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.
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.
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 😉
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
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!
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
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.
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. When you are taking something specific such as baby portraits and you want to minimize the distractions even more, you could seek professional help or go to a studio.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!