Find The Light And Use It, If Not, Add Your Own
Lighting – Most professional photographers will tell you, lighting is probably the most important aspect of not just child photography, but ALL photography. It is almost virtually impossible to recover what could have been the “best child photograph ever”, if the lighting is wrong! I have been known to rescue one or two out of the bag using Photoshop, but in general, the better you do on the day, the less work for you overall! (Please see my Photoshop hints and tips for more info on this and other subjects).
For me, the best lighting will always be natural. If you can get the child to stand by a bright window or in the shade under a tree, you have all the power of the sun at your fingertips. Try, if possible NOT to photograph the child or children in DIRECT sunlight. This plays havoc with the light meter in your camera, and can cause unsightly shadows. There are times however when you can break this rule quite effectively, but you need a bit of training on your camera settings.
Direct flash is also a no-no. It can create large shadows behind the subject, cause red eye, and places your photography into the category of “average”, which is no good if someone is paying you for your time. The only time direct flash is acceptable, is as “fill-in” flash, should you happen to be shooting in direct sunlight and want to decrease the shadows on the child’s face. Bounced flash on the other hand, is great. By bouncing the flash from another surface onto the subject, it diffuses the light and creates a much more subtle effect.
See my Flash Photography page for more info.
After natural lighting, the next best thing for me, is the softbox. Mine goes everywhere with me and they can vary in size from fitting over your flashgun, to approximately 2-3 metres squared. Basically they are what they say, a BOX through which the light is fired, to create a more SOFT and subtle effect. The diffused light really does flatter the subject and if you are thinking of buying, or already own studio lights, a softbox is a great piece of kit.