It’s time for another episode of BLOG STALKER Q&A;: STALKING WITH JESSICA CLAIRE!

Since I decided to blog every day this month, I suppose I should post at least a couple of somewhat informative posts here to reward people who actually bother to check this blog. I want to know what you want to know from me–photography related or not! If you have a question for me, please leave a comment instead of sending an email, that way I have all questions in one place.

Today’s questions center around starting out. One of the ways to practice your photography and start to build your is to shoot children. I say this because it’s much less pressure than shooting a wedding, takes much less time, and is less devastating if you completely screw it up! Also, you can start out doing this for a minimal fee or even for friends and family to start getting the practice you need in learning your equipment.


From Kelly Vasami: Hi Jessica! Needless to say, I am a daily blogstalker and a huge fan of your work. My question is this: What are the most important things that photographers REALLY need to learn/master when they are starting out? Thanks! 🙂

When you are first starting out, the hands down, number one, most important thing that you can do is to understand how your camera works. There’s lots of ways to do that–you can use trial and error, you can take a class, you can read a book, you can ask a friend who is a photographer for help. When I say understand your camera, I mean, be able to shoot in MANUAL mode and be able to nail the shot.

If you start shooting manual, you will become a better photographer faster than any other way I know. This is because YOU are controlling all of your settings, so you start to realize that changing things changes what kind of picture you get.

I would recommend that anyone starting out have a camera body such as a Canon Digital Rebel. This one comes with a kit lens that will at least allow you to take photos while waiting to build your arsenal of lenses. It is also enough like the camera I and many professionals use, the Canon 5D that if you ever want to upgrade, you will not have to learn a whole new system.

The other thing a new photographer REALLY needs to learn is how to use light to make a flattering photo. This means for starters, turning off your flash and putting your subjects in light that doesn’t make them look like someone hit them over the head with a frying pan. The best thing to start out with is nice, even shade. Turn that flash off and shoot people in the shade. They should be turned toward where the light is coming from so their back will be to a darker background. Keep that direct sun off their faces, at least for now! Once you get the hang of it you can start to use the sun as a main light, or backlight.

From Vanessa: Hi Jessica, Do you have any advice for someone starting out as a child photog? Your photos of kids are just as amazing as your weddings!

Hi Vanessa,

I think that people who have children have a VERY big advantage in this area just because over the course of the day, you run into a lot of other people that have children the same age as yours who would probably be game if you mentioned you were a photographer starting out. It gives you credibility from the start (you are likely not a creepy person) and puts you on a friendly basis with people. Once you have a few jobs under your belt, you can start charging and building your business through referrals.

I do think that most parents (like most brides) prefer to hire photographer based on a referral from a friend. Since I don’t have children or really know anyone who does, the way I built my kids business was through my cousin who at the time had a two year old daughter. My cousin is what I like to call a “hub”–she’s the center of a large group of friends who all lean on each other heavily for referrals of things (photographer, nannies, florist, invitations, etc). Figuring out who in your circle of relationships is a hub is the main challenge–once you do that, you’re set. Do a session for that person and do a GREAT job. Make an album or whatever you want to eventually be selling. That person will then show it to all their friends and the calls will start coming. After I made the book for my cousin and she showed the book off when she dropped her daughter at school, the NEXT day, I had a bunch of emails asking for me to come shoot and make them a book.

Much simpler than weddings, that’s for sure!

From Bat: Hi Jessica, long time stalker, first time poster. Thanks for the opportunity to pick your brain! My questions delves past all that technical stuff and into the interaction side of things. You get great expressions and moments with your couples and kids. Any tricks you use regularly to get these fantastic expressions? thanks again, Bat

When I am working with kids and families (but mostly with kids), I concentrate on just getting the child to interact with me as a friend. If that means I have to put the camera down and kick the soccer ball around for a few minutes with an older kid, that’s fine! If it means that I have to be the pitcher while the kid takes batting practice, no problem!

I also don’t get angry or annoyed if they make weird faces or act out. They probably aren’t used to being in front of the camera, and as anyone who has ever been the subject can attest to, it can be very intimidating! I will sometimes tell them to make a silly face, or a mean face, and then sneak happy face in there after they are laughing at me.

Sometimes I play hard to get and start playing with another child or with a toy somewhere else in the room. Usually curiosity gets the better of them and they will come on over and start to play with me.

With a couple, it works a little differently. I find that the best way to get great natural shots of couples together is to put them in situations where they feel comfortable. If they aren’t beach people, we don’t go to the beach. If they are coffee drinkers, we’ll walk to the local coffee shop. If they are party people, maybe we’ll go get drinks first, then shoot 🙂

In order to capture people being themselves, you have to let them be themselves. The less you go into a shoot with a list in your head of shots you MUST get, the better the chance you will get shots for a couple that are uniquely “them”.

Here’s some recent kids shots to check out: