When photographing children, be their friend (22.06.2016)


Text and photos: Margit Grünthal

I started to photograph when my son was born. Taking photos of my own children became a hobby and later a job.

Photographing children can be very hard and really fun at the same time. They have numerous expressions that are interesting to capture – their sincerity, childlike innocence, shyness and sometimes it is even great to capture a child who is angry, having a tantrum or being sassy.

Children grow up very fast and it is natural that we want to capture them growing up and developing into personalities – their first bath, first porridge bites, first bike ride etc. until they graduate from school. Too often I hear from parents that they regret not having that many photos of their children growing up.

I know from my own experience that when the most exciting things happen, there is no camera around. Thus, a recommendation to parents – keep a camera with you. It would be sad to only have childhood photos in a phone or even worse – have no photos at all.

I like to photograph children in their naturalness which means that I do not ask them to pose and smile if they don’t happen to offer to do it themselves.

Children are unpredictable. We cannot even predict the behaviour of our own children yet along children’s who meet us for the first time. Be patient; give them time to get use to you. Get to know one another. Ask the child about things that they are really interested in. Ask them if they have a funny story to tell you... Maybe they want to tell you a secret. Don’t be yet another grown-up who tells them what to do. Be their friend and make them laugh at times as well. I usually let the parents know that the shooting might take longer than planned. Rushing things does not get you anywhere.

With older children, it might be helpful to send parents away for a while. Some children change with an instant and open up.

There’s one other tip for getting a good portrait that I have used with children and also grown-ups and that is as follows: ask them to close their eyes for a second or just look down. Count to three and the moment they look back at the camera is THE moment – click! That is how you get a fresh and sharp pair of eyes. A look that is not empty.

Before shooting, pay attention to the background behind the object as well so there wouldn’t be any disturbing subjects or colours.

Children may get moody when they get tired of the shooting. They would like to do something else then – play a game or change location. Give them a chance. Keep a bubble maker, some toys, balloons, candies with you for smaller children. You can make use of them during shooting but the main purpose is to offer them a convenient and fun environment so that you would get some good photos.

When it comes to the clothes they wear, I recommend something convenient and light coloured. It is worth having some extra clothes that can be tried out during the shooting.

Yes, take A LOT of photos. Don’t sit there waiting for the ideal moment. That moment may not come. In general, I do not do a lot of photo processing later. It is important to maintain the naturalness of children. I think that “less is more“.

Use different angles when shooting, different heights, be creative. For the best results, you can break some rules.

You definitely should pay attention the child’s favourite toy, a button or pocket on their sweater, tiny toes etc. In the end, you are creating memories of their childhood that should be warm and cute to look at even after tens of years. 

I recommend photo equipment: Nikon D610 or D750 which are small and light-weight enough and performs really well. I mainly use Nikon’s 50mm f/1.8G and Nikon’s 85mm f/1.8G lenses. These are lenses that give you a very sharp image but the area that is not in focus remains nicely soft.  Because of their good optical power it is better to use these lenses in the natural light. I like soft light and using a flash is not my cup of tea.  That is why; I do not use flash that often. But sometimes a reflector is of good help.

Interesting emotions and a lot of memories!



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