How to create great videos of your children

Sep 17, 2022

And have fun!

September is a really popular time for shooting kids videos. From back to school videos to yearly updates, measuring milestones, Halloween costumes and Christmas magic, shooting video footage you can look back on is a great idea.

The most common question I am asked by parents is how to create a story? Most parents tell me they have a variety of odd short clips or stills, but want to create quality small story videos to share with family members.

I’ve shot tons of videos over the years with children of all ages, so I know how it works. I want to make smartphone shooting fun and easy for all ages, so here is my child-friendly shooting guide!!!

TAKE YOUR TIME
Be aware that this is going to take twice as long as you think, so plan ahead and don’t be in a rush.

KEEP THEM ONSIDE
Keep your children engaged, show them the footage as you go along.
Change things up, don’t try and get them to do the same stuff, mix up what you want.
Talk to them, give them a running commentary in a sing-song voice to keep them tuned in.

DISTRACT THEM
Have some small toys with you and film them playing. Their interest in new things will make them appear very engaged onscreen.
Fool them with a tripod. Set up your shot and have the smartphone on a camera and press record then talk to them and ignore the camera, and they won’t even notice you are recording.

FILM IN A FAVOURITE PLACE
Choose somewhere familiar to do your shoot.
Take them to a favourite playground or park, so they are immediately relaxed.
Use natural light to keep it simple, too much kit can make them unsettled.

GIVE THEM TIME
Children are usually really interested in what you are doing for about five minutes.
Let them play with the phone, look at your equipment, and wait until they leave you alone to actually start to shoot.
Shoot them watching the entertainer at a party, or listening to a story, you can get some great shots of them caught naturally.

SHOOT AT THEIR LEVEL
Get down to child level to shoot your video. If you shoot from above, it looks all wrong. Kneel down and capture their facial expressions. If your child is running in a park, get your smartphone down by your side and run after them. Videos look great when shot on their level.

STAY IN ONE PLACE
Don’t be tempted to run around trying to shoot all the action.
Stay in one place and let the action play out in front of you.
You will have to shoot more, but it is the only way to get great footage
Be patient and if you do need to move the camera, do it slowly.
Do use your slow motion function, it’s an excellent choice for filming children.

DON’T ZOOM
If you are filming a school recital or concert, a dance class or a footie match, it is hard to not press the zoom. But for video, it is only going to mean one thing – pixels!
Either get closer to the action or use a telephoto lens that will give you better close up footage.

GET IN CLOSE
Do Vary your shots. Don’t just go for full body shots, think about how to vary the size of your shot so that you get footage of faces.
When filming babies, shoot their feet or tiny hands, or shoot them watching something else other than you. Don’t be afraid of getting in close. It makes your videos more intimate and capture details.
Remember, babies don’t do much, so them smiling or waking up are huge deals and look better the closer you are.
The best videos of children are when you shoot their emotions. Capture them being themselves, so film them reading, eating, watching TV, playing, running to get a variety of actions and emotions for your videos.

SHOOT SIDEWAYS
Get into the habit of always shooting landscape. This means you have footage that can be viewed on a variety of platforms, including the TV for grandparents!
Don’t limit your shots by shooting it vertically.

SHUT UP
Remember to stay quiet. So many great clips of children are ruined when you can hear the parent telling them to do it again or hold on.

CREATING STORIES

Now you have got all the top tips to hand, it is time to think about how to dramatically improve your video storytelling ability.

Produce your film

Think about what you want to create and the story you want to tell. Is it a film about a family lunch, going back to school, bedtime, your child learning to walk, dressing up for Halloween? In each of the scenarios above, there is a story to be told.
Think about the title of your story, summer outing with cousins, decorating the Christmas tree, a fun family walk.
Whatever it is, think about what you want to create before you pick up your camera, it makes it tons easier when you know what are actually trying to produce.
Once you have decided on your story, just follow my easy shooting rules

Film a simple chat with your child
Frame up your shot, so your child can sit somewhere comfy, and then put your smartphone on a tripod next to you. Have a chat with them, so they are looking at you, not at the camera.
Teach them to answer in self-contained sound bites; i.e. if you ask them “what are we doing today”? You want them to say “today we are going for a walk in the woods”, not just “walk”! This means you can trim yourself out of the film and just edit together their little chat.

Capture Sound
If you want to hear what they are saying, then don’t rely on your smartphone mic. The easiest way to capture good sound on the move with kids is to put your smartphone in a U rig….and use a shotgun mic.

This mic is tried and tested by me and the team and means you can always pick up your child’s chat on the move.

Shoot an Establishing shot
This is the shot that introduces the viewer to what you are going to be showing them.
If the film is a family walk, shoot all the family wellies or boots lined up by the back door or coats on a rack. Or have your child sit and put their boots or hat and coat on. This shot sets up what your film is all about. These shots can also be used throughout the film, i.e. a shot of your child in the car sets up the journey to the walk, your child leaving the house to go for the walk or coming back into the house at the end of the walk. All very useful to bolt together your film.
You also need to think about what you want to use as a final shot, too. This is often overlooked and films just tail off without a definite end, so think of a key image to end on.

Shoot some B roll

B roll is basically all the nice footage you will cut into the chat you shot. The more, the better. For a film about a family walk, you could shoot:

  • Your child playing in the back of the car.
  • Shots of the scenery out of the window.
  • Your child getting in the car waving out the window
  • Shot of the car leaving the drive or arriving at location.
  • Different shot sizes of your child on a walk.
  • Try walking in front of them and having them walk towards you.
  • Shots of their feet marching through autumn leaves.
  • Shots of them from behind walking down a lovely path.
  • Your child running along with their dog.
  • Throwing a ball, a Frisbee, looking at nature, picking up cones or stones.

These shots need to be 3-5 seconds long, and they are where you fill any gaps when you trim your chat. They also illustrate what your child is talking about.

If in your chat, your child says she loves walks because she loves climbing over the gate, make sure you get some shots of the favourite gate!!

Shoot a variety of shot sizes
This is what will help you the most. For example, if you are shooting your child doing their homework at the table you need to get in the habit of shooting 3 shot sizes.

  • A shot head on, them concentrating on what they are doing
  • A shot from the side maybe wider showing where she is sitting
  • A shot from above, of her pen on the paper or showing what she is
  • drawing, or the sum she is adding up.
  • This variety is what is going to help you create a professional looking film.

ONE FINAL TOP TIP FOR CHILD SHOOTING
Always remember to clean your lens. If you have to let children see what you are doing or grab the camera to take a look, be aware sticky hands can easily smear your lens and ruin your shoot.

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