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Photographing Children; Interaction At Eye Level Bookmark and Share

Photographing children is a joy because of their innocence, the honesty in their faces, and their beauty. At different stages of their development, a photographer needs to understand how to interact with them and how to elicit the best expressions, whether they are serious, sweet, joyous, or moody.

Candid Shots
When photographing very young children, for example, I will ask them to do things that will almost guarantee wonderful facial expressions. I photographed my niece, Jamie (#1), when she was five years old by asking her to hold on to exercise rings in a park. Her little hands couldn’t quite support her weight, so as she was slipping she was cracking up. Some kids might be afraid in this situation, but I knew her personality and I got the expression I was looking for. Shortly after this, she had an ice cream cone and, knowing that my dog would eat virtually anything, I asked Jamie to hold it out for Buddy to lick. She did, and I got another wonderful candid and joyous expression (#2).

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All Photos © 2009, Jim Zuckerman, All Rights Reserved
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Lots of small children love being thrown in the air, and this is another great way to elicit expressions of joy. The little girl in photo (#3) was having a great time playing with her father, and every time she went airborne I captured a great moment. The overcast sky made the background completely unobtrusive so nothing detracted from the girl. I took the shot when she reached the highest point of the throw, because at this point she had reversed direction and was virtually motionless. This minimized the risk of blur.

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Sometimes just putting young friends together works. Their natural inclination is to giggle, pout, or otherwise be engaged with each other. There are many wonderful images to be taken if you are ready, such as photos (#4 and #5).

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Sometimes we are lucky to be in the right time and the right place to get a spontaneous shot, and we just happen to have a camera in our hands. Such was the case when I photographed a young girl in a Christmas parade in Puerto Rico (#6).

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Eye-Level Shooting
A simple technique to make pictures of children more intimate and more compelling is to shoot at eye level. Don’t stand at an adult height and shoot down on them. This can work once in a while if you specifically want to suggest how small and vulnerable a small child is, such as in photo (#7). The same little girl taken from ground level (because she was sitting on the grass) in photo (#8) is more intimate and it implies a closer connection between the photographer and the subject.

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The same is true for the kids in photos (#9, #10, and #11). These were taken from different parts of the world (Tennessee, India, and Turkey, respectively), but they all have the same thing in common. They were taken from eye-level with a medium telephoto lens. The telephoto lens produces a sense of compression which is good for flattening the nose and making the background out of focus, and it also allows you to easily fill the frame with the subject without being in their face with your camera. By shooting from several feet away, the child won’t feel like his or her space is being invaded and therefore you’ll be able to capture a more relaxed and natural portrait.

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