tips for taking terrific photos of kids

I get asked this question a LOT: “How do you get such natural shots of kids?” Great question. I might say “luck” because sometimes that has a lot to do with it. Do you ever find that when the camera comes out, the tears start? Do you find that as the camera comes out, they turn the cheese on? My kids do. It might have something to do with the fact that I’ve had a camera in their faces since they were born. Taking pictures of kids make up probably 90% of my photography business, and while it is ALWAYS a lot of fun, I have found a few tips and tricks that make the whole thing a lot smoother. And now I am sharing 10 of those tips with YOU!

Here are 10 tips for taking TERRIFIC photos of your kids.

 tips for taking terrific photos of kids

1. Timing is Everything

This is probably the tip you will want to implement FIRST. Timing. How fun would YOU be to photograph at 3am? Probably not much. Why? You’re tired and grumpy. Unless that is the look you’re going for, you will want to be sure that your child is well-rested and happy. YOU know what times would work best for your kids. When is their nap time? Have they been fed? The best times to photograph your kiddos is after a nap, after a snack. Sometimes you can’t control when the funny moments happen, but if you are planning a little photography time,  plan the time around THEIR schedule. You’ll be so much happier with the results.

 tips for taking terrific photos of kids

2. Get Down

I don’t mean dancing (but, by all means – go for it!) I’m talking about getting DOWN on your knees, DOWN on your hands, DOWN on your tummy. If you want to capture the world from THEIR perspective, be prepared to get down and dirty. You will absolutely LOVE the shots you can capture from this angle. Lay THEM on their tummies, then YOU get down on YOUR tummy and start snapping away. Seeing you on your stomach often gets them giggling, too. It works even with those cranky kids a lot of the time ;)

 tips for taking terrific photos of kids

 tips for taking terrific photos of kids

3. Prepare to Play

Unless you want the stinky “Cheese” pics where the kids look like a strangely happy deer in headlights, you will want to be capturing your child’s natural joyful expressions. When are they happiest? When they are playing! I think adults are the same way :) If you have  large camera, like an SLR, it’s fun to “hide” your face behind it, then peek out with a “Peek-A-Boo!” This usually gets them smiling a few times. When I’m “hiding”, I’m actually getting the shot in focus, then when I “peek-a-boo!” I start snapping away. This normally only works a few times before the little ones get bored, so use it wisely! LOL! It’s also fun to play peek-a-boo with the child with them standing behind a tree, or post, or something similar that they can peek out around. Look around the space..I’m sure you’ll find some great ways to “play” and get some fun, happy shots! If they have siblings – perfect! Built-in-playmates. Use that! Oh, and if the kids are a little older…. making a sour face and exclaiming “Hey, who’s feet are so stinky?” also usually gets a good smile :)

 tips for taking terrific photos of kids

 tips for taking terrific photos of kids

4. Get Them Talking

I love using this tip, especially when photographing kids I’m only just meeting, though it works with my own, too. Ask them about school, their teachers, their best friend. Get them talking about their favorite super hero (or in my case – princesses!). After a minute or two, the kids will get lost in talking and you’ll get a lot of genuine expressions. Singing songs with them also works wonders. And if you can get them to dance? Even better!

 tips for taking terrific photos of kids

 tips for taking terrific photos of kids

5. Fill The Frame

Awww….isn’t that a cute picture of Joey? Or…wait….IS that Joey? Hmmm… can’t tell. He’s so FAR AWAY! I can’t stress this tip enough. FILL the frame with your subject. If the subject is your child…FILL the frame with your child. Now, if your subject is supposed to be that unique building in the background, move your child closer to YOU and you will still get to see the building AND the person standing in front of it. OR, fill the frame with the building if that is what you want to capture, however I don’t usually find that I look through my albums and exclaim “Wow, I sure love that building” as much as I think “I’m so glad I captured her expression at that moment – because it was gone so fast”. Don’t be afraid to clip off a part of the head, or crop out the legs – just fill the frame! That being said, I’ll stick in another tip-within-a-tip: If you are going to crop out body parts  – avoid cropping at the joints (i.e. knees, elbows, waits, neck) because you’ll get a really…um….disJOINTed looking shot :)

 tips for taking terrific photos of kids

 tips for taking terrific photos of kids

6. Remove Distractions

This is kind of a two-way tip. Part a. Remove any distracting items from the shot that will take away from your subject. This might mean sticking that crazy quilt in another room, or throwing those dirty socks in the basket before shooting pics of your kids in that space. It might also mean moving YOU or your SUBJECT to a spot where that telephone pole isn’t “growing” out of your child’s head in the background. Take a second to become aware of what you are seeing through the lens BESIDES your subject. Is it detracting from your child? Is your eye drawn to that distracting item instead of your cutie’s baby blues? I like to move it, move it.

