Portrait photography has never been my forte.  In fact I have pretty much avoided it at all costs.  It scares me a bit.  First, you have to please someone other than yourself; your subject.  In the nature, landscape and architecture photography I have focused on almost exclusively the subject has little to say about how the final image turns out.  Second, I very much enjoy the solitary aspect that photography can have.  I can go to the middle-of-nowhere and be alone with my camera and engross myself in something I love.  Portrait phot0graphy, by its very definition, does not allow for much solitude.

But I have decided, for the sake of improving and expanding my photography skills, I need to branch out.  I started photographing a friend and my niece.  Then last week I had a portrait photography first for me; a four year old child.  I think I may have jumped in with both feet on this one. But that is a good thing and a great way to learn something.  Sink or swim so to speak.

These photographs are from my first shoot of a young child and the tips here are a few things I discovered in the process.  Some are specific to photographing kids, some can apply to any age subject and some even work for any photography subject, human or not.

  1. Be prepared – Get everything set ahead of time.  Make sure your camera and flash settings are where you need them before your subject arrives.  Get tot he location early and scout out a few good locations.  Whether shooting a child or adult don’t keep them waiting while you get things set up.
  2. Lighting is key – If you aren’t using studio lighting, but natural light, be watchful of how that light is interacting with your subject.  Are there shadows across their face?  Is the  sun in their eyes?  Move around to find the best lighting and try using a reflector to bounce light back up at your subject.
  3. Talk – Keep the kids engaged and having fun by talking to them, asking questions and not making the experience so much like a chore.
  4. Kids move fast – Keep the camera ready and shoot.
  5. Let kids be kids – Don’t try to force smiles or poses.  Kids acting natural will result in great, fun poses.
  6. Work with the Kids – Let the kids make decisions of where and how they want to pose.  Let them play naturally and capture them being a child.  It will result in photos that don’t appear forced and will hopefully keep your subject relaxed and more photogenic.
  7. Be Unconventional – You don’t have to limit yourself to the traditional “head shot” portrait.  If you take points 4, 5 and 6 into account these “unconventional” shots will just happen.  As cliche as it may be, think outside of the box too.
  8. Take lots of photos – This is easier done with digital photography.  But, especially for those of us just starting out with portraits, shoot as much as you can and edit down later.

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