Tips for capturing a smile, naturally:
Photographing Children Naturally is the philosophy I share in my new eBook, Photographing Children Naturally and in my online class Photographing Children: Rising to the Challenge. My pseudo documentary style embodies a posed-but-not posed approach. I set the stage and then encourage the children to be children.
Parents often want a smile and so I work on bringing on that smile, naturally. Here are some tips for capturing smiles.
- Forget about the smile (initially, at least). Instead, work towards building a connection with the child. Relate by creating a playful environment, helping the child forget about the camera. Children are smart, they know what you are up to (“You want me to smile – no way!) and they can be stubborn. Remedy: Be charming and relate. Ask a teen about music, a ten-year-old about skateboards, be silly with a toddler, make funny faces and sounds with a baby. Play music, sing songs, have a bag full of communication tricks ready.
A portrait is a collaboration. Instead of saying, “Look here…smile,” wait for the child to relax while you continue with your banter (relationship building strategy). With time, trust will arise, and the strained lines of a fake smile will fade.
Think beyond the concept of a smiley face. An honest smile is subtle, happiness leaps from the lip line, or exclaims by a confident head tilt, twinkles in the eyes, gestures with the hands. Train yourself to see these subtleties, they are the essential ingredients for good portraits. Art is in these details.
Be patient and ready. Determine the camera settings from the get-go. Work on shutter priority if action is the photo goal or aperture priority if you want a selective focus photo. Consider manual exposure, especially when lighting conditions are stable and when using a speedlite. Test fill beforehand. Don’t be fussing with your camera. Be ready and respond on the spot.
Before the child entered the room, I set up by placing an Impact travel backdrop stand (which comes with two light stands to hold the pole and a travel case) near a six foot slider for window light as the main light source. I used a Westcott white “Wrinkle” resistant 10 foot backdrop. I like this backdrop for young children, as it is soft like a fuzzy blanket and they enjoy lying on it.
I used the xRite Color Checker Passport to create a color calibration profile and also for a white balance target. A speedlite, diffused by a Westcott Rapid Box Octa for fill, was hand-held by my assistant. Knowing I would not be able to pose Aniya, my assistant moved with the child as if tethered, maintaining a 45 degree angle to the child’s position.
To learn more about Photographing Children Naturally, please read my eBook (available exclusively at flatbooks.com) and join me for “Photographing Children: Rising to the Challenge,” a four weeks class (at ppsop) rich with lessons, assignments, in-depth critiques, and a lively Q&A.
I will also be teaching “All About Color” and “Painting Photos” at ppsop.com Classes start September 5th. Hope to see you in one of my classes.
All my best,
Photographing Children Naturally eBook – Reviews