 tips for taking terrific photos of kids

Part b) Remove your child from any location that has too many visual distractions for THEM. You don’t want them to start wailing because they want to play at the playground across the field from the spot you are trying to photograph them. You don’t want their favorite movie playing on the TV in the room where you are trying to get their attention for a photograph. Unless you are deliberately trying to capture them playing with something specific, remove the distraction. You won’t be sorry :)

 tips for taking terrific photos of kids

7. Play Dress Up

This is pretty self-explanatory, but here goes. Kids love to dress up. They love to feel special, fancy, cool, whatever. Let them dress up in something they normally don’t wear, OR in something they LOVE to wear EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. You will find that when you stick that tutu on, or let them don that cowboy hat, the smiles will come naturally. And if you want some real smiles? Stick that rainbow clown wig on yourself while you are at it!

 tips for taking terrific photos of kids
 tips for taking terrific photos of kids

8. Capture the Motion

When photographing kids, you’ll be getting the work out of your life while trying to keep up with them, especially when photographing out doors. Your camera will need to work harder, too, to freeze that motion, instead of getting one blurry shot after another. You will want to up that shutter speed, and set your camera to continuous shooting mode. “But, I have a point and shoot – and I can’t change the settings!” That might be true, but do you have a little icon that looks like a guy running? Set it to that mode (sports mode) and your camera will fire at it’s fastest shutter speed, and often will shoot in continuous shooting mode. Give it a shot! If you don’t know how to change the shutter speed or shooting mode, now would be a great time to pull out your camera’s manual, or even look it up online. You want to get the MOST out of you camera, right? Right. Shooting with these settings will freeze the action and make for some really great photos of your kids.

 tips for taking terrific photos of kids

 tips for taking terrific photos of kids

9. Make Them Sparkle

Have you noticed photographs of kids where their eyes are SO full of life and sparkly? Chances are, you’ve noticed a photo where the child (or adult) has amazing catch lights. Those are the reflections of light that appear in a person’s eyes in photographs. So, to achieve this, you will want to face your subject towards a source of light, like a window or even the sky! If your subject is sitting on the grass outside, try STANDING above them so they are looking UP to you with the sky behind you. Or, sit them next to a shiny hub cap or anything that gives off a bit of light until you see that little light appear in their eyes. With practice you’ll be amazed where you find you can achieve catch lights. No catch lights = dead eyes, and we don’t want that! Our kids are so full of life, we want our photos to reflect that, right? Can’t find a light source? Make one using your flash. Use it as a fill-flash outdoors to create that catch light. Experiment!

 tips for taking terrific photos of kids

10. Shoot, Shoot, Shoot!

Hip hip hooray for the digital age! It’s awesome to have cameras where you can shoot a bazillion pictures that you can delete later at no cost to you! Nice! So, snap, snap, snap..then snap some more. You can never capture enough where kids are concerned. Don’t be afraid to fill a memory card after one outing, but also don’t be afraid to delete, delete, delete, too. Look through the images and pick out the best – the best expressions, the best moments, the best light…whatever seems to be the BEST for you, then let the rest go. Gotta love digital.

 tips for taking terrific photos of kids

 tips for taking terrific photos of kids

I hope these tips help you capture photos of your kids just a little better. I could have listed 100 tips, but this is a good start :) YOU know your kids and I think you are a pretty good judge of what will work for them. Have fun, experiment, and get your kids involved.  Most importantly, always have a camera on hand to capture those candid moments. I’d much rather have a bad picture of a sweet moment, than no picture at all. Live life and capture as much as you can! Happy shooting!  tips for taking terrific photos of kids    tips for taking terrific photos of kids

