Photographing Children :: Digital Photo Secrets

Photographing Children

by David Peterson 91 comments

Parents today take more photos of their kids by time they're one than most parents in previous generations took in an entire childhood. That's a great thing - technological advances let us take lots of photos at very low cost, and it’s much more convenient than it has ever been. But quantity doesn't necessarily mean quantity. Do you know how to take the best possible photos of your kids? Here are some tips for taking kid photos that are both effective and memorable.

[Watch the bonus advanced video for today about the Golden Hour at the end of this article]

Eye Level

When you photograph bugs, you likely get down on the ground — to bug-level. The same rule applies to your children. Kids may not be as small as bugs, but if they're looking at your kneecap and you're photographing them from six feet in the air, that perspective is not doing them (or your image) any justice. When you photograph kids from above it makes them appear diminutive and insignificant, and I know your children are anything but that!

So get down to their level, but also make sure that you fill the frame. A child’s expression is more vibrant and compelling when you get close. When there are no distracting elements, your viewer will give his full attention to your child’s personality—which is exactly what you want. Check out the above image for a great example of what I mean.

There are exceptions, of course, such as play groups, sporting events, and celebrations like this photo of a kid's birthday party. Don’t be afraid to step back when it’s appropriate, so you can capture that whole crowd of kids watching the birthday boy blow out his candles—and then zoom in, too, so you’ll also have a close shot.

Capture Natural Expressions

Sometimes you want kids to pose if only to keep them still long enough to take a picture. At the same time, posed images can lead to forced expressions, so posing isn’t always the right move. In the above image, the blonde boy on the left looks a little uncertain, as if he’s wondering whether or not he’s doing a good job with his pose. The boy in the yellow shirt has broken into the same forced grin he probably uses every time someone tells him to “say cheese.” To avoid those unnatural expressions, try engaging your child in an activity (preferably one where she isn’t running around the room or yard). When she’s focused on something else, you’ll be able to sneak in some shutter clicking.

If it helps, give your child some distance and switch to a zoom lens. This photo of two kids with a laptop is a great example of kids who are preoccupied enough that they don’t notice the camera. When you shoot a scene like this one, you can be several feet away with a zoom lens, and your subjects probably aren’t going to be distracted by your presence. The results are much better than two faces with forced smiles.

Most kids won't sit still for long, so it’s a good idea to look for an activity that will engage them physically but stops short of a foot race, somersaults or a toddler-style spaz attack. Bubble blowing is a great example of what I mean—your subjects get to play, but they’re still enough that you can get a great series of images without asking them to pose or chasing them around with your camera.

If you do need to take some posed shots—say you’re at a wedding or other formal event—do those first before your subjects start to get tired of the camera. Then spend the rest of your time shooting candids—remember that kids play hard and wear out fast, so the more photos you get early in the day the better.

Familiarity Ensures Better Images

Kids are more comfortable in the places where they live, learn and play. Playgrounds, parks, school, home—these are the best places to get great kid shots, especially when they’re engaged with friends, family or pets. No matter where you decide to shoot, make sure your subjects are well-rested and well-fed—tired, hungry kids make cranky subjects. And again, get those pictures taken early before moods change and patience gets short (both yours and your subject’s).

Children Grow Up Quickly

One minute you're photographing his first birthday party and the next it's his high school prom. Time goes by fast, and kids grow up even faster. Make sure you have your camera with you all the time, and try to do some annual photo shoots, too, so you can have a timeline of growth for each of your children. There are a lot of different ways you could approach this idea—take the same picture in the same spot every year, for example, or have your child pose with the same object. Think of it like another version of a school photo, only a bit more natural.

Lastly, don’t neglect yourself. I know that sometimes you can be so busy taking pictures of your kids that you forget to get on the other side of the camera. Remember that it’s just as important for your child to have photos of you and of the whole family together as it is for him to have photos of himself.


  1. Get down to their level
  2. Fill the frame (most of the time)
  3. Zoom out to capture groups and context
  4. Take candid shots
    • Engage your child in a fun activity
    • Zoom in
    • Find something active, but not too active
    • If you must shoot posed images, do them early
  5. Choose a familiar setting
  6. Schedule annual photo shoots to chronicle your child’s growth
  7. Make sure you’re in a few shots!

Today's Video - The Golden Hour

Watch the bonus advanced video for today about taking advantage of the Golden Hour.

Next Time : A technique for ensuring that with every group of photos you take, you'll always have a couple of great ones.

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  1. charles sacharsky says:

    Hi Dave thank you for the tip's I will use them ever time.

  2. Philip says:

    Many thanks for great children photography tips!

  3. Mercedes says:

    Fantastic post. Thank you very much

  4. Sukumar Paul says:

    I like taking candid (not posed) photo of children and find your tips very useful, thank you

  5. Karen says:

    I am enjoying all of your tips. Can you please resend tip #5. It never arrived. Thanks!

  6. Kelvardo says:

    wow, this works real good

  7. Alexander says:

    Hello @wunmi are you in Nigeria?hope you're enjoying this lessons too

  8. Alexander says:

    Dave thanks so much for all these tips......a million thanks to you.

  9. Rannius says:

    thank u sir

  10. Rod Wilkinson says:

    Excellent points well explained

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Missed yesterday's tip?
Next Time : A technique for ensuring that with every group of photos you take, you'll always have a couple of great ones.
8 minutes
About David Peterson
David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.

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