“You must have a really nice camera, because your photos are great!” That is something that I hear alot , and sure, I have invested into my equipment, but the camera does not make the photo! It helps, but with just a little basic knowledge, anyone can take sharp, clear photos of their kids to save those special moments for a lifetime. A professional photographer is a great advantage (and in my opinion a must for family photos at least once a year and for the big milestones), but that doesn’t mean you can’t love the photos you take every day. With that in mind, I wanted to share just a few easy tips to help you take better photos of your kids. Some of these tips may seem to contradict each other, but they don’t! Photography is open to interpretation and trying more than one idea can give you a great variety of photos!
1. Get on their level. I’m sure you have heard this before, but it’s true. A child looks best when you are on their level and not coming from the top and catching only the top of their head. You want to capture those sweet round cheeks in full glory, and capture their expression. To do that, get down, move around or even lay on the ground. You can experiment with angles , but remember that alot of what goes on with a child is in their immediate area, the space right in front of them. It will be easier to capture them, their interests, and to get their attention if you want them to look at you.
2. Zoom in. Get close. Go ahead and get that close up of just their face. Some day when they are 17 and you want to remember their smallness, a photo with their chubby face and wide baby eyes will be cherished. Then zoom in on their little hands, their tiny toes, or their messy mouth after eating spaghetti. Look for the little things and go ahead and capture them. Every photo doesn’t need to be the standard “smile for the camera” head and shoulders or full body shot. Notice the details and get them on film.
3. Go ahead and zoom out,too. Get the big picture. Sometimes the juxtaposition , or contrast of shape and size, can give you a great perspective. For expample, that little person walking on the beach looks adorable when it fills up the photo, but when you take a step back and capture the wide expanse of the beach and the little person is in the corner of the photo, you suddenly see just how small they really are. Or, let them walk next to an adult and capture the difference of size. It’s a good way to document their smallness with a reference point. A big tree, a chair, Daddy’s boots, all kinds of things can provide contrast to a small child’s size and let you show it in your photo.
4. Remember the light! Let me say this again, REMEMBER the light. If there is one thing and one thing only to remember about basic photography, this is it. Photography literally means “painting with light”. That means you are the artist and the light is your brush. Use it to reveal your subject to their best advantage. You want the light to be on the subject and lighting it up so that you can clearly see exactly what you want on film. The flash is harsh, and while it comes in handy for indoor situations, you don’t want to count on flash to cancel out bad lighting. Basic rule- face your subject towards the light and don’t backlight (don’t put a light behind them). For example,if it’s birthday cake time and your child is sitting in front a bright window with their cake and you try to take a photo from a dimly lit kitchen, its a bad idea. The light behind will cause a silhouette effect or cause the details of the subject to be lost and you will get a shadowy photo. Instead, move the child where a wall is behind them and a light is in front them or above them , and you will capture the details much more cleary. You can, however, go too far the other way and light things up so brightly that it washes out the colors of the image. An example of that would be if you took photos outside on a sunny day, at noon, in a white shirt. The sunlight is bright, it’s a bright time of day, and the white shirt will throw even more light back at the face and washing out will occur. There are ways to compensate for all of this, but as a basic tip, just be aware of your lighting before you click.Use what you have to your best advantage and take a minute to think about the lighting before you start snapping. You will be glad you did! One more tip on this subject- window light has a great softness to it and can be a wonderful way to practice with your lighting. Sit your child a few feet away from a window with gentle natural light coming in and notice how that looks. See the soft light on their face and how nice the details of the features look? You can even pull a white curtain over the window and filter it a little if its very bright out. Don’t let lighting scare you, because it’s easier than it sounds. Try a few things and see what you like best!
5. Don’t say cheese! Never, ever tell them to say “cheese”. We have all heard the phrase, and most likely used it at some point. But who really wants a pic of a grimace anyways? That produces a fake smile and an awkward photo. Instead, try to ask them about what they enjoy doing, or do something silly that makes them giggle. You can always have someone stand behind you and talk to them if you prefer not to do two things at once. Some of my favorite photos of my kids have been taken when they had no idea the camera was out. I do still take the obligatory “look over here and smile” photos , but I love candids. They capture who the children really are and don’t make the kids dislike the camera. Try to be unobtrusive and sneak a few shots and see what you get.
6. Focus…this may seem really simple, but I have heard a few comments lately about photos that seem blurry. That is because the focus is off and can happen for a few reasons, but with a point and shoot camera, it’s pretty easy to correct. Instead of just looking through the lens and clicking, try this: Frame the image, and then press half way down on your shutter button. That should make a little square pop up on the screen. That square(s) is where the sharpest part of your image will be. That means it should be the most important part of your photo. If it isn’t, release the shutter and recompose the image and try again. Press the shutter button halfway down, and if the square is where you want your focus to be, press the shutter button the rest of the way and take the photo.
7.Shutter speed- This one is getting closer to the DSLR camera range, but can be useful when shooting in auto as well. Many cameras have different auto shoot options for different types of photos. These options are for the shutter speed and will help your images be crisp and clear when you use the correct setting. For example, most cameras have a portrait (icon that looks like a head and shoulders of a person) setting. Choose this when you are shooting a tradtional head shot that won’t be giving a lot of movement. This is a good choice if you are shooting a photo of an older child or adult who knows how to hold still. The sports setting (a little man running is the icon) has a faster shutter speed and will prevent some of the blur from taking a shot while someone is in motion. This is a great choice for toddlers and small children who go places fast and move constantly. One thing about the sports setting is that since the shutter is only open for a short time, it reduces motion blur, but also lets in less light. That means you need to be sure that there is alot of light for a photo taken on sports/action setting. Then there is the little flower icon. This is good for something up close, like a rose or a shot of your dinner,etc. The image will be very clear , but the shutter stays open a bit longer and that means you need to hold very still while shooting under this setting. If you don’t it will get blurry. Try composing your photo, focusing by pushing the shutter button halfway, then taking a deep breath and holding it while you press the button the rest of the way. If you aren’t sure what setting you want to use, then choose auto and then experiment with the settings sometime when it’s convenient.
8. Change up the angle. Look for ways to angle your photos that will provide a creative view. Shoot from above, birds eye style. Or, lay on the floor and look up. Turn the camera sideways and see what happens. Shoot over the shoulder of a child to see their view of the world, capturing a favorite toy in play or a book being read. Play with it and see what you come up with.
I hope these simple ideas can help you feel more confident with the camera that you already have and that you can truly enjoy taking great photos of your family! Do you have any tips or tricks to share?