cameras and children // direction

cameras + children |workhouseblog

For our fourth and final part of this series I will give a few pointers on how to engage with your little ones when you’re trying to photograph them. Trust me I’ve had a few hard audiences when it comes to kids, I even had to soothe a crying baby in the middle of a shoot once. I’ve seen and done it all. Keep in mind that the one thing that makes your photographs special is the the people in them. The stories you are capturing, the beauty in the everyday and the moments in time that you’re persevering will mean so much to you and your family in the years to come. Imagine when everyone is all grown up, you’re all gathered around albums reliving memories and retelling stories- no one will even give a second thought about composition or lighting.

A good friend of mine who is also a photographer once told me something that will forever stick with me and is something that I use at every single shoot. It was something so simple yet so profound that I couldn’t believe that I had not thought of putting it into words before. “Give them an action and then shoot the reaction.”, brilliant! While most people think that the money shot is a posed one, its really in the moments in between: the gestures, facial expressions and movements that show your child’s personality. This is where the magic happens. While this may look effortless in professional photos know that behind the scenes is a completely different scenario, it may be in the 4th shot that the everything comes together in harmony.

It’s always been my philosophy to try to make art out of the everyday and ordinary…it never occurred to me to leave home to make art– Sally Mann (one of my all time favorite photographers)


Most frustrations come when you’re rushed to take a photo and your little one has other plans and won’t stay still or do what you envision to be the perfect image. A simple direction like can you count the petals on that flower or can you see my nose behind my camera from where you’re at can do the trick, so can sharing a funny family moment or an inside joke or even asking them to play a character . When shooting action shots ask them to do a couple of steps before the action that you’re hoping to get, like can you run up that hill and then jump as high as you can or can you show your sister how you dance like a penguin then jump in that puddle. Giving them a series of actions helps take the pressure off the action itself and allows them to enjoy the experience. Getting them to participate in an activity is a great option too: gardening, painting, jumping rope, etc… For posed shots you can do the same, saying can you all stand next to each like you really REALLY like each other or having someone directly behind you getting real genuine laughs always does the trick and is the most authentic. There is nothing better than getting that real giant smile that you adore out of your kid.

While posing can be the most challenging part of taking a portrait, at least it was for me when I first started out, being fun and upbeat really does make a difference, crazy baby talk doesn’t. I always ask my subjects to take a deep breath, to relax their face or jaw and to think about something that I know they love and brings them happiness. Unfortunately, I’ve seen fart jokes work too. You know your child best so this should come easy.

For this part of the series, play with your child. Plan what it is you want to get out of this session and be prepared to shoot and shoot and shoot, those little humans can move! Give them a series of actions, get in place and click away, you’ll be surprise by the beauty and life in those images. Make sure when shooting action shots that your have your camera on the right setting so that your camera is able to focus and is up to speed. Don’t be afraid to zoom in and catch the details of a missing tooth laugh or zoom out to seize the feeling of what its like to run on the shores of the beach.

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Thanks for all the feedback in regards to this series, I have really appreciated all your comments and remarks. If there is anything else you have questions about please feel free to ask. And if any of you are interested in a one on one, I would be happy to discuss the details of that with you. Happy Shooting!


2 thoughts on “cameras and children // direction

  1. Jordan Rose

    Hi Des,
    I discovered your blog through Jodi’s link, well deserved! Your photos are truly beautiful. I love this series on shooting children. I only shoot my daughter, but I’ve been trying to hone in on my skill and every bit of advice goes a long way for a novice like myself. I’m off to read the rest of the series now. Truly stunning images…

    1. des Post author

      Jordan, thanks so much for stopping by and saying such lovely things. I am glad that you’re enjoying the photo series, if you’re on instagram be sure to look me up and #workhouseblog i’d love to see some photos! be well.


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