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How to take photos of kids that will translate best into a painting

Updated: Jun 22, 2022

I mainly paint children at the beach...well, that's the elevator pitch. When I am approached to work on a commissioned artwork I ask the client for photos (usually, lots!) The reason is...not all great photographs make great paintings.

If you live on the northern beaches in Sydney or can make it to one of its gorgeous beaches for a photo shoot, I am happy to take photos of your children as part of a commissioned artwork for a small additional fee. However, if that is not an option, or if you rather enjoy photographing your children yourself, below are my tips.

In this post I'm going to share with you what I look for in a photo that will translate well into my style of painting.

For starters, taking photos of kids is hard! I get it! Organisation and patience from your end are crucial....and having a few chocolates in your back pocket never goes a stray either!

- Swimming costumes please

This is a time for sunscreen. It is preferable if I can see the child's limbs, shape and skin...all of which UV protective swimming gear and float devices do a great job of hiding!


Think about the location. Do you have a special beach you go to? Is there a special spot at that special beach? I love including the landscape so remember to include this in your photos. Don't worry if you can't (if you have a separate photo of the landscape and children, I can merge them...get in touch to find out what is possible!)

-Time of day/position of the sun

Early morning and dusk generally provide some killer light and skies for photos. This is a great time (I highly recommend it!) but not absolutely necessary. Overcast days can also provide some great light. It's a god idea to keep the light in mind at any time of day...consider; if you would like your children's faces in the painting -are they in complete dark shadows? Is your shadow being cast over them? Without getting too technical I simply suggest that you take a few photos of them at different angles by moving around them in a circle and you will be able to notice what looks best. Position yourself there for the rest of the shots.

Get down LOW!

Biggest issue with most photos i see is that adults are taking them from adult height/perspective....kneel down to your children's height and watch your photos transform into pure gold! Also, best to step back a bit, think about including all their body in the photo.

- Eyes NOT to camera please

This is usually the opposite of what you are aiming for when you are taking a photo of your kids, however, I find these images of children translate best into an artwork. To me, a painting should be a window into another time/place. The aesthetic and energy I look for in my paintings is usually lost when the children are looking into the camera smiling. What I look for is children INTERACTING with one another (holding hands, exploring, piggybacks, somersaulting together, running, splashing, digging, building a sandpit, climbing, putting up an umbrella, applying sunscreen, playing with hats, spinning, flying a kite) or something (like a bucket and space, stick, beach towel, pet, ocean, bird, ..really anything but the camera!)

-Stop directing

Let your children do what comes naturally, after all this is what you most likely will want to see in the artwork that is borne from it. Just be patient and wait for the magic. Take lots of photos! Make sure your battery is charged and everyone is well rested, hydrated, has had a snack...and it will come!! Also, I can merge photos (a different background or multiple images of don't panic if someone has a weird expression in your perfect can be fixed).


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