Photographing Children on a Tour
One of the delights in traveling on a tour is interacting with children of many cultures. They are almost universally both shy and curious, and often in small villages in the Third World a visit from a foreigner is the highlight of their day. In most cases, they are happy to pose for pictures when coaxed with a friendly smile.
In some places, children will ask for a small amount of money for gratuity. However, I would not support such practice. Unless you are a professional Photographer who needs a model release to be signed, such payment will serve its purpose. In all my travels I would bring along some sweets, stationeries, toys and sometime just giving back their photos to share with the children. You can see the joy in their faces.
I find that you can get better children photos if you just engage and play with them even before showing them the camera. Children are curious; I usually show the children their images on the LCD screen. This is a very good gesture to break the barrier.
I prefer to use a small digital point and shoot camera, a DSLR or my Leica M3 (film camera) for children photography. Children usually do not sit still and wait for the Photographer to focus, adjust the aperture or speed settings. So choose a simple to use camera.
I use wide angles and medium telephotos for children photography. I prefer to capture the environment in which the children live in rather than just long telephoto head shots. I try to show the relationship between the main subject, other subjects and the environment.
Natural lighting is a preferred choice. I use diffused and side lighting for most of my shots. If the subject is standing in harsh afternoon light, try moving them into the shade. Harsh lighting is not very flattering for children shots.
Harsh shadows and contrasty light will invariably degrade the image. The eye sockets go dark, the nose and forehead will be light, and the child looks hard under the garish illumination. In tropical countries near the Equator, the discrepancy between sunlight and shadow can be an unbelievable four f/stops, so here especially you must be careful to avoid direct sunlight. In this case, try asking the children to move under a tree or building.
The second type of natural light that can be used effectively is low angled sunlight. Early morning and late afternoon light, when the sun is close to the horizon, provides flattering, golden illumination that can be effective for either front, back or side lighting.
The third type of lighting is backlighting. Taking silhouettes of children at play is another perspective that should be exploited by photographers.