Every parent treasures the images they have of their children. Whether you proudly display them in your home or keep them safe in an album, each photo is a precious moment in time. Special family photos are also personal memories of your babies growing up through the years, which means so much. I put together some pro tips to hope you take great photos of your kids.
In our digital age, the ability to capture those all-important memories couldn’t be easier. Not only is the technology getting more sophisticated but our smartphone cameras are also becoming ever more user-friendly. Even for beginners, taking pictures on your phone may be a lot easier than you think. If you prefer to shoot with a proper camera, entry-level digital cameras (DSLR) start from a few hundred pounds new, though it is possible to find great used DSLR camera deals online.
Getting the right photo kit is all very well but the process of taking good pictures of the little darlings can be anything but straightforward; sometimes it’s a real challenge. On a good day, it’s a joyful and rewarding experience to take photos of your kids, with precious shots that capture the sparkle of their personality. But on a bad day, they won’t keep still, won’t stop squabbling, are in a bad mood or just aren’t interested in being photographed. The result? You end up with disappointing images that look forced and lack impact. So, what can you do?
If you want to capture magic moments with your family, there’s certainly a lot to think about but you don’t need to throw in the towel in defeat and spend money on a photographer. We’ve got some simple tips and tricks, gleaned from the professionals, to help you tweak your technique in a way that can make a world of difference to the end result. Read and learn.
1. Don’t make them smile
Great photos of happy kids is what every parent is after, but what do you do if your youngster doesn’t feel like smiling for the camera? You won’t be surprised to hear that insisting that they ‘say cheese’ will most likely produce cheesy grins that look awkward and forced in the picture, which is the exact opposite of the desired results. Of course, you can use all the tricks in the book to get your child to look towards the lens. However, for the most natural photos, your best tactic is not to alert him or her to the presence of the camera at all. I used to ask my kids to smile all the time and the photos are never as good as their natural face, this is one of those pro tips from experience.
2. Go with the flow
The best children’s portraits are spontaneous and natural, but how do you achieve that with amateur photography? Not by issuing instructions to smile or pose in a certain way! Instead, look for opportunities to capture youngsters ‘in the wild’, as it were. Just shoot your kids as you find them, and their individual expressions, mannerisms and character will come to the fore. Whether they’re deep in thought, playing by themselves or giggling with siblings or friends, you can capture their true nature best when they’re busy or occupied.
3. Give them something to do
Most kids are not good at sitting or standing still for very long, so don’t try too hard telling them to pose for a photo. A more successful approach is to give them something to do. Even “something as simple as having them blow bubbles or catching ladybugs will help you capture candid moments because they’ll be focused on the task at hand,” explains one family photographer. Another trick is to use props such as toys, fancy dress or any random object that will grab your junior’s attention for longer, giving you more time to secure that perfect shot.
4. Make it fun
This is one of the best pro tips as it will make the experience enjoyable for the kids and you! Engaging with the subject(s) of your photo shoot is key when children are involved. A good tip is to let loose and try a bit of silliness yourself. Make them laugh, sing songs, have a dance, tell stories. Or maybe get Dad or a grandparent to interact with the kids as they normally would, which will take their attention off the camera and produce a great, natural-looking image. Or get them physically excited through play – pick them up, tickle them, put them on Dad’s shoulders, chase them up the stairs, etc – and they’ll be totally unaware that pictures are being taken.
5. Get down low
It may be a statement of the obvious to say that children are small people but, in terms of photography, perspective and scale matter a lot. If you take photos from above looking down on your kids, the results may feel disconnected and look distorted. But if you get the camera down to their eye level, or even further, it will create much more connection in the frame. Look through the lens from your child’s perspective and you’ll see the world through their eyes. This, in turn, helps to produce images of authentic expression and warmth. I always do this to get a different perspective, it isn’t uncommon for me to be lying on the floor whilst taking photos – one of those pro tips that will make you laugh.
6. Take it outside
The best light for photography is natural daylight, and ideally you should be shooting outside. This can work really well for children who generally love the Great Outdoors. Why not combine a trip to the park, playground or zoo with a relaxed photo shoot that’s fun for everyone? In terms of lighting, natural light means you don’t have to bother with harsh flash light and can achieve a soft glow to faces without much effort. If going outside is not an option, look for big windows instead and work with natural light that way.
7. Use the golden hour
The most flattering light for portrait photography is soft light that has a warm character and doesn’t cast harsh shadows. The best time of the day to find the softest light is about 2 hours before sunset, also known as the ‘golden hour’ in the trade. This is when the sun is at a lower angle in the sky and the light is less intense. The autumn and winter seasons have natural ‘golden hour’ light for most of the day and is a great time to take magical pictures of children.
8. Know when to stop
Kids have a lot of energy but when they’re tired, there’s nothing left in the tank. Pushing a child beyond that point doesn’t benefit anybody, and least of all your photo ambitions. Remember that time is precious when you’re shooting children and you only have a short window in which to get your pictures, so don’t waste it fiddling with your camera or setting up complicated shots. Move quickly and keep shooting, so you can get as many unique shots as possible, and limit your photo shoots to about an hour.
9. Enjoy the experience
Finally, find the fun in taking pictures of your children. Don’t treat it like a chore, but really enjoy the experience. Remember the reason why you’re doing it in the first place. You’re looking to capture your children’s essence, milestones, life stages and key events and preserve them for posterity. They grow up so fast and you’re literally making important family memories! With a bit of practice and a few tips and techniques to help you on your way, there’s no reason why your camera shouldn’t be your constant companion, always at your side to help you capture your family at their best.
Did you like the pro tips above? Do you have any other tips? I would love to know in the comments below.
Siobhan NMarch 16, 2023
I think digital photography makes it so eaier to get good photos. I remember when taking photos predigital meant you had no idea what the pictures looked like until you went to collect them