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It can be challenging but always joyful, writes Salliza Salleh

CHILDREN’S honesty, lack of self-consciousness and being comfortable in their own skin can create beautiful moments.

While I get a new experience every time I take pictures of them, photographing children, specifically little ones, needs patience.

Create a conducive environment so that they can be themselves while we capture memorable images of them. We need to be fast and prepared to capture candid moments because they will not stay still for long.

I set my camera at an auto ISO, continuous mode, aperture priority at f/5.6 and below for portraits and shutter priority at minimum 1/500s to freeze movements whenever they are being themselves.

My choice of lens outdoors is 24-70mm as there is no time to change lenses. For portraits or indoor shoots, I prefer a 50mm lens set at a wider aperture and an 85mm lens for detailed shots.

Here are five essential tips when photographing children.

1. CONNECT: Make friends with them. I try to connect by being playful and accepting them as a unique individuals instead of playing the ‘I am an adult, you listen to me’ role.

I crack silly jokes, create role plays, ask silly questions, laugh with them and at the same time try to pique their curiosity as I build connection with them.

I get them involved in the process by allowing them to see their captured image from my camera and ask them “what else you want to do?”.

While wandering at Peshawar old market in Pakistan, I stumbled onto children playing cricket at an alley.

I gave ‘salam’ and made friends with them, took their photos and, at the end, I asked them for a goofy group photo. Just look at their happy cheeky faces.

For this image, my camera was set at Shutter priority mode, 1/800s, f/7.1 and ISO800.

2. EYES: Eyes capture viewers’ attention in a photograph. Get down to the child’s level and focus on their eyes. The connection between the child and photographer is shown in the subject’s eyes.

This is a photo of a polite little girl in her village at Dong Van, Vietnam. I wandered around the village while holding her hands.

My camera was set at f/4 on aperture priority mode, 1/220s and ISO800.I tried not to look too engrossed with my camera. After each click, I pulled my face away from behind the camera and communicates playfully with her. Here, I captured her smiling beautifully at me.

3. LIGHT: When photographing children, utilise natural light for either indoor or outdoor shoots whenever possible.

I add flash or strobe light too for an indoor shooting to fill in the shadows.

Children can easily get distracted by extra lights and babies are prone to be very sensitive to direct light.

Try to be creative with the light setting and still be sensitive to the comfort of your little subject.

This is a photo I took in my studio.

Baby Noura was side-facing the afternoon light from a window. I used a strobe light to lighten dark spots around her mother. I used a 50mm lens set at f/7, 1/60s and ISO400.

4. SCALE: Add creativity to your composition by creating a sense of scale between the child and the environment. This captures the size of the subject compared to other objects in the frame.

Another good idea is to capture children with their parents in a vast landscape or even photographing them from above. In this photo, the 23-day-old Noura was at her first professional photo shoot.

I tried to create a memorable moment for Noura in her birthday suit, cradled in both of her parents’ hands. The hands showed how small and fragile she was as she curled comfortably in them.

Here, my camera setting was at f/8, 1/100 and ISO400. I converted this image to black and white for a classic feel.

5. ACCESSORIES: Photographing children needs preparation. Relatable props, cute wardrobe or any personal set-up request needs to be prepared ahead of time.

Start early in the morning when the child is well-fed, well-rested and cooperative.

When photographing young children, you need to be fast as their mood swings can be unpredictable. In this photo, Noura was getting ready for the next scene with the help of her parents and my assistant.

A picture of her posing with the crown is not easy as this scene can last for a maximum of only two minutes before she starts protesting and crying.

The trick is that you need to shoot quickly and continuously. Do not wait for the right moment as it may never happen. No wonder most photographers prefer to shoot babies while they are asleep.

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