Quick Tips: How to capture fun, expressive portraits of children

by Tracie Maglosky

posted Tuesday, May 27, 2014 at 9:13 AM EST


Anyone who's ever tried photographing children knows it can be an epic challenge. One of the greatest trophies is an amazing image that captures the personality and magic that each child possesses. Trying to keep the little squirmers in one place may seem impossible, though, and at times it actually might be!

Here are a few tips from Olympus Trailblazer and professional photographer, Tracie Maglosky, to keep your wiggle worms still and/or capture them mid-squirm. Tracie's camera of choice is the Olympus OM-D E-M1, and the lenses that capture it all are Olympus's 25mm f/1.8 and 75mm f/1.8.

GIVE THEM A JOB! It's hard to wiggle too much when you have something to do. Whether we're blowing bubbles, flying a kite, reading a book, pulling a wagon filled with our favorite stuffed friends, or throwing a ball. It's important to keep your aperture above f/3.5 to avoid missed focus and unwanted blur.

Image used with permission. © Tracie Maglosky

LET THEM EAT CAKE... er, well, at least let them play! The perfect images are honest. Capturing imagination, creativity and pure joy at work in the moment is true genius. Children want to play (most adults do too), and your job gets a lot easier when you don't ask them to "be still." Ask for a specific movement for which you are prepared...like jumping, twirling, peek-a-boo, etc. Keep your shutter speed fast so that you can capture the endless quick motions!

Image used with permission. © Tracie Maglosky

PLAY WITH THEM! Some of the best images are captured while parents and children are interacting. Shooting outside during this affords the best opportunity with regards to light, giving you enough speed to capture the energy of little wigglers.

Image used with permission. © Tracie Maglosky

As a last resort...you must BE WILLING TO BRIBE THEM! It may sound too good to be true, but there aren't many toddlers that wouldn't do just about anything for a treat! Be prepared for anything. Toddlers have their own agenda, and they don't always know how to communicate what that is before the session. Keep a light heart, be brave, and bribe those babies! Once they've given you that 30 seconds of motionlessness, feel free to play with your aperture and open it up to create a sharper point of focus and bring your background out of focus. 

Image used with permission. © Tracie Maglosky

This tutorial is brought to you by Olympus and the Olympus OM-D E-M1. For more about Tracie and other Olympus Trailblazers, head over to the Olympus Visionaries site to learn more. Do you have a specific question about children's portraiture? This is your chance to ask a pro portrait photographer! - Submit it in the comments section below, and we'll pass along it along to Tracie and post the answer back here!

(This post was written by an outside author and provided by Olympus, but we felt the tips it offered were useful regardless of whose camera you're shooting with. Do you agree? Would more tutorial articles like this on a variety of subjects be interesting to you? Let us know in the comments, including any specific topics you'd like to see covered!)