Capturing Children On Film

November 10, 2020

Children are free spirits. More than anything, they are real and true to themselves. lively, they are always ready to discover and enjoy the little things. They’ll constantly surprise me with their spontaneity and just as film, they amaze me by their authenticity.

To some of us, using film to photograph them might look like a real challenge. Film is slow and kids are beautifully unpredictable. Perfect moments can happen anytime and will only last in a fraction of a second. These are easy to miss and film forces you to be more aware of every little thing happening in front of you. And to me, that’s the real beauty of it. not only does it allow me to beautifully capture every little moment spent with my models, but it also makes me slow down and enjoy being with them – In the moment. I pay way more attention to every detail in front of me and much less attention to the back of my camera. It also encourages me to feel more. To feel present in that moment, to feel the connection with my little models and to feel even closer to the artist in me, listening even more to my inner voice.

While I would be taking tons of pictures with a digital camera, film is a totally different form of art. Every shot has to be intentional and every frame, composition and pose more deliberate. In a certain way, it is a creative constraint that digital doesn’t offer to me, and that I find really inspiring. Rather than telling myself that I will probably get some good shots among these hundreds of digital photos, now I have to wait for the right time, be more intentional, instinctive and trusting myself even more as an artist.


I shoot all of my film sessions with a Pentax 645n and a 75mm lens. I choose to shoot medium format to get as many details as possible, a very fine grain, and some good clarity. And my lens of choice is to allow me to stay close to my little models and to photograph those precious details. However, it also gives me the opportunity to step back a little if they need more space, let them be with their parents, or play without me being too close to them. The Pentax also has autofocus, which I personally love with children.

For a regular session, I usually shoot 2 to 3 rolls of Fuji 400. The bright and airy look as well as the pastel colors and creamy skin tones Fuji produces. Which is why it’s my favorite. It’s also a plus that it goes with my very candid and joyful style and approach and fits perfectly with the vision I want to achieve.

As we all know, film loves light, and so does Fuji 400. So I always try to shoot wide open, at f2.8 specifically and look for the best light possible. lots of houses in Toronto are old and dark so most of the time I have to shoot really close to windows. Outdoor shoots with kids are my ultimate favorite, allowing me to get some beautiful light and to shoot with a shutter speed around 1/125. Kids being kids, they rarely stay in place for a long time and love to be in action. That’s why I try to keep my shutter speed above 1\60 if I am in the worst lighting scenario and encourage them to do calm activities at home, like reading books or playing with blocks.

Indeed, there is something truly authentic about the whole process of photographing children on film and in creating genuine images with them. That’s why I also love to capture all these precious details of childhood; little feet, curly hair, little hands holding a flower or searching for something in a pocket. All these details that the parents will treasure and cherish forever and that is pure beauty to photograph on film.


Through the viewfinder of my film camera, my main vision is to create timeless memories, capturing those real and candid moments of childhood. But how to recognize and how to create those special moments? To me, the most precious moments are the most natural ones. I don’t want the children to pose or feel any pressure. I want them to forget about the camera, to enjoy the moment and to be themselves. yes, I will direct them so that I can capture the proper light and background, but then I will let them cuddle with their mother and naturally interact with their environment. I will pick some flowers with them, let them smell these and encourage them to find some beautiful rocks or sticks. Sometimes we’ll chase butterflies and other times we’ll just be looking for colorful birds in the trees. At home, I’ll suggest that they read their favorite book and show me their favorite toys. The idea is to create a simple, fun and comfortable environment, letting them enjoy the little things by themselves. Also, film being slow, I usually prioritize calm activities, allowing me to observe everything perfectly and to capture more precious moments.

Working with kids and babies, you also have to accept that things don’t always go as you want them to. Sometimes, nothing seems to work and little ones are not in the mood or are very shy in front of the camera. And that’s why I encourage a natural lifestyle approach. I’m there to help them to forget about the whole process and to simply enjoy the simple things. I give them space and let them cuddle even more with their parents. Then that’s the perfect time for me to step back and capture the moment. And every time, magic will happen. Every child is unique and so is every session. And that’s what is truly beautiful when you photograph children.

Elza Photographie is a fine art film and digital photographer specialized in children and motherhood photography. Originally from Montreal, she is now based in beautiful Toronto (Ontario, Canada). Her approach is very natural and candid. She loves to capture those precious little moments of childhood and the beauty of it.

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