How to Capture a Child’s Personality

If you’re a parent you most likely have school pictures of your children–the kind where every child is placed in the exact same stiff pose that conceals any semblance of their identity and personality. These pictures are fine, but how many of them do you really need? Once you have a mug shot, who needs another one? Why not take pictures of your children that capture their own unique personality? Pictures that show your child’s particular expressions and stances are a family treasure that will bring a smile to your face for years to come. However, as everyone who has ever tried to photograph their child knows, this is a difficult task not suited for the fainthearted. So here are some tips to help you capture even the most uncooperative child’s personality.

  1. Relax. If you want your subject to relax, you must relax. You can’t force a child to be natural and relaxed by yelling at them or threatening them. I understand the stress. You just want a good picture. Is that so much to ask? You just want a few moments of cooperation! Take a deep breath and realize that even though your pictures may not turn out perfect, you are almost certain to get better pictures by relaxing and accepting what you are able to take instead of stressing out.
  2. Get past the cheese. A lot of times children have a fake cheese smile that they make when getting their picture taken. They may not even realize how fake it looks. They think they are being cooperative by cheesing for you. Don’t fight it go ahead and snap a few cheesy shots. That will let them get it out of their system and then you can begin to get some better shots.
  3. Set up the pose, but then begin joking or teasing to elicit a natural smile and expression. If you know the child, you can say personal things that will get them smiling. If you are photographing someone else’s child, try asking about their boyfriend or girlfriend. This almost always brings a smile. And of course, you can be silly if need be to get your subject comfortable.
  4. Use burst mode or continuous shooting. Once a child starts laughing or moving, you are going to have some throw away shots. They may blink or get out of your depth of focus. So you want to take as many pictures as possible then throw away the bad ones and keep the good ones.
  5. Try taking the shot before the child is ready. Once you have the child relatively posed try taking a shot before they are ready for you. I’ll often say “just relax while I get my camera settings adjusted. Don’t worry these shots don’t count.” Then you can take several shots while the child is relaxed. This doesn’t always produce good pictures, but sometimes it produces a real jewel.

Here are some pictures I recently took of my daughter. In the first one I started to pose her and got a unnatural stiff portrait. I took the next two pictures following the tips above: I joked with her while continuously shooting. Without knowing my daughter you can’t appreciate how well these pictures capture her personality, but anyone who knows her can tell you that these pictures look just like her–exactly what I was going for.


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