HOW TO: Photograph Children on a Sunny Day

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The best way to get great shots of children on a sunny day is to plan ahead, keep them motivated, and let them enjoy themselves!

5 Tips for Getting Great Shots of Children on a Sunny Day

  1. To get the perfect face shots, start in a shaded doorway in soft, even light before the children are let loose outdoors! Once they are outside on a beach or in a park, they will want to play, and you may not be able to get all the shots you’d like if they don’t want to sit still.
  2. Find funky coloured clothes which will brighten your pictures, and stand out from the neutral colours of the sand and sea.
  3. Make sure the sun is behind the children if you can – and focus and expose on their faces, so you get beautifully lit faces, and the background will be over exposed – which will emphasise the children more, and create an artier look in the shots – see set up your camera the easy way… for how to do this.
  4. Allow the children to play, while you shoot candidly – but give them instructions where needed and suggest particular games for more control in your shots.
  5. Change your camera angle, your own position, and your cropping as you shoot, to create a greater variety of interesting shots.

Check out the video below for ideas and then read the blog for the step-by-step shoot.

Safety Shots in the Doorway

This month’s shoot involves Skye (6) and Sierra (16 months) and, as usual, I start with my safety shots at home, because I am never sure what’s going to happen when I let the kids loose on the beach!

So in order to get the “perfect face shots” I start in the doorway, out of the direct sunlight, where the light is soft and even.

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Check out the links at the end of this blog for more ideas on how to get great close ups of children in the perfect light.

Off to the Beach

We are travelling to the beach by boat, giving me a great opportunity to get some candid, natural shots on the way!

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When the children are on the boat, I can take the opportunity of them being in one place to get some really natural shots!

Clothes

We took along a selection of different clothes for the beach, knowing that we may need several changes, as they are very likely to get wet! I chose brightly coloured clothes to contrast with the neutral colours of the beach, plus a tutu for Sierra.

On the Beach

Once we arrive at the beach the children just want to put on their swimming costumes and play! So it takes a bit of bribery to get them to do some photos first.

I say, “once we’ve done a few photos, then you can put on your costumes and play in the water” – and this works for about 10 minutes!

First of all I ask Skye to put on her pink dress and walk along the beach, while I shoot candid photos, then I ask the family to join her – and I just take shots of them whenever I see a good picture. I am however, composing the shots carefully, and setting up the people so they are as arranged as possible.

It’s important to ask them to walk in a line, or hold hands, when they are together – otherwise you may get the backs of people’s heads, and it can be tricky to see the little one if people keep walking past her. So we have to do this several times.

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Once I’ve got these shots, suddenly the children start running around and falling in the water, and getting wet a whole lot sooner than I expected, but all I can do is go with the flow and see what happens! And luckily we got some great shots of them having loads of fun splashing around.

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It’s easy to get good shots when Sierra is enjoying herself! Changing your camera angle and cropping in different ways, produces more variety.

TIP: When there are several children, it’s good to focus on one at a time, that way you get the best shots from each child – it’s hard to concentrate on getting great shots when you flit from one child to another, and you often end up getting the average of both, rather than the best of each.

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Skye is laughing naturally as she falls in the water, resulting in some very natural, spontaneous shots. The sepia shot on the left was taken after we had just told her she had to put on one more dress before she could wear her swimming costume! But sometimes a sulky shot looks gorgeous!

Shooting Pictures as a Piece of Art

Because I had already taken the “perfect face shots” at home, now I want to create pictures that look like “a piece of art with Skye in them” rather than photos of Skye, if you see what I mean. Sometimes I just love to see a picture on a wall which is a picture in itself, and it’s almost secondary that the person in the picture is your child (although obviously that’s the icing on the cake!).

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I love shooting pictures as art for walls – try standing back a long way and composing a scene with the child in it. The secret is to imagine the scene without the child in it – if it would still work as a picture on it’s own, then you’ve got it!

Use a long zoom lens, even on the wider shots, to throw the background out of focus and place more emphasis on the child. Here I’ve used the 70-200mm.

And this is my favourite shot of the day!

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I just love the carefree feel to this picture, and the pink dress against the sand and blue sky.

Next I ask Sierra to put on the tutu, but very soon it gets so full of muddy water, she can hardly stand up in it!

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Sierra crawls around in the water because she literally can’t stand up with the weight of sand and water in the tutu – well, it’s one way of keeping her still!
Top Right: I love photographing the back of a baby’s head – their little neck and soft curls!

TIP: Toddlers don’t often keep hats on (top left) – try asking Mom to stand very close to the child with the hat in her hand, then get the child’s attention by asking them to look at Dad (by asking Dad to make them laugh) and then when I say “now” Mom puts the hat on the child’s head. She will immediately pull it off, but if you’re quick you can get a fun shot!

Time for Swimsuits!

Finally I let the kids wear their swimsuits, and take some candid shots of them enjoying the beach. These shots are lovely memories of the children playing on the beach, but not as artistic as they would be with “proper clothes” on – so I hope you can see why I make so much effort to do shots in “photogenic clothes” first!

The key to getting great photos of kids is to do it in stages:

  1. Get your safety shots at home, while they are still curious and willing to sit still for you
  2. Choose photogenic clothes (bright colours) to make your outdoor shots look like pieces of art
  3. Keep bribing them to get as many shots as you can
  4. Always let them do what you promised at the end – it’s their reward for helping you get great photos!
  5. Shoot pictures in their beach clothes too, as these shots will be just as important to the parents, as you are capturing the moments they see every time they go to their favourite location.

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Now the children are relaxed and playing happily in the sand, in their normal clothes, without having to pose for photos!

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Just Time to Involve the Parents!

The children were enjoying playing in the sand, so I just asked their parents to join in, and arranged them so everyone could be seen in the shot. I then took a series of different compositions.

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The sand is really wet here, and the parent’s clothes are getting very muddy – but no one minds at this stage of the day!

What a great day out! Stunning location, beautiful people and lots of fun!

If you have any questions regarding this shoot, please leave a comment and I will get back to you.

Annabel x


Video: Jeff Leap / Editing: James Robinson

Check out these blogs for more ideas on photographing children:

Piper and the Pelicans

The 5-Minute “Perfect Smiling Child” Shot

10 Top Tips for Getting Great Photographs of Children

HOW TO: Photograph Children of Different Ages

HOW TO: Find beautiful light on your doorstep

Too Cool for School!

VIDEO: Choosing Children’s Clothes on Location