Children are notoriously difficult to photograph. You have to make it work whether they are being difficult, shy, grumpy or simply running around not paying you any attention. Claudine van der Walt has a true gift for capturing a child’s innocence in such natural and joyous manner. She insists that patience is key.

Toddler Photography: A little girl with her feet up rolling in the grass
Toddler Photography: Young girl sitting in the grass with a big daisy behind her ear.

Tips for Photographing Children

Claudine says, in addition to having tonnes of patience, it’s important to make children feel comfortable around you as “that is when you capture the real smiles and laughter”. Here are a few of her tips for helping the youngsters feel relaxed:

  • Ensure that you are calm as children can pick up on tension and stress.
  • Create a comfortable atmosphere with a friendly smile.
  • Ask silly questions and turn the photo shoot into a game.
  • Ask the parents to play with the children, pull funny faces behind the camera, etc.
  • Bring along a few props like balloons, bubbles and use them as distraction.
  • Finally, if need be, bribery works wonders.
Toddler Photography: A little grumpy looking girl lying on the floor, dressed in a santa clause suite, with the letters joy, lit up in front of her... looking a bit ironic.
Toddler Photography: Little boy with a hat on his head, sitting on a stepping-stool holding a console jar with a goldfish inside.

Why Use Props?

The answer is quite simple. Sometimes kids need something to play with to bring out their personalities. The props assist in focusing the child’s attention and therefore makes it easier to capture the moment. Over the years, Claudine has collected various props, but reminds us that less is more: “I choose props that are timeless and will work well in photographs.”

Toddler Photography: A photograph of a little boy sitting on a Fender amp holding a tiny guitar
Toddler Photography: Young boy sitting on a couch smiling naturally

Studio vs Location

Doing a studio photo shoot or an outdoor shoot all depends on the specific look you are going for. But, Claudine feels that studios tend to restrict and confine children who really just want to run around and be free. “When they are outdoors, they can express themselves more freely.” Shooting outdoors or even in someone’s home gives you more variety in terms of background and angles.

On the topic of beautiful backgrounds, Claudine says that she finds her beautiful locations by chatting to fellow photographs, looking for pretty gardens, parks and wedding venues on the web. But recently, she started making use of the parents’ gardens since most venues require a hefty shooting fee.

Toddler Photography: A little girl with a crown of deep red flowers on her long dark hair
Toddler Photography: Little boy sitting on a stepping-stool holding a bindle.

Best Gear List for Photographing Children

Claudine loves her prime lenses. Not only are these lenses lightweight, but they work the best for her style of photography. Her go-to lens for photographing children is the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 as it’s a super sharp lens with smooth bokeh effect to blur out the background and keep the focus on the child – the most important part of the image. Then there’s the 35mm f/1.4 lens to add a little bit more context to the photo. All these lenses work well with her Nikon D810 camera body, known for its superior image quality.

Toddler Photography: A little blonde haired boy with big blue eyes and bubbles in the background
Toddler Photography: Little baby girl with a gold crown on her head

Children’s Parties

Recently, Claudine has discovered a new passion and that is organising and then photographing children’s parties. It started out with organising parties for her sisters’ kids and grew from there. The two work well together since, when designing the party, she keeps the photo shoot setup in mind so that everything complements one another – this way, you have more opportunities to capture beautiful moments in the child’s life.

Claudine adores photographing a child’s natural smile, bringing out their inner beauty, and capturing the different stages of life for their parents to look back at and reminisce with a smile.

This intelligent, kind-hearted woman entertains us with her infectious love for what she does. She describes her attention to detail and commitment to the less-is-more approach, in combination with making the shoot as fun as possible, as her key to success.

We hope she inspires you to photograph the little busybodies you know and put a smile on their parents’ faces too!