50 Comments
COMMENTS
  1. November 19th, 2010 at 8:01 am
    Alison says:
    I was so excited to read this post. Bobbi you rock. Thank you for these tips. I'm off to take pics of my kids...as soon as the sun comes up!
  2. November 19th, 2010 at 8:19 am
    Jenn says:
    Thanks so much for the awesome tips. I'm excited to try some of them out!
  3. November 19th, 2010 at 8:49 am
    Hani says:
    definitely interesting! :D gonna try changing the shutter mode now ;) thank youuuu!!
  4. November 19th, 2010 at 9:17 am
    Sara says:
    Can I ask what type of point and shoot camera you have? Great tips...thanks!!
  5. November 19th, 2010 at 9:44 am
    Shelley says:
    EEK! This post choked me up for some reason and I don't even know why. Such beautiful pictures, such a beautiful topic, and of course beautiful tips. Thanks Bobbi! :)
  6. November 19th, 2010 at 10:07 am
    Alysha says:
    Bobbi that last picture with you and your girls is priceless! Love it! Thanks for all the tips, all your pics are beautiful!
  7. November 19th, 2010 at 10:21 am
    Amber says:
    My friend and I were just talkign about this last night, perfect timing.
  8. November 19th, 2010 at 11:50 am
    Caley says:
    Love love love this post! We have family picture happening next week and I might be one of the ones taking them! I've been a little freaked out..but not anymore! I'm excited to do it now!
  9. November 19th, 2010 at 2:33 pm
    Angie says:
    Thank you for the great tips!
  10. November 19th, 2010 at 3:24 pm
    Michelle says:
    Great tips!! Thanks!
  11. November 19th, 2010 at 3:27 pm
    heidi @ wonder woman wannabe says:
    GREAT tips (and pics)! Thanks! :)
  12. November 19th, 2010 at 3:28 pm
    Kristen says:
    I would love for my pictures to look like that. I need a new camera. Which camera do you use? Thanks for the tips!! =]
  13. November 19th, 2010 at 3:51 pm
    Monica Ingle says:
    Thank you for this.I love all the tips and tricks you share : )
  14. November 19th, 2010 at 4:31 pm
    Elizabeth says:
    I have worked as a photographer and agree absolutely with everything she said. These tips and more were some of the things we were immediately taught. I loved looking at all the great pictures!
  15. November 19th, 2010 at 8:06 pm
    Mariah says:
    Great tips! Thanks!
  16. November 19th, 2010 at 8:42 pm
    gnee says:
    Thanks for all of your terrific tips. You are right on!
  17. November 20th, 2010 at 2:18 pm
    Zipdinger says:
    Loved this post! Thank you so much! I'm "photographically challenged" and need all the help I can get!!
  18. November 20th, 2010 at 2:19 pm
    Zipdinger says:
    Fabulous website, fabulous post! I'm "photographically challenged" and need all the help I can get!!
  19. November 22nd, 2010 at 3:19 pm
    Anjie B. says:
    Thanks SO much for sharing these tips on Skip To My Lou today! I'm planning on taking pics of the kids for our Christmas cards this afternoon and I can't wait to incorporate these tips into our "session".
  20. November 22nd, 2010 at 4:40 pm
    Monika Wright says:
    I'm glad to know I'm doing a few things right, but still learned quite a few good tips...THANKS!
  21. November 22nd, 2010 at 10:38 pm
    Jessica says:
    This is one of my passions and I always love reading photographers tips to get great shots of kids. It is such a challenge. Thanks for this fantastic post. I'm sharing it on Facebook this very second!
    :) jessica
    www.MomShots.com
  22. December 7th, 2010 at 9:44 pm
    Iris says:
    This is a great post! I actually put a link to it from my blog. I hope you don't mind me sharing!! Thank you so much!
  23. November 8th, 2011 at 1:18 pm
    Amie aka MammaLoves says:
    Terrific shots!! I'd love to hear more about your editing.
    • November 8th, 2011 at 7:08 pm
      Bobbi says:
      Hmmm....that's an interesting idea for a post! Thanks, Amie!
  24. November 9th, 2011 at 12:19 pm
    teresa says:
    Thank you so much for taking the time to list this out! I've seen a lot of lists that give tips, and this is one of the best ever...seriously!
  25. November 11th, 2011 at 7:23 am
    Yvonne Bell says:
    This is an awesome post... I am trying to learn as much as I can about photography! Kids are my favorite things to capture! I have found some these tips have been achieved in my photographs on accident and didn't know how to recreate them. Thank you SO much for sharing!
  26. November 14th, 2011 at 9:02 am
    amber peters says:
    Thanks for all the great tips!
  27. December 7th, 2011 at 9:04 pm
    Tricia says:
    Amazing tips. Thanks so much. I have had my camera for a year now. My Grandson is 2, and I have probably taken thousands of pictures of him. I know, without a dOubt, my next thOusand will be better. You have given me so much to try. I especially like the .. Fill your frame tip. Makes so much sense and makes for a great photo. My style is good, my photos are ok. I just wish I could take a class to help me in knowing and using my camera. Again thanks.
    • December 7th, 2011 at 10:00 pm
      Bobbi says:
      You have a lucky grandson! I know your photos will be amazing. Thanks for popping by!
  28. December 28th, 2011 at 10:50 am
    Missy Rose says:
    great tips, thank you so much! one can never have enough good ideas. especially the thing with the shutter mode I'm going to figure out right now.
  29. June 20th, 2012 at 10:06 pm
    Laura says:
    Fabulous tips, thanks so much for sharing. Your photos are incredible!
  30. December 1st, 2012 at 6:02 am
    Susan says:
    Great tips! thanks for sharing them. I'll try them :)
    What lenses do you recommend for portrait photos?
  31. February 20th, 2013 at 10:28 pm
    4kizzzz says:
    I love your blog!! This topic is one of my fav's! I live in Winnipeg and have 4 children as well. They are absolutely my most favorite subjects to photograph!Thanks for the tips!
  32. March 18th, 2013 at 7:46 pm
    Vinod says:
    Very nice tips


