If you analyze the many reactions people have when they notice you’ve taken your camera out to click a picture of them, you’ll notice that children have an entirely different reaction compared to adults.
In order to shoot portraits of kids completely in their element, sometimes it’s best to click photos candidly, in their environment, whether at a park, or playing with friends, or even at home with a pet, or a bunch of toys, doing the things they love doing most. For a greater deal of intimacy in your photos, it’s important you try to get the camera down to their level for the majority of photos you click, even if that means being on your knees.
When attempting to click candid kid portraits, in order that the kids in the shot aren’t looking at the camera or reacting to you, the photographer, it’s important that you be as unobtrusive as possible. When you give up the role of photographer and become an observer following your subject, in effect, your eye is shooting candidly. Your eye might manage to capture people in their element several times. Being unobtrusive is always a good idea when you don’t want to draw attention to yourself.
Dressing down, carrying only essential equipment, shooting quickly, moving around, spotting potential pictures in advance and constantly keeping a lookout for potential views are techniques for candid shooting usually used by photojournalists for the reportage way of shooting, but can well be employed while shooting candid, freestyle portraits of kids too. Lenses with longer focal lengths could be used for photos framed from across the street perhaps, without your subject getting distracted by you and your camera hovering nearby. A medium telephoto will help you to click pictures with a shallow depth of field and a more compressed perspective, allowing for detached, candid photos.
Spontaneous, natural moments can often be captured on camera, moments caught among many, with no obvious interferences on the part of the photographer. Encouraging your subject to do whatever comes naturally and establishing a rapport that inspires trust with them will take you a long way. Time spent doing this will be suitably rewarded. It’s best to refrain from any techniques that might not be mutually agreed upon.
Sometimes photographers know exactly the kind of expression they’re looking for from their subject and work towards encouraging it. At times, however, they might just prefer to capture a naturally occurring expression. Both these kinds of photos will appear candid, at least at the face of it. Studying kids and their expressions, and working out what elements lead to suitable expressions is important for photographers specializing in child portraits.
When you’re shooting portraits of kids in a studio environment, it’s nice if you have somebody or something to keep the child busy and occupied. This will allow you time to set up and get the shot. Investing in soft toys and other attention-grabbing props is a good idea for studio photographers who specialize in child portraiture.
Wikipedia describes Candid photography as “snapshot photography that focuses on spontaneity rather than technique, on perfecting the immersion of a camera within events rather than focusing on setting up a staged situation“. So remember to immerse yourself in the activity the kids are up to rather than worrying about the technicalities, have a little fun and shoot away!