s always a good idea to shoot in a candid fashion, as this method often results in great, unplanned moments captured perfectly on film. Giving the subject free reign to run around or behave as they choose is crucial to achieving this “naturalistic” look. But older children may be more comfortable with poses, and the photographer may get better shots this way. It’s up to the photographer to gauge his or her subject in order to decide which method is best.


If a photographer wants his or her subject’s personality to come through they need to be eye-level with them. That means taking a knee and photographing the child as if they were the same height as the photographer. And it’s the eyes that are important. By setting the subject’s eyes as the focal point the photographer will better capture the subject’s unique personality.

These are just a few tips to getting the most out of a child portrait subject. Above all else the photographer should make it a fun environment, both for him or herself as well as the child. This will maximize the chances of getting the best shots possible.


Ken McDonald is a photography enthusiast who loves everything about digital cameras. In his spare time he reviews digital slr cameras and blogs about photography.