I had the privilege speaking to a wonderful group of moms this week about simple suggestions for taking better pictures of our families, specifically children. I wanted to make these tips available to a wider audience, so here I am typing them up for you!
Being a photographer, I don’t think I anticipated how different taking photos of my own child would be.
As parents, we are constantly taking photos of our kids. Maybe you use your phone, a point-and-shoot camera, or even a DSLR. Regardless of what you use, these simple tips can help you better capture those special moments.
Being a photographer, I don’t think I anticipated how different taking photos of my own child would be. Patience is a necessity! She will be doing the most adorable thing, and as soon as I ready the camera, she has inevitably stopped said cute activity. She also likes to try to play with the camera, so keeping her far enough away from the camera to actually get her in focus is often a problem. But sometimes she just gives me this huge grin and, miraculously, the stars have aligned and I can get a composed photo.
Here are my ideas for increasing the odds of those miraculous photos.
Find Good Light
What constitutes “good” light? When I say good, I’m really meaning soft, natural light. An example of soft light would be a very cloudy day. When the sun is beating down with little cloud coverage, we see a lot of shadows. This is referred to as harsh light. Photos of people facing the sun and squinting to see the camera are examples of harsh light. Clouds function as a filter and diffuse the sunlight more evenly. That’s why overcast days are a good time for photo sessions. This doesn’t mean we can never take photos in harsh light, it just means we have to be creative in how we use it to avoid the quintessential squinty photo. If it’s very sunny outside, try taking photos under a large tree, or in the shadow on the side of a building. If you’re inside, try to find the room in your house that gets the most light. You’ll notice that some rooms are better in the morning or in the afternoon.
Have Natural Interaction
Since children are always so well behaved, it should be no problem to have your children posed and sitting or standing still for photos. Right? Ha. It’s easy to become frustrated when taking photos of small kids. They are bouncing targets. Something I’ve found to be helpful is choosing an activity the child likes to do. It can be as simple as reading a book on the sofa. You’re then able to capture genuine, positive emotion and have some distraction for them. If you’re outside, have the kids run around for a couple of minutes to help get the wiggles out. You can even take some photos of them running towards you!
Create a Pleasing Background
I don’t know about your house, but at mine there are always toys strewn about. Always. And stacks of papers and at least one dirty dish at all times. It’s okay. It doesn’t have to be perfect. When you’ve found a place with good light for photos, just do a quick check that the background isn’t cluttered. Take a minute to clear it out of the shot, and now your house looks spotless. Ta-da! Clearing the clutter just helps the person in the photo to stand out more. Take it a step further by choosing a creative background. Have your child lay on a colorful rug, or if you’re outside, let them play in the leaves, or have a picnic on a blanket.
Use Props or Accents
A fun way to really make your photos pop is to utilize props or accents. When I schedule newborn portrait sessions, I always ask parents if they have any sentimental items they’d like to include in the photos. Have an outfit you wore from your childhood? A favorite stuffed bear? A quilt your grandmother made? Use these things when taking photos of your kids, and it will add extra meaning to them. Another fun idea is to add pops of color. Try dressing your kids in neutral colors, but adding colorful shoes or hats. This adds some pizzazz and will make the photos stand out.
Create Depth of Field
I could go into a long explanation of depth of field, but for these purposes, I’ll keep it simple. Depth of field is how much of what is in your photo is in focus. It can be shallow or deep. For example, generally landscape photography has deep depth of field, meaning most everything in the photo from trees in the foreground to mountains in the background, is in focus. Conversely, for portrait photography, we often want to achieve shallow depth of field where our subject is in focus, but our background is blurry. There are camera settings we can utilize to help achieve this, but that’s for a different blog post. For now, I want to give you some easy, practical ways to effect your depth of field. One way is by adjusting the distance between your subject (child) and the background. Taking a photo in front a brick wall? Have your child step forward a few feet. Another way is by adjusting the distance between the camera and the subject. Standing close to your child when taking the photo will reduce the depth of field, and standing further away will increase it.
Some Final Tips
Don’t stress! Kids don’t always cooperate. Just take a deep breath, and if it doesn’t work out remember that making the memories is more important than capturing them. Seriously. You can always try again later. Finally, back up your photos! They’re priceless. There are many cloud based services available. Even if you’re just backing them up to a hard drive, try to make sure they always exist in two places and you’re much less likely to lose them.