I think the single best thing that blogging has given me over the years is the photography skills I’ve developed which have allowed me to capture so many beautiful moments of our boys growing up. 3 years ago, I’d barely picked up a camera, and my photos definitely weren’t anything to shout about.
Over the years, I’ve discovered a love of photography, and I’m staggered by how much you can develop in a short space of time (I wrote about how I went about improving my skills in this post if you fancy reading). But while undoubtedly the biggest step for me has been learning how to use my camera in manual mode, there are a number of fantastic tips I’ve picked up that will help you to take better photographs of your children just using your phone or a camera on auto mode.
Get down to your child’s level
If you only take one tip from this post, make it this one! It will transform your photos of your children. When you get down to your child’s level, you see their view of the world. You spot things that you’d otherwise miss. When I’m taking photos of my boys, you’ll most likely find me crouched down, sometimes even lying down on the ground. Take photos at their eye level, and experiment by dropping down even lower to shoot from below.
Look for open shade
So much of life with children happens during the day, when bright sunshine can be difficult to work with as it casts harsh shadows. While I embrace golden hour where I can, the reality is that for small children, it’s just not feasible to shoot regularly in that beautiful light (and I do think to shoot backlit requires you to understand how to use your camera in manual).
When the sun is bright, look for open shade to shoot in. Open shade is where you can stand in shadow but look up and see the sky, so nothing is overhead. The shade from a building, or large trees is perfect, and will ensure that those harsh shadows and highlights are minimised.
Take more of a documentary approach
When it comes to photos, my kids aren’t particularly co-operative. In fact, that’s a huge understatement; my eldest may be the least co-operative child I’ve ever come across! But that’s ok – the fake ‘cheese’ smile isn’t something that I want to capture. I’d much rather take a photo of them as they really are, rather than trying to create a moment. Trying to force a scene never works with children, and I’ve learned that it’s far easier to watch what catches their interest and photograph that, than to direct and pose them. If possible, try and anticipate what might catch their attention, and then you’ll have a bit more time to play with.
With the photo above, I’d watched Max draw in the condensation on the car windows that morning, so I knew he would be keen to do the same on these windows when he spotted the condensation here, so had already positioned myself ready for this shot.
Think about what your children like doing. For us, that’s getting outdoors and exploring, so it’s always easier for me to capture photos while we’re outside and having fun. Make sure that whenever you get your camera out, it’s fun for your children, not stressful or a chore.
Set up your scene in advance
Despite my comments about direction, I do like to set up a scene in advance of shooting, particularly if I’m shooting indoors. I’ll usually set up an activity at home that I’d like to photograph (baking, craft, playing), position things in the best light, and remove unnecessary clutter from the background. That way the children are occupied in the space where I want them, and can do their own thing without any direction from me.
Plan their outfits
On a similar note to setting up a scene in advance, I like to dress my boys in colours that will make attractive photos. I’m drawn to reds and yellows, which I think work really well in outdoors photos, where the colours pop against the greens and browns of the UK landscape. We love a yellow coat and red wellies, and you’ll find that combination appearing time and time again in my photos.
Props are wonderful
When your children are a bit reluctant to co-operate with photos, I find bringing in props can be a wonderful way to get them excited about it all. Both my boys love balloons, and we set up a little balloon photoshoot for Ben’s 1st birthday. Superhero costumes can also work really well, or anything that you know will spark your child’s interest.
Use whatever camera you have available
One of the best photography tips I’ve been given is that “the best camera is the one you have to hand”. So often you spot your children doing something adorable, but don’t have a DSLR all ready to go. This is why I love my mobile phone, and am insistent on having one with a good camera. It might not end up as the best photo in the world, but it’s amazing how good phone cameras are these days. On our trip to Lapland UK this year, I only took my mobile as I wanted to experience it without feeling stuck behind the camera. But I did snap this one of Max peering through the snow covered window (admittedly, I then couldn’t resist editing it a little!)
I could happily waffle on for days on this subject, but that’s probably enough for this post, or I’ll be here forever. Maybe I’ll make this a series!
I really hope these tips have been useful and help you to take better photos of your own children.