Photography Basics: Child Portraits


How to Take Amazing Photos with your DSLR


Lesson Info

Photography Basics: Child Portraits

- [Julia] Kids either scare you or you love it. Who's scared by it? Who's scared of it? Just a couple. Awesome. Who loves it? Like kids are it. Yeah, me too. I love kids. And yeah. I agree with you Judith. I love both too. It's all kinds of good thing. But there's definitely an age. And I actually love these shots. And I have begun to build our kids brand around this over the last year, where the naughtier the better. Like I want them like this because this is the way the parents see them on a daily basis. This is twins and an older child. The older child is actually in the middle of the two outside kids are twins. And I have been photographing them since the twins were a year? Is that right Belinda? She remembers that more than me. A year and a half. Wonderful family. They have twins, an older sibling and two dogs. Is it two dogs in Murphy's house? Yeah. So, this was the recent shoot we did in October, I believe it was. She has a dog who's passing away and so she wanted to get a shot ...

in with the whole family before the dog passed away. And so this was one of those shots from that. And this is the one I wanted her to get big for her family. Because I'm like, "This is so your family," and the shoot was crazy. Were you there at that shoot B? She was. It was like, "Did you get anything?" kind of shoot. Nuts. And I love those kind of shoots because they just infuse you's just so much fun. And when you can relax about getting or not, those smiles, then all of a sudden a crazy shoot becomes a fun shoot. And I knew I had gold in that shot just because they were acting like... look at that face in the middle like. And the one on the right was just completely didn't want to be there. And the little girl on the left is like, "I want to be up high too." Like once you've bounced children's personalities off themselves, you can have just a boatload of fun photographing children. So, photographing children can be intimidating at first. It can be scary. Especially if you've never worked with children before. But trust me it begins to go away and one of the most important aspects of working with children is making sure your shutter speed works. Okay? Your shutter speed needs to be fast. This was shot with an F200 millimeter lens at f2 in a vineyard with that child running full blast at me. Which as most of you know that can be an incredibly challenging shot to get, mainly because of shutter speed and focus. With a subject coming at you focusing can be incredibly challenging. Okay? So, this is one of those shots that takes practice. Trust me, it took me probably 10 sessions of doing it every single time to nail it and know that I'm going to get multiple shots that are good. Because what'll happen is, you've got the shot and the hairs flying your like, "Oh, it's perfect!" then you go, "It's not sharp." That's like the classic thing and it'll always happen. Trust me, not every image is going to be sharp. It's just when you're shooting these kinds of conditions and testing the camera and your capability to nail focus, there's error. There's always going to be user error there. Okay? But then of course they'll be shots like this where you nail it, the sun is coming through her hair and the parents are looking on lovingly and it's this amazing thing and it becomes a 40 inch portrait on their wall. But the things to remember are, of course, you all know this kids move fast. Your camera needs to keep up and so do you. Your shutter speed needs to be fast enough to capture action. I always say 1/250th of a second is minimal for capturing kids. Minimal. One-500th or faster is better. It also depends on the length of your lens. If you are shooting with an F200 millimeter lens. I didn't even bring it with me, it weighs like 20 pounds, big old honkin lens and your hand holding. Oh my gosh. And you're down on the ground like this. Your shutter shake is massive. And that's one of the reasons I shoot with the D750 and did not upgrade the D4 or D5 series. Because this 750 is a very lightweight camera and shutter shake is a huge problem for me as an artist and it took me a long time to accept that, that I'm a shutter shake. And even with my arms and elbows in, I'm just embracing as much as I can. I still get shutter shake. So, switching to a lighter body helped me a lot. And a lot of people are like, "You weren't shooting with the top of the line professional body?" I'm like "I don't care. It doesn't matter. The body doesn't matter, what matters is I get good shots out of it." That's what matters. So, some people feel like a heavier body gets them that stability. For me, it was a lighter weight body. So, just again, if you don't know when you're kind of wanting to upgrade to a DSLR, rent them. borrow lenses,, these places will rent you cameras for a week at a time and you can play with it. And I highly recommend putting some money towards that before investing thousands of dollars into a body that you're not happy with. Okay? And because some of them, I'm a prime girl, do you guys know what prime means? Prime lenses? Prime lenses are lenses that don't zoom. They're fixed focal length lenses. I love primes because to me they're sharper, they're faster, they perform better. It means that I carry around a lot of lenses with me when I'm shooting. Okay? But it also means that some of my lenses are heavy. I mean that 200 millimeter f2 lens is a beast. It probably does weigh like eight pounds. So, the lighter the body, the easier it is for me to shoot. But when I'm shooting with that lens, my shutter speed is as fast as I can go. And I will increase my ISO to get my shutter speed faster. So again, artistic, technical factors that you need to evaluate before going into a shoot. Think about it. I got a heavy lens. I know I got a shutter shake. I've got a fast moving kid. My shutter speed has got to be fast to make up for this. Shoot, the light is too dim, I better up my ISO and open my aperture to do that. Now, be careful when opening your aperture because of course your plain of focus becomes very skinny and that's going to be a factor that hinders getting it sharp too. So, just be aware of that. So, in other words, ISO and aperture are what will control the exposure at that point if you need to fix your shutter speed. Does that make sense? Okay. Focusing, children jumping quickly, kids being kids, crazy. This family is one of my favorites. The father is actually a former professional photographer, a very