    Thanks
    Vinod
  33. March 23rd, 2013 at 10:41 pm
    Valerie says:
    Thank you for these tips. I am an beginning photographer and even took college courses in it. After reading through this, it was like a refresher of everything I learned in school. Some of it was stuff I already knew but hadn't thought of for a while. I have a one and half year old. She was so much easier to take shots of when she was itty bitty and I too take TONS of photos of her. I'd say 90% or more of my shots are of her. <3 Most wonderful way to practice. I am saving up for an SLR. I only have a 5mp point and shoot at the moment. I also have a 1986 Minolta....family heirloom, but I like to be able to see what I've just taken so I only use that when I have several rolls of film and a very patient subject. Lol. It does take the better pictures I fine (but that's a personal preference), but the digital just makes more sense to me for a mover and a shaker like my little one. I'm about to take spring shots of her and I came here to help myself with ideas and refresh myself on ways to get her to "behave" for me.

    So thank you!
    And happy shooting!
    Val~
  34. May 24th, 2013 at 6:17 pm
    Valerie says:
    WONDERFUL tips!! Just what I was looking for - thank you!!
  35. May 28th, 2013 at 6:15 pm
    Courtney says:
    I have 3 questions: what kind of camera do you use? What is your most used lens for portraits? What photo editing software do you use? GORGEOUS photos and great tips btw!
    • May 29th, 2013 at 8:50 am
      Bobbi says:
      Hi Courtney!

      1. I currently use a Canon 5D Mkii, but these (above) were taken with a Canon 5D
      2. My favorite portrait lens is the 85mm 1.8 - providing I have the space to back up enough. It is the most pleasing portrait lens, and SO sharp! Otherwise I like the 50mm 1.4
      3. I use Photoshop CS5 for editing, though I can do almost everything I need to in Photoshop Elements. I prefer Photoshop CS5 because I can use actions and I have a bit more control

      Thanks for popping by and commenting!
  36. July 19th, 2013 at 9:19 pm
    crystal says:
    Wonderful ideas and tips! I cannot wait to try a few of these out on my six-year-old!
  37. September 7th, 2013 at 9:34 am
    Rain says:
    Kids have always been my worst Enemies when It comes to photography!, Oh well not anymore!, Thank you SO Much 4 the tips, So Helpfull!
  38. November 13th, 2013 at 9:02 pm
    Dawn Simpson says:
    Love the pictures and thanks for the wonderful tips...do you scrapbook digital and if so, what company do you use or can recommend? can you also recommend who to use to print pictures? Much Appreciated...thanks..have a great day!
    • November 14th, 2013 at 9:40 am
      Bobbi says:
      Hi Dawn!

      I don't do much digital scrapbooking, these days, but when I do I use Photoshop to create my layouts. I know that you can create digital photo books with Shutterfly, Picaboo, Paper Coterie, and others. Other than that, I don't use any particular software, so I can't recommend any.

      As for photo printing, it depends on what you are printing, and what you are looking for. You can look up "pro photo labs" online to get some names of online and local labs who print profressional quality photos. I have had success (especially with printing 12X12 pages) at Costco, as well as London Drugs, and other places. As for printing 4X6 or other smaller prints, just choose your favorite photo lab. Thanks!

      Bobbi
  39. April 10th, 2014 at 8:45 am
    Kira says:
    What a fabulous article!! I couldn't help but think you would love Blinkbuggy! Check it out. You can upload all of your wonderful photos to Blinkbuggy from your phone or computer to keep the memories organized, set privacy and share them with friends and family! -Kira (Email me if you have any questions!)
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