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Photographing Children and Animals

March 25, 2010

“Never work with animals or children”! At least that’s what the old adage says. Personally I feel that both children and animals can make for charming and visually stunning photographs. But like all forms of photography you need to learn how to best approach the subject properly. First of all, before you even pick up your camera spend a little time getting to know your subjects. Remember most children, and animals for that matter are easily intimidated.  Simply pointing your camera at them and expecting to get that award winning photograph is unlikely to work for you or them.

When photographing children (or the family pet) the best approach is to make a game out of your photo shoot. Get them to play along with you, then when they are more relaxed start taking pictures.

If you are looking for a more formal portrait, try giving them a visual point of reference just above or to the side of the camera lens. For example, hold up a favorite toy or even go as far as wearing a funny hat, anything that takes their attention from the camera and what you’re doing. This approach also has the advantage of giving your photograph a more natural eye line.

Remember often the best photographs are the ones which tell a story. With a decent telephoto lens it’s possible to shoot candid photographs while children or animals are at play.. For example, think of the photo opportunities that could be had from setting up a paddling pool in the back yard on a hot summers day, then simply allowing your children or family dog to splash around in the water!

Ultimately remember real photography isn’t about what type of camera equipment your using, it’s far more basic than that. Photography is about “learning to see creatively.” Learn how to do that and you are well on your way to becoming a true photographer.

Steve Kelly is a photographer and photojournalist based in Calgary, Alberta.


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