After years of experience selling photographs to families, I’ve come to realize that the pictures people snatch up the quickest are those of their children. Let’s face it: parents love their kids! And it doesn’t matter how old they are either. The kids could be toddlers, teenagers, or married with children of their own. Mom and dad always want the pictures!
Unfortunately, you can’t carry a photographer with you 24/7, so it’s up to you to capture your children with your camera, be it a DSLR, a GoPro, or your camera phone. No matter what you’re shooting with, here are seven straight-up simple tips to help you get the most of the photographs you take of your children.
Read through the list, but don’t skip the “big secret” at the end!
1. Get down to their level.
Why? Because giving your photo that “kid’s eye view” will help give it the emotional punch it needs to stand out. To see the world through the eyes of a child means not being any more than three or four feet off the ground. Maybe less! So bend over, kneel down, or, heck, lay flat on the floor!
2. Stop saying, “Say cheese!”
One thing I absolutely love about kids is that they don’t fake their emotions. If they’re unhappy, it will show. If they’re having a great time, their smiles will shine! If all you’re doing to get a reaction out of your children is saying, “Say cheese,” then a mouthful of grimacing teeth is the best you’ll get.
Get children to be real by playing with them. Engaging with them. Tickling them. Snuggling. Peekaboo-ing. Ask them to see if they can spot the monkey in the camera lens, and then say, “Boo!”
“Do you know why a duck has feathers?”
“To hide his butt quack!”
Jump up and down. Invent a game. Fake a fart. Kids are so easy to get a reaction out of if you can find the right button to push.
3. Focus on the eyes.
By that I mean the focus point of your camera should always be dead center on the eyes. If your camera phone auto-focuses on the point of the touch screen you tap, then tap the eyes. If you need to set your DSLR from a wide “AF Area Mode” to a single point focus mode, do it! And always focus on the eyes.
4. Meet your child where they’re at.
Does your child like to be outside? Does he/she have a favorite toy, favorite place to read, favorite way to eat a PB&J? Getting photos of where your children like to be is one way of helping get photos of who they really are.
So if your daughter likes climbing trees, maybe sitting her down for a tea party won’t give you the best results. If your son likes to read, capture him curled up with a book on his favorite pillow. Let your kids be the beautiful, curious, silly little humans they are and capture them in their element.
5. Turn off your flash.
It takes a very skilled hand to use artificial light to help illuminate a subject, especially a busy little body like a child. Your built-in flash will usually give you harsh, unflattering light, as will any camera-mounted external flash, and you should never use it unless that’s your only option.
Search for natural light instead. You don’t necessarily have to go outdoors to find it, either. Find a window, or if it’s too sunny outside, find a wall to use as a reflective surface. Natural light will always help make a subject look their best.
6. Keep their hands busy.
I’ve seen this scenario many times. During the photo session, kids get fidgety, which makes the parents frustrated, which leads to,”Calm down.” “Stop playing around.” “Sit still.” And this makes for an incredibly dull experience in the life of a child.
Their little hands just need something to do. Let them hold their favorite teddy bear or cuddle a blanket. Take photos during the holidays using props that’ll occupy them—American flags, birthday bows, Valentine’s hearts, ornaments, etc. Keep them distracted by keeping their hands occupied.
7. Let them be small.
Kids are small. The world is big. A photo that captures the smallness of a child in our big, big world can do a lot of things to make your photos more powerful—it can enhance their innocence, add drama to whatever activity they’re playing, show the awe and wonder and fun of childhood.
Put your child in a chair that’s too big for them. Put your daughter in mommy’s dress. Let the epic mountain vista eclipse your 2-year-old. Let the large stuff be a metaphor for the future ahead and let the sparkle in their eyes speak to the innocence of youth.
So what’s the “big secret”?
The power of any photo isn’t in the equipment you use or the experience you have, but in the story you’re able to tell. All the points above deal with a means of telling a genuine story in a single photograph through technique.
Every snapshot should be more than just your child’s face; it should be a scene, a moment, a glimpse into their lives. Use these lighting and compositional techniques to add some emotional weight to your pictures and you’ll capture the hearts of friends and family with photos you’ll cherish for the rest of your life.
7 Tips to Take Better Photos of Your Kids
kids, children, portraits, photography, tutorial, how-to, DIY