Photographing Children Using Your Digital SLR
Photographs of kids being themselves are precious. You and your digital SLR can preserve that preciousness easily and artfully. Take pictures of your children frequently; birthdays are important, but photos of the kids playing in the park, at school, in the yard, and at home can be equally memorable.
Catching children playing
When you photograph your child, you want to be a fly on the wall. Have another adult or older child along to occupy the child’s attention while you clandestinely take a lot of photographs.
Put your digital SLR in Continuous Drive mode so that you can capture a sequence of actions shots. Shoot in Aperture Priority mode and use an aperture of f/3.5 or larger to limit your depth of field and keep the kid in focus. Use a relatively short focal length — 50mm to 105mm — and get fairly close to your subject. The ISO should be between 100 and 400, depending on lighting conditions. Image stabilization compensates for operator movement and comes in handy if you’re moving around a lot to keep up with the child, so use it if you have it.
Unless your camera has a full-frame sensor or the camera’s fairly new, don’t exceed an ISO setting of 400 because digital noise can ruin the image.
Pay attention to your angle: Don’t photograph a child from above, but rather stoop down and photograph at his level. You can also create unique shots by switching to a different vantage point, such as the bottom of the slide.
Taking photos at a birthday party
Birthday parties are wonderful opportunities to get great photos — you can use them to tell a story. Photograph everything at the event: party favors, the setting, and most importantly, the children — especially the birthday girl.
Setting your digital SLR to shoot a kid’s party
Use Aperture Priority mode because it gives you complete control over the depth of field. When you photograph the entire party, you want a large depth of field, so you use a medium aperture that has an f/stop value of f/8.0. When you’re photographing the birthday girl, use a large aperture that has an f/stop of f/3.5, which gives you a very shallow depth of field and draws the viewer’s attention to the honored guest. An ISO of 100 works great for outdoor parties; if you’re indoors, try an ISO of 400. A focal-length range of 50mm to 100mm lets you capture a picture of the entire gang (50mm) or zoom in to capture a picture of the birthday girl opening her presents (100mm). If you want to capture sequences of events, you have the option to shoot in Continuous Drive mode.
Taking pictures at a birthday party
Take photographs of everything: the setting, the guests arriving, the party itself, and the aftermath. If you’re photographing the birthday of a very young child, be on the lookout for flying cake and other sundry missiles of destruction.
Before the birthday girl blows out the candles on her cake, switch to an aperture of f/3.5 and a focal length of about 100mm. Rotate the camera 90 degrees, then compose the picture so that only the girl and the cake are in the viewfinder. Take the picture when she blows out the candles. To capture a sequence of pictures, switch to Continuous drive mode and keep the shutter button pressed while she takes a deep breath and then blows out the candles.