Tweens and Teens: 9 Tips for Photographing Older Children

With summer approaching very fast I’ll soon have my children all to myself all day long and I’m super happy about that! With our busy school season schedules it sometimes feels like I hardly see my children, especially my almost teenager and preteen. So I’m looking forward to some down time over the summer and I know I’ll certainly take advantage of the time we have together to capture some, or perhaps a lot, of images! But capturing preteens and teens can sometimes be a challenge. As my children grow they become increasingly opinionated about my camera. For those of you with preteens, teens and older children here are a few tips that make it easier on my children and myself when it comes to photographs that I know will be helpful to you.

1. Aim to capture a relaxed portrait

I love a good portrait however for the most part my teens are not interested in dressing up in stylish outfits and posing in the forest in pretty light with beautiful smiles. This sounds like torture for both of us. My approach to portraiture is much more relaxed these days. When we’re out and about if I’m able to snap a quick cooperative or even unknown relaxed portrait then I do so otherwise I don’t push for it. I’m also okay with lack of eye contact or a portrait that incorporates a moment of fun or play. I rarely ask for a pose or give direction. I always want to choose genuine expressions and authenticity over stiff and forced smiles.

ISO 400, 125mm, 2.8f, 1/500SS

ISO 400, 125mm, 2.8f, 1/500SS

2. Take on a lifestyle approach

My main goal when capturing my children is to capture them in the moment preserving little memories. The same is for my teens. I want to remember moments of play and childhood so I’m not necessarily looking for the perfect set up. Instead, I want moments in time that trigger fun and playful memories.

ISO 100, 35mm, 2.2f, 1/2500SS

ISO 100, 35mm, 2.2f, 1/2500SS

3. Use a longer lens

I’m partial to long lenses anyway but I find the use of a longer lens valuable when I’m photographing my teens. Maintaining distance between myself and my teens allows for them to feel more independent and they don’t have a camera in their face. I find this increases authenticity as they get to be themselves while I go about capturing their moments.

ISO 200, 105mm, 3.2f, 1/500SS

ISO 200, 105mm, 3.2f, 1/500SS

4. Be ready

Even when I do have the cooperation of my teens I find their interest in my camera is limited so I’m ready with settings all dialled in before I start capturing a scene. I don’t want to bore or annoy them as I change and play around with settings. I know their attention spans for my camera won’t last that long.  

ISO 100, 35mm, 2.8f, 1/400SS

ISO 100, 35mm, 2.8f, 1/400SS

5. Incorporate their ideas into a photo shoot

Occasionally I’ll suggest a photo shoot to my teens and ask them how they’d like for me to capture the idea. They are really good at coming up with ideas and are typically excited and cooperative when I’m photographing their ideas.

ISO 500, 35mm, f4, 1/1600SS

ISO 500, 35mm, f4, 1/1600SS

6. Capture what they love

Preteens have opinions about what they like to do.  I find my preteens are more likely to participate with my camera if they are involved in something they enjoy doing. My daughter is a super star soccer player and her passion is soccer. She was more than willing to pose for this image because it was about her love of soccer.

ISO 1000, 35mm, 2.8f, 1/800SS

ISO 1000, 35mm, 2.8f, 1/800SS

7. Make it fun

We all know our children best and know what they like and don’t like. My daughter was happy to have this image taken of her because she was enjoying swinging back and forth in the hammock. The moment was fun for her too.

ISO 400, 35mm, 2.8f, 1/640SS

ISO 400, 35mm, 2.8f, 1/640SS

8. Always ask permission

There are two parts to this point for me.  First, I always ask permission before capturing my children.  I might say something as simple as, “I’m going to bring my camera along on our walk for a few photos,” or “Mind if I take a few pictures of you throwing rocks?” I rarely get a “no” if I forewarn my teens that my camera is around and I intend on capturing images.  Second, before I post anything on social media I ask permission or let them know what I’ll be posting.  My children are all over the internet and as they become increasingly private about their lives and understand that what I post might be seen by their peers, teachers, coaches and even strangers they have opinions. I want to be respectful of that.

ISO 100, 35mm, 3.5f, 1/2000SS

ISO 100, 35mm, 3.5f, 1/2000SS

9. Take no for an answer

Everyone likes cooperation but that’s not always the case especially with teens.  Their opinion matters and if they are not in the mood or say no to my camera I put it away.  No questions asked.  After all, I really want them to agree to my camera the next time around.  

ISO 100, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/1000SS

ISO 100, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/1000SS

Do you have any other tips for capturing tweens or teens? Let me know by posting in the blog comments below! I hope with the summer you’ll have lots of opportunities to capture your older children!