Photographing Kids and Pets

by Caroline Cohoon | March 18, 2008

Learn a few tips to getting great photos of your favorite subjects. Kids and pets, I think is safe to say are the most photographed subjects. Both hold a special place in our hearts, and they are always just so darned cute! There are a few things you can do to make the pictures of your children and pets turn out amazing.

Easily enough, most of the tricks to get better pictures will work on both kids and pets. Squeaky toys, favorite snacks and shiny objects are great for getting attention with small children and animals. I mean that in all seriousness, no offense intended. If you have someone to help you, have them try to get the subject’s attention while you frame your shot.

For composition, a few guidelines to remember when shooting kids and pets. Get down at their eye-level. You don’t want to be looking at the top of their head all the time, so kneel or sit down at their level, you’ll capture more natural expressions that way. Also, get close. Look for details and facial expressions that really capture the moment, and fill the picture with them.

In all likelihood, you won’t get a child or animal to sit still and pose for a picture. There are two ways around this. One, capture them sleeping. Babies, toddlers, kittens, dogs, they can all be simply adorable when sleeping. It gives you plenty of time to work with the scene and get a good shot. Just be careful to be quiet, and don’t use flash.

The other solution is, don’t make them pose! Let them be themselves and run around and play. You’ll be able to get some great candid shots, and with children, if you follow them around they may begin to play along with you and get comfortable with the camera. A little eight-year-old girl I photographed wanted to see each picture I took. As I showed them to her she started to try new poses and work with me more, she came up with some of the cutest ideas for pictures. She enjoyed having a part in creating the picture and was learning as she went. If you have a small, point-and-shoot camera you may even try letting the child hold it and take a few pictures of you as well. Make sure to stay close though, and if you know they have trouble handling objects you probably shouldn’t give them a heavy or expensive camera.

As when taking all pictures, pay attention to the background and lighting in the photo. If you can shoot outside you can probably work without flash. When shooting inside, try to work with your subject near a window or area that lets in a lot of soft, natural light.

Both kids and pets have trouble sitting still; they run, bounce and roll around almost constantly. To capture them, you will need to take a very fast picture. If you can set the shutter speed of your camera, try working with something that is 1/250 a second or faster. This will freeze the motion in the picture and give you a nice, clear shot. If you can’t adjust the shutter speed you can use a preset mode. Some camera’s actually call the setting "kids & pets" but most call it "sports" or "action." It may be an icon of a running man, or little faces of a kid and dog.

To get slightly more technical, you will need plenty of light to use these settings. In order for the camera to take the picture at the proper exposure (i.e. not too dark and not too bright) there needs to be enough light for the shutter to close fast. Otherwise it will try to stay open longer to let more light in and you will probably see some motion blur. If this happens, try adding flash and see if you like how the picture turns out.

The most important thing to remember is to be patient. With digital cameras it is easy to just take a ton of photos and sort through them later. Take as long as is needed and keep shooting, you’re bound to get many great photos. You can’t always see all the detail on your LCD display, so don’t start deleting things until you’ve viewed them on the computer.

Photographs courtesy Dianna Walker. Copyright 2007.

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