22 June 2012

Conscious Living: Photographing Childhood

This post is written by contributing author Anabel Bouza.

We can all agree that children are a wild and genuine bunch - the original daydreamers.

Recently, under commission to photograph a festive crowd, I became curious about the kids in the room and the unbridled fun they were having amongst themselves. They paid no heed to me or the camera as I approached them, which gave me freedom to get really close and peer through my lens into that world I once knew.

photographing children
Illustration by Anabel Bouza
This experience made me think about how often parents issue commands to their children in order to stage a photographic moment. Yes, kids can be a difficult subject to shoot, but if the aim is to capture the moment and encapsulate their personality, there are better ways to go about it than commanding them to smile, stare stiffly into the lens, or say cheese.

You really don't need fancy gadgets to get a good candid picture of your children. 
A good way to be prepared for the pictorial moment is to have your camera on you (and ready) at all times. Since a lot of phones these days have pretty good cameras,you're covered just by having one of those on hand.

Learn what your device can and can't do by playing with it and pushing its limits - get creative.Here are some tips to better capture kids in their element:
  • Try different perspectives. Get down to their level for a shot that represents the scene from their point of view.
  • Shoot what is meaningful to them. They'll look back at these images and remember how much they loved that one toy, or those tattered shoes...
  • To prevent motion blur and freeze a running/jumping child in place, try the Sports Mode on your point-and-shoot camera. This is particularly helpful when there isn't a lot of light available.
  • Your camera's Portrait Mode helps make your child stand out by blurring the background —notice that this works best when the subject is up close. Otherwise, zooming in is a good way of not interfering while still filling the frame with your subject. 

  • Move around to get the best view, it's worth it!
  • Try shooting in bursts, that way you end up with multiple similar images from which to choose. Some cameras have an option called Continuous Shooting, which automatically fires several photos in quick succession —helpful if the kid is moving a lot, or if you want to have a version of the image where he/she is not blinking.
  • Above all: be playful! Be flexible!

Here is a 30 Day Challenge from Click it Up a Notch to help you master the art of photographing your children, and familiarize them with the fact that a camera in the room doesn't mean they should freeze in place or give a fake smile. 

Let the journey begin!

Anabel Bouza insists there's powerful magic in the action of creating something out of a vague vision, a chill of inspiration. She is an illustrator with a passion for nature, paper manipulation, and pointing her camera at things.

Her appreciation for simplicity dates back to a former life in Cuba - her strange homeland - where she refined the ability to see the alternative uses of common objects, and the enchanting side of things. She's often found blogging as
Weird Amiga, hard at work in her sunny studio, or staring at things as if looking at them for the first time. Her tiny family is comprised of her husband & a turtle; they're new to the city of Chicago, and they love it. Connect to Anabel via facebook and twitter.


  1. i agree,you cannot make a child stand still (so i gave up on making them!. even if they stand still they'll do something crazy with their faces, and those would be priceless!!!

  2. I love this... My favorite shots of our children are not the posed ones, but rather the images of them doing silly things, or something they love... or just being them selves in a quiet moment...Lovely post and great tips!

  3. Thanks for the great tips Anabel!

  4. Thank you for another great creative idea, Anabel! Only those who haven't tried photographing children don't know what a challenge this is! Going with the kids' flow is a perfect way to sneak in their play and be able to document it :D

  5. Oh yes, it is hard! :) It's also a privilege to be allowed into their world & vision...

    I also feel that discarding all those natural (fun or not) moments would be a disservice to them —as adults, these childhood pictures can help them construct a better picture of themselves!

  6. Children can be so delightful to photograph when they are simply being themselves enjoying life.

  7. These are fantastic tips, Anabel! I learned the trick of sports mode when taking pics of my niece and nephews because they hardly ever stop moving! :)

  8. Cool post! Thanks for sharing!