Let me introduce you to Dexter Glenn Basham. He is the youngest of the many children in our family. He is my cousin’s little boy. When my cousin’s wife asked me to take some pictures of him for his third birthday, I was excited but also a little apprehensive. I have never really photographed small children. I know Dexter is pretty active. He is all boy and he loves to run and climb, so I knew he was not really going to sit still much for pictures. I always like more candid shots of kids anyway, and I knew that this would not be the typical portrait session that I have done with older kids or adults before. I was a little nervous, but I was up for the challenge!
I love shooting portraits with a wide open aperture. I have two prime lenses, a 35 mm f1.8 and a 50 mm f1.8. I shoot with a Nikon D5500, which is a crop sensor camera, so my 50mm is more like an 85mm on a full frame camera. It is perfect for portraits and I love the bokeh I can get with it when I shoot wide open. I only used the 50mm, which presented some challenges for me because I had to move myself around a lot, but I loved the results.
The first thing I did was ask Dexter’s mom to bring some of his favorite toys with him and meet me at a park close to both of us. I walk my dogs every day in this park, and I am always looking at it through the eye of a photographer. If you don’t frequent the location that you plan to shoot, I would highly suggest getting there early enough to scope out the areas you want to use to take pictures. I still got to the park early myself so that I could check the lighting in the areas I planned to shoot.
Dexter’s mom brought some trains and some balls with her. I told you he is all boy! I brought a blanket with me that he could sit on to play with his trains, but he just sat down on the grass, which was fine with me. I just crawled right down there with him and started shooting. If you are going to photograph kids, you have to be prepared to get down on their level. Dress appropriately and you will be ready to lay on your stomach in the grass if you need to do so. I just followed him around, taking pictures of him as he played. Dexter’s mom also brought his sisters along, which actually turned out to be helpful. They played with Dexter by throwing a ball back and forth to him and I was able to get some great shots of Dexter while they played together.
After we took some pictures in this location, we moved to another section of the park to take some pictures around the play ground. He likes to climb, so we just let him climb around the playground, slide down the slide and swing, and I followed him from down below. I really like shots of kids doing what they love to do, like being kids!
Dexter’s mom mentioned that she had taken him to a portrait studio for some pictures, but he just didn’t want to sit still, and they had a hard time getting him to smile for the camera. If you just go with the flow and let them be kids, you can often get that natural smile that the family of the child recognizes best. It will make life easier on you, the child, and the parents.
Remember not to take pictures for a long time. Even though a child may be having fun what they are doing, you can start to irritate them if you keep them too long, especially if you are outside and it is hot.
I really had fun taking pictures of Dexter. I don’t have any kids of my own, but I love kids! I wasn’t sure how things would go at first, but I enjoyed it a lot. Kids at that age will play and pretty much forget about the camera. Older kids and adults always know the camera is there and they often don’t like getting their picture taken, so it can be a challenge. The biggest reward is when the parents love the pictures. Dexter’s mom shared a picture that she had framed on Facebook. I really like the one that she chose, because it just looks like Dexter having fun in his element.