I often get asked by friends, and sometimes from ‘virtual’ friends on flickr or here on my blog, for advice on capturing amazing photos of their kids. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I have learned a thing or two over the years, and I’m always happy to share what I’ve learned! The following tips are a few things that I often tell friends who are looking to improve the photos they take of their kids. I’d love to hear from you, do any of these ring true for you? Do you disagree with any of these? Do you have a tip or two to add to this list? If so, please share it with us and we’ll all improve together!
Okay, let’s get to the tips!
Catch Your Kids Being Themselves:
The best way to avoid the tired old portraits you’ve always taken is to think about your shot and what makes your kids who they are. Capture family traditions or events that are special to you and your kids and make sure that your family’s personalities are represented. There is nothing wrong with a posed, smile for the camera, type of photo, however, if you really want to start capturing amazing photos of your kids, start focusing on capturing photos that catch your kids being themselves.
Prepare – Don’t Make The Kids Wait On You To Get Things Situated:
Get things set up before you bring the child into the photo session. This is essential as most children have extremely low tolerance for waiting around for an adult to go grab a prop or to set up a piece of equipment. Kids like to move around, they don’t naturally stay in one spot, unless they are sleeping, so you just might find that you’ll capture some great shots if you don’t try to glue them down to one spot and just be prepared to follow the action!
Take a Portrait Without Posing:
Force yourself to accept that a good portrait of your kids does NOT have to be made up of traditional poses that were invented back when camera shutter speeds dictated that people hold perfectly still (this is why no one smiled in those old, old portraits!). If you MUST, take a couple of ‘traditional’ portraits, then un-pose your kids and focus on capturing beautiful moments that happen naturally in daily life.
Move Around – See Things From Your Kids’ Perspective:
Try interesting angles and look at your subject from above, below, through and even under things in their environment. Some of the most engaging photos you’ll take of your kids are the ones where you got down onto THEIR eye level to take the photo. It really makes a dramatic difference between a “snapshot” of an event and a “portrait” that you and others can connect to emotionally!
Keep It Fun:
Kids are emotional creatures, and YOU have tremendous power to influence their little attitudes. Don’t expect a photo shoot to last for 45 minutes, make things fun and happy. Take breaks, play with the kids, don’t get mad if they mess up their hair or drool on their shirt, just fix it and roll with it! If you tell your kids “Just one more shot!”, then really only take ONE MORE shot, don’t teach them that your words are meaningless!
Shoot With The End Product In Mind:
Not every photo you take is going to be published in a magazine (okay, probably none of them are!), so don’t feel like you have to shoot a photo that is perfect for someone else! Your photo should be shot to make you and your kids happy, or the Grandparents, cousins, etc. This does NOT mean that you shouldn’t pay attention to taking good ‘technical’ photos (proper settings for shutter speed, aperture, ISO, lighting, etc), even if Grandma is not a photo critic, she will most likely have a stronger emotional attachment to a photo that is exposed properly and is in clear focus over an identical composition that is less technically correct!
Lighting Is Very Important:
Some would say that photography, by definition, is ALL about light. When possible, if it doesn’t matter one way or the other, photos taken outside will often turn out better than indoor photos. If you must shoot indoors, do it during the day and do it in a room with a lot of natural light. When things are well lit, you allow your camera to do a better job with what you are giving it. As soon as the light drops off, your camera has to start making compromises in ISO, Shutter Speed, Focus, to compensate for the lower light levels. All of this will generally result in disappointing photos.
Frequent Little Photo Shoots Are Superior To One Long Photo Shoot:
Kids will generally not put up with a long photo shoot like adults might. Therefore, don’t get in the habit of shooting until they start crying. Make your photo shoot short and sweet, allow it to end on a positive, happy note and they will be excited next time you say “hey kids, lets take some photos!” rather than groaning and complaining!
Show Your Kids the Results Of The Photo Shoot:
I’ve not met a kid yet that didn’t like looking at photos of themselves and their siblings. Make a fun tradition of looking at photography together with your kids and this will inspire them to take more / better photos in the future!
If you are like me, sometimes you struggle with the line between being a parent and being a photographer at an event or photo shoot. Having a helper can go a long way in taking some of the pressure off of you when you are shooting and your kids need something from you (think: nose wiped, fly swatted, grass taken out of baby’s mouth, etc.) If you are laying down on your stomach, getting the perfect perspective for your shot, but then you need to get up to take care of your kid, this will quickly wear you out and after awhile, it will discourage you from being as creative or as energetic as you ought to be!
Shoot at THEIR Best Time, Not YOUR Best Time:
They are your kids, you know their schedule. Choose to do your photo shoot when your kids are at their best – when they are not hungry, tired or grumpy for some reason. Some of my biggest photo disasters happened when I tried to shoot photos of my kids when they were absolutely NOT in the mood. This is probably one of the most important things you can do (unless you are WANTING to have photos of your kids crying, fighting, and displaying general bad attitudes!) Make the process of shooting amazing photos of your children something that everybody loves and it will pay off in the long run.
I don’t usually push ‘gear’ as anyone’s solution to a photography challenge – I’m a big fan of doing the best you can with what you have. Having said that, your potential can jump up a level or two when you give yourself a camera / lens advantage! If you are using a “point-and-shoot” to take photos of your kids, the biggest improvement you can make is to move up to a DSLR. You’ll be shocked at just how fast the shutter is on the DSLR and you’ll miss far fewer shots because of the delay between when you pushed the shutter button and when the photo actually took! If you have a DSLR, the number one thing I can recommend is, no matter what camera you have (Nikon, Canon, Sony, etc), but the 50mm ‘prime lens’ that fits your DSLR. It will usually only cost around $120 usd, but it will quickly become your favorite lens! It will be the best $ you’ve spent on photography EVER!
For more photography tips, check out my article on “10 Tips For Amazing Travel Photography”!