How to take good candid pictures of your kids

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Professional photographer Meg Turley shares her tips for capturing great candid photos of your children. To see more from Meg go here.

Whether I`m photographing my own kids or clients, my approach to getting good candid photographs is the same. We want our photos to tell stories. Who our kids are, what they love, what they`re playing with at age 3 (or whatever age they might be), and we want these photos to look natural and effortless.

There are a couple things you can do in the beginning as the photographer that makes it easier to capture these candid photos. Start by placing your subject in good light. Get your camera settings the way you want them. 'Set it and forget it'. Once you`ve done those things forget about the mechanics and focus all your energy on your subject.

1 --- Talk To Your Subject
Kids love to talk. Bring your face out from behind the camera and talk to them! Let them see you! Ask them about their next birthday, their favorite movie, snack, etc. If simple questions like this don`t start a dialogue with them it`s okay, because I have a secret weapon. It`s embarrassing and silly, but I am yet to meet one kid (or adult for that matter) who doesn`t crack a smile at a potty joke. While I wish this weren`t the case, it is fail proof!!!
During photo sessions I might call on the parents to whisper something they know will make their child laugh into their ear, and it frequently results in a beautifully candid expression, and often times a sweet exchange between the child and parent, even better!

2 --- Tell A Story
This is particularly helpful if you`re photographing someone you love, like your own kids for example. As a mom, the photos that take me back to a specific age, or when they had a particular obsession with something or someone. I love these. Think about the story you want to tell with the photos you`re going to take. This is so important! There is no shame in planning ahead when it comes to making photographs. It`s part of the process.

How to start telling your own story - Think about someone you love, and a small story you want to tell about them through a photo. And then think about how you can capture it in a thoughtful and candid way. Stage your photo, and eliminate any distractions. Start snapping!

3 --- Put Them In Their Comfort Zone/ Get In Their Element
If you`re after a lifestyle capture it`s a lot easier to get a smile from a child who is playing with their favorite toy, or is jumping on their trampoline. Getting a child in their element might mean taking them outside, or allowing them to put on their favorite dress up. This is where the magic is. When they feel comfortable, the opportunity for real candid photos come alive.

4 --- Work For It
Rarely do these candid moments come to your camera easily. You can`t be afraid to work for it! Move your feet! Get down on the same level with your subject. Or get down lower! Experiment! I know pretty quickly if something is working or even quicker if it isn`t, and it`s my job to make a change. You`re in charge.

5 ---- Less Is More
With kids, the window of opportunity for meaningful happy photographs is small. Family photos are often stressful and can include a lot of bribing. So instead of taking 500 photos plan on scaling back. I also try to employ this when I`m photographing my kids at home. While this requires more thought behind the lens, I am 100% confident it yields better results for everyone involved. Be thoughtful, and I think you`ll be surprised with your results.