In my last blogs, I wandered away from the topic of people photography, but I want to get back to that tonight. I've always enjoyed photographing kids. They are almost always lots of fun as photographic subjects. As with other people shots, my favorite background is wherever they might be.
You usually need to give yourself lots of time when photographing kids. Their first reaction is to mug for the camera. My advice is to let them do it. Go ahead and snap a few photos. The sooner they get it out of their system and just get used to the camera being there, the more natural they will be. If you're really lucky, they'll completely forget you're there.
I like to be in their environment, so they'll just forget about the camera and go about their "normal" routine. Your main goal is to prevent any stress over the situation. Keep the kid relaxed, and their faces will be delightful. You can gain their trust and help them relax by relaxing yourself. If you have a frown on your own face, they will not respond with carefree abandon. Put the camera down and engage in their make-believe for a little while; tell them silly knock-knock jokes; let them ride around their yard. Get down on their level for better photos, and so you don't tower over them. My goal is to make them absolutely comfortable, especially if this is the first time they've met me.
When you're inside, take your flash off full power and put it on the lowest possible setting you can. This allows the ambient light to fill in your background. And get your flash off your camera, so you don't get the "red eye." You can do this with sync cords, wireless triggers, or your camera's own IR system; modern cameras have plenty of alternatives for you.
The newer cameras have much more latitude with high ISOs, allowing you to shoot images that, a few years ago, would have required you to have a flash but are now obtainable without one. This guy was in the back of the barber shop, far away from the window. I cranked up the ISO and fired away.
Babies are really fun because their expressions can change every second. You should shoot plenty of photos to capture them all. Babies like to see your face, especially your eyes. This is hard to accomplish with a big camera glued to your face. A good technique is to learn to shoot with your camera below your chin. With practice, this will get easier for you. And imagine how surprised and pleased his mother will be when she sees how quickly you connect with her little tyke. If you can't figure this out to your satisfaction, get a soft toy with big eyes and attach it to your camera, so the baby has something to interact with.
Bigger kids can be moody sometimes, but if you use similar techniques, you can reach them. They can understand some of your posing requests, but don't rush them into some weird position. Give them the respect of their age. Talk to them about things they care about. Talk to them about school, friends, computer games, movies, music, etc. Take the focus off the dreaded "annual photo for Mom and Dad." If you take the time to do this, you'll see them relax and give you natural smiles.
Kids are my favorite people. I enjoy spending time with them because they're all so different. They haven't developed the attitudes of adults; they don't worry about deadlines or bills. With a good attitude and plenty of time, you can have lots of fun. Kids don't have to give you fits. In fact, if they do, you may want to concentrate on landscapes.