Capturing the joy of childhood

March 26, 2016

Trying to take good shots of children can be fraught, but Cymon Brooks* says it doesn’t need to be.



There are many places where we can capture great shots of our children, such as down by the beach as they play in the waves, or in playgrounds as they swing from monkey bar to monkey bar. Or during sporting events, such as soccer, AFL football, bike riding and so on. 

All of these activities give us opportunity to capture our children immersed in the moment and blissfully unaware of the camera. But what do you do when they are all too aware of having their photo taken? My children had to learn over time to become less camera shy, but it’s been my job to help them do that. 

That’s all well and good when you’re only photographing your own children, but what about other people’s children? What about if you’re asked to take photos of children at school events, for instance? 

First up, especially in this day and age, is that before you even take the lens cap off, first get permission from the children’s parents and/or guardians (or from the event organisers if you’ve been asked to take photos). 

Once permission is granted then it’s all about deciding what kind of story you want to capture; i.e. if the children are in a playground, a great idea is to get the kids to arrange themselves on a piece of play equipment, such as a rope-climbing structure. 

In the photo on this page I got my two boys to do this on an old tree stump, then as I pointed the lens their way I told them funny jokes (it worked).  

Alternatively, scout the area for structures where the children can be assembled at different heights and then get them all to look at the camera. It’s also great to have another person’s assistance here, too, as they can entice the children to smile or laugh. 

Equipment-wise it would be good to use a wide angle type lens and a dedicated flash unit in these instances, as you’ll not always have the right light. 

The other way to take photos of children is the traditional line-up method, such as in school photos, having the front row seated, then assembling the standing children behind from the smallest to tallest so all their faces can be clearly seen. 

One of the key elements of taking photos of children is to make the occasion fun and to leave a bit of room for spontaneity. 

Find ways to get the children to laugh by telling appropriate jokes (bad taste allowed) or having an assistant who knows how to relax the children. One photographer I met would use finger puppets—and quirky-looking ones at that—which always caught the attention of the children he was photographing. 

And perhaps the most important thing to remember is that a little patience goes a long way, especially when working with children who are really shy, tired or hungry. Kids work on a different timetable to adults and sometimes that means letting go of our own…

But if you can manage to be aware of how each child interacts with the camera, have an assistant with props, use the environment around you and—best of all—make it fun, you can not only capture the moment, you (and the kids) can enjoy it, too. 


*A collection of Cymon Brooks’ images has been published in a devotional book, Vision, by Salvo Publishing. Available for $25 p.p. from


Tags: Salvation Army Australia

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