good one. And when someone hires you who's a professional photographer to shoot their kids, it's quite scary, humbling and also very cool at the same time. When you're shooting children moving, as you can see this little boy is about to jump off this coffee table, to capture that action requires being ready with focus on when you need it. Okay? Now, how many of you use the center point to focus and then hold the back button to recompose? Yeah, okay. Lots of people. It's a great technique. It works fine. Okay? But, the time it takes to go from focus, hold, recompose, you can lose it with a child. So, I want you to practice, or at least starting to use your focus points. Now, every camera is different. So, I can't exactly tell you how to set this up in your own camera, and the Nikons and Canons are all different. I happen to prefer the Nikon toggling system better than Canon. But, what it is is this, you can set, see how...Look inside and you'll see all these different focus points in there. Okay? The Nikons have, some of the higher Nikons have 51 points on the sensor for you to toggle through. So, I take my little toggle unit here, you'll see me doing this, and I follow the child with the toggle point. That focus point is exactly where the camera will focus and where it will meter. Because remember, I'm spot metered, and I'm focusing. So, my focus point is not only the place where I'm going to get the sharpest point of the image, but it's also where my metering, when I'm spot metering. So, that focus point is my golden nugget for taking a good image. Because it not only gets me my exposure, but it nails my focus where I want the focus to be. Composition is incredible to me in an image. Putting a child or a subject in a certain place in the frame, is part of what makes your image interesting. So, when I look through the viewfinder, I don't want to have to focus on the middle, hold my back button then recompose because by then I have lost the shot. If I have my focus point in the place I need it, lower right corner, upper right corner wherever it may be, that focus point is right there. I can just follow the kid, follow the kid, snap. Follow the kid, follow the kid snap. follow the kid, follow the kid snap. Okay? I don't even have to move inside my frame. Does that make sense? So now, focus points can be challenging because it's a little bit of a... you have got to practice. Because sometimes you're like, okay, I want to recompose over here. I got to move my focus point all the way over there. Okay, now we're good. Shoot. Shoot. Shoot. Okay? But, being able to move these wherever I want them inside the camera, is a powerful artistic capability. And because it's my meter point as well, I know I'm getting the right exposure wherever that focus point is, and I want it metering off that skin, because that skin the camera sees as 18% gray. So, if I put my focus point where I want, meter, I make sure that little toggle things in the middle, because I'm spot metering, bam, we'll nail it every time. So, while recomposing is a wonderful technique, back button focusing and recomposing is a wonderful technique and it's awesome when you're first starting out, now the next level to get fast for shooting children, sports, high energy subjects, use your focus point. Okay? And once you get used to it, you'll be like, "Thank goodness I have my focus points." Okay? Make sense? Questions about that before I move on a little bit here. - [Woman] So, when you do that and you're choosing your focal point, which I do, then you would focus with the shutter? - Yes. Good question. Yes, my camera is set up so that I half press on the shutter, that focuses it and then I fully press to trigger the camera. Okay. To trigger the shutter. Yes. Good question. Because some people do like the Canons and stuff, you can actually focus with the back button, and then hit the shutter. And that's a great technique too, I mean, that works for children as well. I think it's just a matter of what your preference is and honestly you'd probably get as much speed with that as well. As long as you know where you want to focus. My issues with keeping the focus point right in the middle, because if that's the case... and then having to move. Because if that's the case then every subject will be dead center framed, if you don't move, if you don't recompose. So, what I'm trying to show you is that, you can have your focus point in a different spot on the frame. And that makes you faster, and it's fractions of a second. But sometimes that is the difference with a child. Okay? Yeah. - [Kenna] So, just to clarify for the folks at home, Chelsea Walker had asked for clarification. So, you are moving that toggle around in the back... - As I shoot. - you shoot. - Yes. I am. - Great. - Okay. Props. Isn't she cute? I love kids. They are so awesome. They help your cause a lot sometimes, especially with that age. We're not quite shooting that age here, but a bucket for younger kids is wonderful. One year olds man, they want to run. They learn how to walk and they're out of there. Okay? And they are not negotiable. So, sticking them in a bucket, is a great time earner for lack of a better word. A chair or stool for older kids is extremely occupying, you saw those kids. Now be careful obviously. I always have a spotter with me, assistant who's watching to make sure those kids don't fall off stools and things like that. Give them something to do. And we're going to be in the next segment here, in this segment shooting a child with balloons to give her something to do, keep her contained. And you get some wonderful lifestyle fun shots. So, it's a distraction, it occupies them, and it gives them a place to focus their energy. Lollipops rule. I gave almost all my kids lollipops at the end of the session, because they are like...This little girl on the right here would not take it out of her mouth, it was the cutest thing ever. But they just love having that lollipop and their lovey, and their toys with them. That's what truly keeps their energy focus, and makes it a fun event for them. Honestly trying to get a kid this young to sit still is pointless, like it's almost pointless. Some of them will, but I think my message here is try to let them be themselves, while at the same time engaging them. The way to get good pictures of children is to engage them. Like you can't just sit them on a stool and expect them to, you know, for very long. It will work for a few minutes which I usually do. You'll see me do it here, but it doesn't work for that long. You have to make them.

