A Good Way To Photograph Children
by William Lulow

Photographing kids, especially children under five years old, presents a whole host of special problems for the photographer. There are several things I like to do when given this task, and when it’s my own granddaughter, it can be even more daunting.

The first thing, as one should do with every shoot, is to be prepared. I recently went out to my granddaughter’s house to do her 9-month portrait. Before she came home from daycare, I was able to set up my background and I only used my big umbrella as a mainlight. This is what the setup looked like:

We set up the background in the living room and I was able to get a few test shots done for exposure. When the baby came home, I was all ready. That’s the key to doing any shots of children, probably no matter what the age, because when they see their surroundings transformed into a studio, they are most often surprised and kind of taken with the whole procedure. But that wonderment can disappear very rapidly. I was able to fire off roughly 100 frames before Haylie began to get tired of the whole thing.

I have determined that one, large light usually suffices for such occasions. I’ve always spoken of lighting the background separately, but here, the subject is rather close to the background and because the light from my big umbrella is so soft, it usually lights the background as well. If I want a completely white background (because, even at this distance, the background would not be pure white), I would have to adjust it in Photoshop, a fairly easy retouch job. Here is one image from this shoot:

One of my tricks when photographing children, as I said, is to make as many images as quickly as possible while expressions are “new” and while they are most interested in the process. You usually have more time with adults to get them involved, but kids tend to lose interest much more quickly and start crawling around. The secret is to capture the moment from the outset! Then you will wind up with a series of images you can use!

Here, mom even got to change outfits!

All images (c)William Lulow