11 Things To Bring When Photographing Kids

Pack your bag for an easier photo session with kids

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It's a full-fledged cliche to talk about how difficult it is to get great shots of kids. But, there are some things you can do to make your life easier when you're trying to capture winning frames of children. Here's a quick checklist of items that may help prevent your photo shoot from becoming a full-on meltdown. Snacks Sometimes having a bargaining chip can be a lifesaver, but with snacks, there are a few caveats. First, it's important to ask the parents of the child what they can have. If you brought Cheerios and your little subject is gluten-free, you're going to do a lot more harm than good. You can also just encourage the parents to bring along the snacks, but ask that they keep them hidden from the child until the right moment. It's often a lot better to use a snack as a reward than as a bribe. Break out the grub early in the shoot and it'll be a distraction. And, chewing is not usually a flattering expression. Use it to prevent a full-scale meltdown, but don't start leaning on the Chex Mix crutch.
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Your iPad or iPhone Even if you manage to get a child to stand still long enough to take a shot, catching their eyes looking directly at your lens can be next to impossible. The Look Lock from Tether Tools holds your iPhone directly above the front element of your lens, so you can have them focus on whatever colorful character they're currently infatuated with while it appears that they're looking into the lens. Again, this isn't something you should break out unless it becomes the only viable option. Once the iPhone is part of the equation, it's going to be hard to take it out of the picture without a tantrum. So, get what you can naturally first, and then bust it out if you need it.
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A telephoto lens Kids have a natural tendency to mug for a camera, which can be cute, but doesn't hold up over the course of a full shoot. It also may not fit your personal style. By bringing a long lens and standing out of the way, you can capture often capture candid shots more effectively. Even right at the beginning of the shoot while the parents are getting the child ready, you can capture some great moments of them interacting.
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A wide angle lens Portraiture isn't typically a strong suit of wide angle lenses, but they can work excellently for kids. Firstly, they let you capture more of the scene, which can help ground the photo in its environment, but will also give you more frame to work with if you kid won't sit still. Because of the short focal length, you'll also be working with relatively larger depth of field, so it's less likely that he or she will scoot out of focus. Also, while the distortion may be unpleasant in some situations, it can really augment silly expressions, something at which little kids really tend to excel.
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A lot of memory cards Photography is all about capturing the important moment, but with kids, it can be extremely difficult to determine when that moment is going to come. A toddler can go from a tantrum to a perfect, photogenic smile in seconds and back just as quickly, so shooting a lot is a plus. Of course we're not advocating machine gun-style spray and pray, but don't be shy with the shutter
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An assortment of blankets If you're photographing a newborn, a blanket can make for a very nice background. Having a variety of colors and styles with you can give you a ton of options for adding variety. That's key, especially if your subject spends most of the shoot sleeping, which infants often do. Even if you're photographing older kids, blankets can come in handy. Have an assistant or a parent hold one up in the background for a standard headshot or lay one on the ground outside so the kids can sit on it and not get their fancy clothes all filthy.
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Wet wipes Noses run and fruit snacks get plastered to small cheeks, so having something to clean them with other than mom licking her thumb is crucial. Napkins or paper towels will work in a pinch, but they don't clean as well as a wet wipe. It's a lot easier to wipe away boogers during the shoot than it is to Photoshop them out later.
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Stickers They're shiny, cheap and serve more than one purpose on a kid session. Sure, you can use them as a reward, but you can also stick them onto your lens hood to keep the kiddos gaze on your lens rather than on the face of his mom or dad. Just be careful about handing them out early on because they'll want to stick them to their clothes and that might not be ideal for the photos.
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An extra camera body It doesn't have to be a good camera. It doesn't even have to work. But, I've found it sometimes helps to hand the camera to the mom or even one of the kids to bring them in on the process. You can stand right behind them and shoot away while they mug for mom.
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Hair ties and a brush Hair can be tough to get right, especially on an outdoor shoot. You can get a package of hair ties for $2 at any department store. They'll be good forever and they might save a shoot one day. They even come in handy when photographing adults some times. I've handed out at least two during engagement shoots and was glad to have them.
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Tough pants Often, the best angle for photographing kids isn't from standing, it's from kneeling, sitting, even laying on the ground. You want to get down on their level and that often involves getting a bit dirty. So, invest in a pair of pants that's both tough and comfortable to move around in.