Five Tips for Photographing Teenagers

This is our last in our three part series on photographing your children as they grow up. Today we bring you some tips on photographing teens. You might want to look back at our tips on photographing babies and taking photos of children. We hope you enjoy.

Photo credit: Tiffany Joyce

Teenagers can be very, very particular about their appearance in a photograph. It has to be “cool”, it has to show them at their best, and the photo needs to capture their own unique personality and style. As such, working with teenage subjects can be quite a challenge. Photographing a teenager in a more formal setting, such as prom or yearbook pictures, can be somewhat easier than working with younger subjects, as the teen is able to comprehend your instructions and can demonstrate more patience for the photographic process. Action shots, such as sporting events, are also important to fully capture this time in the teen’s life. Always remember to have fun and encourage dialogue to fully understand the goals of the photo shoot. The next time you have the opportunity, try out these tips for photographing a teenager.

One – Set the goals and expectations up front. Have a detailed conversation with the teen about the expected outcome of the photo shoot. What kinds of poses do they want? Will there be multiple outfits? Will the shots be just for fun, or are they going to be used as their class picture or in their yearbook? Settle on how long the photo shoot will last as well, to control “scope creep”. Most importantly, discuss the details with the teenager as their equal.

Photo credit: Tiffany Joyce

Two – Compose multiple portraiture shots. Get in close for a head or head and shoulders shot by using the long end of a telephoto lens (such as a 70-200mm) or a long prime lens (such as a 200mm f/2.0), and use a shallow depth of field (f/5.6 or lower). Use a tripod and remote shutter release to ensure tack-sharp photos. For full body poses, a 18-55mm lens is a great, flexible lens. Photograph at f/11 to ensure the entire subject is in focus. For indoor portrait shots in continuous light, shoot at ISO 400 at f/11. For outdoor portrait shots shoot in aperture priority, also using ISO 400.

Three – Use a fast lens for sports photography. Choose a 70-200mm f/2.8 or a 300mm f/2.8 (unfortunately this is out of reach of pretty much everyone  $4700! so using a non prime 300mm lens is still an option – you might just need to push up your ISO, or go where there is more light – here is a list of 300mm lenses less than $500), and set the camera to shoot in continuous or “burst” mode. A fast lens will allow you to use a faster shutter speed even in lower light levels. This will ensure that the subject in the photograph is sharp even if captured in motion, and is a good choice whether you’re shooting an indoor event or an outdoor event. Shooting in burst mode will capture a succession of motion shots, and also increases the chances of capturing a tack-sharp, correctly composed and correctly exposed shot.

Photo credit: Tiffany Joyce

Four – Plan ahead for the special events. Talk with the teenager about their plans for homecoming, prom, championship or rivalry games, and the like. Remember to bring the camera with you for their test to get their driver’s license. They’ll suffer through the “embarrassment” of first-date pictures if they know about them ahead of time. Also, consider documenting a “day in the life” – follow the teen around for a day taking photographs, so they can look back upon this time in their life and recall how they used to spend their free time.

Five – You can handle multiple teenagers! Many times teens would like to create a group photographic project with their friends. Be open and friendly, and solicit suggestions and ideas. Set expectations up front to encourage the process to keep moving forward. Anticipate several hours for multiple poses, locations, and outfits. Pay equal attention to each individual – in group shots, photograph multiple poses and rearrange the subjects so that they each have a turn being in the center or being the “featured” subject. Be sure to take individual shots of each teenager. Consider breaking up larger groups into multiple smaller groups for variation. Take candid shots of the teens interacting with one another to capture more natural poses.