Getting Kids on CCD: Portraits
One of the most rewarding (and at the same time challenging) subjects are kids. They are always moving, and have millions of new expressions and gestures and their big eyes are endlessly wondering the new world around them. But what is more rewarding to the photographer (and to the family) is to take a good portrait of a child. And as usual, you don't have a studio available and you have to do it in their homes.
Kids are very aware of the situations, and their own feelings govern what they will do. So, if they are not keen on being photographed there is not much you can do unless you can make them comfortable with the idea of being photographed. Their feelings about you and the camera can change in an instant. Don't rush. Never ever start taking flash photos without warning! To accomplish trust with the the ones who run away the moment you raise your camera takes a little time and patience but works almost every time if you follow these steps:
Start by getting to their level. Literally. They are not driven by reasoning or commands from you (or anybody), they are driven by things that are around them. That means toys, tv, soft animals, computers, Playstation, whatever is 'in' at that second. Put the camera away (but in such a safe place it can be seen). Spend some time with them when playing, and get to know the names of their furry animals and other stuff.
After a while you can ask if they'd like to have a photograph taken of Winnie the Pooh, or when playing their favorite game. Introduce them to the camera:
After they have got accustomed to the camera, ask them if they would like to pose with the bear so that you get a photo of both together. Talk straight. "I like photographing and it would be very nice if I could take a few photos of you and the bear, but you should stay very still when the photo is taken" is the key phrase. Kids value the truth. If they think you're have credibility (i.e. you're a nice and fun person) they will play the game of being a model with you.
At this stage you have made the kid aware of the situation as a model (better to put them on a chair so they do not get tired and they can swing their feet). Don't tell him/her what to do, instead talk about that bear and what has the kid been ever in a photography studio, and does he like pokemons. anything else but guiding the subject to your liking. You can say that you would need a big smile from the bear (and the kid will bend its mouth apart): at the same time zoom on child's face (it's impossible to tell where you aim) and get all sorts of natural expressions which are not possible if the child knows he/she is the only target. Improvise and keep the situation from dying to a boring photo session, it should be child's play and fun for all.
Pay attention to eyes. Most portraits will look much better when the subject is aware of the camera. Often the parents are walking around and the kids attention is with them, so it's best to get the rest of the family either behind you (on the same level) or away from the room. Put them to bake a cake and offer that as a reward to the kid.
For best Depth-of-Field blur use macro mode and full zoom, or normal full zoom. Shoot from child's height. Try to keep the background simple, and always pay attention to good focus (aim for contrasty areas on the subject and use FE lock, and lock it to manual if needed) and avoid overexposure at all costs (burnt highlights can't be saved, but slight underexposure can). . It's better to use the LCD, as when the kid sees your face and will see your expressions it's easier for him/her than seeing you disappear behind camera.
Do about 20 to 35 photos, and as soon as you sense boredom on air, stop. Don't let the child's last impression be "that was boring" - if that is the case, next time you have no hope of getting another portrait of that kid.
Technically, I prefer using slow-sync mode (Tv mode in Canon), and lower shutter speeds (1/20-1/60). This will reduce flash power, and as the flash freezes the moment, the blur from longer exposure will not make the photo messy as it's dimmer that the flashlit part of the exposure. If available (not in G1), 'Second curtain sync mode' is better here than 'first curtain sync mode': this means that the flash should fire in the end of exposure instead of the beginning. This have effect how the 'phantom image' of non-flashed exposure is located in the image: as a trail behind or in front of a moving subject. Avoid using flash directly to their face (always bounce) or strong flash power.
Slow sync will not do if the kids are moving fast, then you have to raise speed to 1/100-1/250, but use slow sync for portraits and calm moments. Raising shutter speeds with ISO 100 on Canon G1 is acceptable, but I do not recommend ISO 200 or ISO 400 for they are too noisy. I personally prefer always ISO 5O when there is enough light for 1/15 or more.
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