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Whether you are photographing your friend’s kids, your own children, your grandchildren, your niece or nephew (or just some adorable little humans you met about five seconds ago), here are a few suggestions that can help you to shoot portraits you love, no matter what the circumstance. Every tip shared below is visually demonstrated in the video clip shared here. 

Note that although I am using a portable strobe for lighting here, I could just as simply be using a speedlight to achieve a similar effect!
1. Show them what you want.
The act of mirroring, or literally showing your subjects what you are asking of them and encouraging them to respond in kind, is one of the simplest ways to communicate your intentions. It works remarkably well with children, as it’s nearly always more effective than explaining your request with words. In the video clip above, I pose “parts of me” first and then ask her to pose like I did. I continue to do that repeatedly until I have a “whole pose”. In my experience, this is the most seamless way to get a posed-looking photograph without losing great expression. Utilizing this technique, you can make a lot of little tweaks, whether it be your subject’s positioning, your lighting, or whatever else you might be looking to adjust – and the whole experience will still remain low-key and enjoyable.

Settings: D850, 70-200mm f/2.8
1/640 sec, f2.8, ISO 400
2. Little changes can make a notable difference.
Mix up their outfit, accessories, hats, stuffed animals, whatever is in the shot. In the video clip above, I add a scarf to her outfit and then adjust it a couple of different ways. I keep the “adjusting things” interaction upbeat and focused, so I am able to lock in her attention, but the images look pretty different with the scarf – and again even more so with another simple adjustment to it. 

Settings: D850, 70-200mm f/2.8
1/640 sec, f2.8, ISO 400
3. Shoot near or far.
I often like to shoot rather close to my subjects, so that I can engage with them in a more comfortable manner. That said, it’s still okay to jump back and get a different look, shooting with a long lens, for instance. Just do some “directing” with them first, and then work to keep the interaction going as you continue to back up.

Settings: D850, 70-200mm f/2.8
1/800 sec, f2.8, ISO 400
4. And then back up even more!
It’s often an incredible temptation to shoot portraits of loved ones up close, often because you find these particular subjects so beautiful. But backing up to show them in their overall environment, indoor or outdoors, can be a great portrait to add into the mix. Tapping into some key composition rules, like utilizing the rules of thirds, only serves to make the final images that much more appealing.

Settings: D850, 105mm f1.4
1/800 sec, f3.5, ISO 320
Hope these tips (and demonstration) come in handy on your next shoot! Enjoy this behind the scenes video: