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posted: 10/3/2012 5:00 AM

Daily Herald photographers share their expertise on getting great pictures of your kids

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  • Getting close to your subject, and limiting the focus to just her eyes, helps make this a simple but elegant portrait.

      Getting close to your subject, and limiting the focus to just her eyes, helps make this a simple but elegant portrait.
    courtesy of Laura Stoecker Photography LTD

  • Proving that lighting is a key element of good photography, Laura was able to use the sunlight shining through the trees almost like a spotlight. And having one older subject to help the younger one certainly helps for a picture like this.

      Proving that lighting is a key element of good photography, Laura was able to use the sunlight shining through the trees almost like a spotlight. And having one older subject to help the younger one certainly helps for a picture like this.
    courtesy of Laura Stoecker Photography LTD

  • Once your kids are old enough to pose for you, the options for backgrounds become endless. In this case, Laura used a telephoto lens and minimal depth of field to keep the focus on the subject, even while adding the color and texture of the barn in the background.

      Once your kids are old enough to pose for you, the options for backgrounds become endless. In this case, Laura used a telephoto lens and minimal depth of field to keep the focus on the subject, even while adding the color and texture of the barn in the background.
    courtesy of Laura Stoecker Photography LTD

  • On the first day of school, I once again went to the longer lens to keep the focus on the girls and let the background fade out behind. But I did ask them to stand near their bus stop where I could see the sunrise peeking through the trees farther up our street.

      On the first day of school, I once again went to the longer lens to keep the focus on the girls and let the background fade out behind. But I did ask them to stand near their bus stop where I could see the sunrise peeking through the trees farther up our street.
    COURTESY OF CHRISTOPHER HANKINS

  • For this winter portrait of my daughters, Clare and Addie, I used a telephoto lens to minimize the focus of the woods in the background, then just told them to have fun. Clare lifting Addie off the ground was her own idea.

      For this winter portrait of my daughters, Clare and Addie, I used a telephoto lens to minimize the focus of the woods in the background, then just told them to have fun. Clare lifting Addie off the ground was her own idea.
    COURTESY OF CHRISTOPHER HANKINS

  • Sometimes you just have to envision what's going to happen and be in the right place to capture the moment. With his daughter, Natalie, running at him and using a telephoto lens, John framed this picture vertically to emphasize the kite as well as his excited daughter.

      Sometimes you just have to envision what's going to happen and be in the right place to capture the moment. With his daughter, Natalie, running at him and using a telephoto lens, John framed this picture vertically to emphasize the kite as well as his excited daughter.
    courtesy of John Starks

  • While most cameras would try to activate a flash in this scene, John's lack thereof made this picture of his daughter, Cece, much more dramatic. He set the camera to expose for the sunlight (not the darker foreground) and let Cece play in the surf instead of directing her to pose.

      While most cameras would try to activate a flash in this scene, John's lack thereof made this picture of his daughter, Cece, much more dramatic. He set the camera to expose for the sunlight (not the darker foreground) and let Cece play in the surf instead of directing her to pose.
    courtesy of John Starks

  • In a great example of getting on your subject's level, John and his daughter, Natalie, stopped to check out a tiny snake while riding their bikes in Leelanau County, Mich. By getting down on her level with the snake, the picture works much better than simply pointing it down at her on the ground.

      In a great example of getting on your subject's level, John and his daughter, Natalie, stopped to check out a tiny snake while riding their bikes in Leelanau County, Mich. By getting down on her level with the snake, the picture works much better than simply pointing it down at her on the ground.
    courtesy of John Starks

 
By Christopher Hankins

Editor's note: Christopher Hankins is the Daily Herald's assistant director for photography for the Fox Valley. He pulled together some of his favorite tips on getting the best pictures of your kids. He and a few of his colleagues share a few photos to illustrate their best tips.

I'm probably the last one who should be dispensing advice on photographing kids.

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I always figured that my children would be the most photographed youngsters on the planet. Instead, it usually takes a birthday, preschool graduation or Christmas morning for me to get the good cameras out and use them.

But recently my two daughters have actually started requesting more photo shoots, so how can a photojournalist father resist? Here are some things I've learned about photographing kids, both my own and those of freelance clients.

First, get on their level. Photograph them doing what THEY love to do. Taking your toddlers into a fancy studio setting and trying to get just the right light on them is just asking for a disaster.

How about taking them to the sandbox and letting them go wild? Hover around them and shoot them candidly while they play, and make it more about their playtime than about a scheduled photo session.

This approach works well with kids at the younger end of the spectrum.

As for camera and lens choice, let me address the first half of that in this way. It really doesn't matter what brand of camera you have. That's easily the most frequent question I get on assignment and off.

Canon, Nikon, Minolta, whatever. Just become more familiar with the one you own.

But what will help tremendously is the use of a longer, or more telephoto lens. By zooming in closer to your subjects, you'll decrease the amount of distracting background elements and focus more on what's important -- your kids.

Wide-angle shots are good for some things, especially when the background is part of your goal, say, at the beach or in the city where you WANT that giant silver bean in the background. But be careful to keep your subjects closer to the camera when you go wide. If you have to point at the print and remind your kids that's them standing in front of the museum, you were too far away.

As your kids get a bit older and are more receptive to the idea of posing for pictures, one of the best ways to improve them is with quality of light.

If you're comfortable with using flash or even studio lights, start playing around with those and experiment with light coming from "off camera" so it looks more natural.

If that kind of thing freaks you out or you don't have the gear, try taking junior out first thing in the morning or right before dusk to take advantage of what photographers call the "golden hour." The warm, directional light during those times makes for dramatically nicer images, and you won't have the shadows in eye sockets like you would when the sun is directly overhead.

Even if you don't have a fancy camera on hand, a point-and-shoot camera can produce some really nice pictures if used the right way.

Use that zoom to bring you subjects in closer and knock out the distracting background elements.

Use the exposure lock feature to make sure you get the right settings on the subject and not the lighter or darker elements in the background. Most of all, no matter what camera, lens or lighting scenario you use, it's ALWAYS a good idea to get closer to your subject.

Fill the camera frame with your child's face and see what happens. Get right in there with them and have some fun. After all, it IS fun, right?

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