How to Take Better Children's Photos: Tip 1

September 05, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Natural light portrait of a 2 year old toddler in open shade at the edges of a pine tree wooded area by Northern Virginia wedding and portrait photographer Roger Hammons


Harsh lighting makes for harsh portraits, which isn't fun for the child, the photographer, or the viewer.  Just don't do it!

One of the easiest places to photograph people is in open shade.  Open shade is mellow, easy-going, "do-your-own-thing" light.  It is usually soft and relatively even, so you don't have to worry about dark shadows, squinting eyes, or photographing your subject from one angle only.  Open shade allows the photographer more freedom to photograph an active child.  Requiring fewer instructions and less intrusion by the photographer, the session is more fun, and the photographs are more natural.

You can see this in my photograph of 2-year-old Gavin, which was taken in a wooded area near his home.  You'll notice how gentle the light is, how subtle the shadows are.  This quality of light allows us to enjoy Gavin's beautiful face, which is well lit despite the cap.  Because the lighting was similar in all directions, I was able to let Gavin enjoy the sights and sounds of the woods, while I maneuvered freely to capture his play from a good angle.  

Where do you find open shade?  

As in my photograph of Gavin, tree lines create beautiful open shade lighting by blocking the sun when it is not directly overhead.  And, if the trees are leafy, you'll often find nice portrait lighting underneath the canopy, even when the sun is directly overhead.  Sweet!  

Outside in urban areas, look for open shade where buildings and overhangs block the direct sunlight.  

Indoors, look for north-facing windows and doors to let in light.  Famous since at least the Renaissance, this source of indirect light resembles open shade but is usually more directional.  You'll want to start taking photographs with your back to the window and your child facing you.  That'll put a nice soft light on the child's face -- beautiful!

While it is always a challenge to capture great photographs of a small child, you're off to a good start if you succeed in finding great light that's easy to work in.  

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I love capturing a child's portrait as he or she experiences the world.  Call me at 703-729-3780 if you'd like to start planning a session for you and your child.  I'd enjoy the chat! 

And, if you'd like hands-on training in photography, let's chat about joining one of my classes or workshops.  

My Northern Virginia wedding and portrait photography studio is conveniently located in Ashburn, Virginia, just west of Dulles International Airport and north of the Brambleton shopping center.  


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