Class Description

Julia has a great way of explaining even some of the most technical things so that you can understand them. This is a great class to get your feet wet and then use what you learned to start swimming. - Barry Miller, CreativeLive Student

Understanding how your camera functions is a start, but in order to capture the best images, you need to know more than what buttons to push.  Julia Kelleher will walk you through some likely beginner photographer scenarios to show how to work in multiple situations, compose your image and get the most from your subjects. Whether you purchased your camera to take photos of your children, your friends or even products you are hoping to sell, Julia will show you how to feel comfortable in any environment. In this class Julia will show you: 
  • Taking pictures of children: how to work with energetic subjects, what compositions are safest as well as poses and ideas to keep them engaged 
  • Taking pictures of groups: be it your friends, coworkers or clients- learn the best approaches for group photos so you can capture people looking their best 
  • Products: If you’re starting a business or selling your belongings online, a great picture goes a long way in helping a buyer choose your product 
  • Headshots or banner photos: learn techniques to get professional headshots or captivating banner photos for your social media or website 
  • How to work with natural light and control it in your favor, as well as inexpensive options to help improve your lighting quality 
 If you’re new to working with a professional camera, this class will give you the confidence to capture an image in any scenario with your expensive purchase. Make the most out of every situation by learning to compose, pose, direct and light your subjects.  



Julia is an amazing teacher!!!! Funny, go with the flow, honest, and obviously so gifted at what she does. That came through and also inspired those feelings in me as a novice photographer. I left her class feeling excited to play with my camera and appreciate that she encouraged me to use what I have now and get good before spending tons of money on fancier stuff. I also love that she showed how everyday materials from Home Depot can make for great images. I particularly appreciated the 2nd day on product photography, social media images and the short demos in PhotoShop. Please do a full class on just this Julia/Creative Live!!!!!

Brandon Couch

So first off I've been doing photography for a little bit now and only shot in manual 20% of the time and was okay with it. Since coming to this class and seeing how manual mode isn't scary, it is everything you need and want in the life of photography, I now will not use anything else. The team at Creative Live is amazing and Julia's love for other starting and even professional photographers is amazing. She would sit and talk to us together and individually and really loves those who love photography. I would recommend this class and any other one of Julia's classes here on CreativeLive. I can't wait to come back. Was AMAZING!!! LIFE CHANGING!!!

a Creativelive Student

What an awesome class! I am not a beginner and am currently making a living as a photographer and was interested in this class because #1 Julia is such a great teacher with such talent and #2 I was expecting to take away some valuable information to pass along to my little after school beinning photo club. I am happy to report Julia did not disappoint:-) What actually happened was that I learned so many things that I probably should have known being a seasoned professional that I lost track of my original intention of why I was there. I couldn't wait to pull out my camera and try all of the new things that I had just learned. The color balancing and the little dot showing when your camera (Nikon) was manually focused alone was worth the price. I enjoyed every minute of this course. Thanks Julia! Anyone would benefit from this course....