• Sophie Smith

10 tips for photographing your children

Time flies by so fast and the only way I am able to slow it down and relive the special moments with my children, is to photograph it all. With digital cameras, editing software, Lightroom presets and Youtube tutorials, it seems like every second mum has become a #momtog, but for those of you who would just like to take better pictures for your family album and preserve some special memories, I thought I would put together a few tips and tricks. I do have another post about 10 Basic Photography Tips, so be sure to give that a read first, but once you have mastered those basics, this one is specifically for parents.

1. Keep your camera out

This is, without a doubt, the most important tip. If you are using your phone, I’m sure you have it nearby, but if you have a separate camera, the temptation can be to keep it safely stashed in a cupboard. The problem with that is that it is never going to be on hand when you need it, because let’s be honest, kids move fast. I keep my camera up on the kitchen counter or on the shelf in the lounge so it’s always ready to go.

2. Move around

Kids certainly don’t always pick the best light to play in, or the prettiest place in the house. You can try two things here, you can casually suggest that they take a step forward (into better light) and show you again what they were doing. Or you can try moving around to get a way better photo. Here are a few scenarios where I moved around to get a very different look and feel.

3. Golden hour

The light in the hour or two around sunrise and sunset is golden magic and makes for the best photos. Keep your camera around during this time especially. Plan a sunset walk, or go outside to play for 10 minutes after supper, or open the curtain and let the golden light stream in. It’s very hard to not get gorgeous photos at golden hour, and it’s about the only time that direct sunlight looks beautiful. If you shoot into the light (facing the sun), you often get that beautiful halo, called back light.

You won't always get that magical light but generally you want to avoid taking photos in harsh midday sunshine where you have strong bright light creating harsh shadows and highlights on faces, and making colours look washed out. Did you know that here in the Southern Hemisphere, the light is harsher?

4. Learn the light

This is one of my favourite ways to photograph my kids. Golden hour is the best, but kids are often not at their best when the sun is setting, they have the most fun in the bright, harsher light during the day. Here are a few tips for lovely lighting:

  • Diffused light is the light from a big window, this is not direct sunlight, just bright light, is always even and gentle. You can use it to create a beautiful bright studio effect with a white wall, or an image with beautiful contrast.

  • Full shade under a tree, or on a covered verandah or deck, is also lovely, even light. You get the same very even light on a cloudy but bright day. The trick is to warm the picture up when you edit it.

  • If you are shooting in the sunshine, try shooting with the sun behind the children. This means that they are in their own shadow, and it takes for a softer, less contrasty picture. If the light is dappled, again try and make sure the sun is coming from behind the child, rather than onto the child so that the shadow is even, not patchy. This normally means you just need to move to the other side of the subject.

  • You can always try a silhouette with bright light, for a dramatic and different effect.

5. Shoot wide & tight

Try and shoot a nice variety of shots, from wide shots that show your children in the landscape or in the kitchen, to medium shots which show their bodies and faces, to the beautiful close ups of sleeping faces, sunlit curls, grubby toes and big eyes. Especially if you are shooting on a phone or a fixed lens, we often get stuck in shooting all our shots from a similar distance, rather than a nice variety. Have a look at your photos and see what your comfort zone is and then try something new.

6. Capture the moment

Children are so naturally beautiful, try and resist the urge to pose them or directly them or tell them to smile. Try and capture natural moments without them even noticing.

7. Make it fun

But obviously there are the times when you can get their attention and capture a smile and it totally makes the photo. The trick is to make photo time fun. If children get told over and over again to smile, they get over it really quickly, but if photograph time is time for fun and games with mom, it’s game on. Try choosing a word with a fun action that is your photo word. Lexi thinks that when people say “cheese”, they are saying “cheers”, which she knows you also say about drinks at supper time! So she loves to shout “CHEERS”. Another favourite is to shout “Hooray” and throw her hands up. Finn loves to play hide and seek with me behind my camera, and loves to take a selfie with me. You could sing a song, or do a silly dance, or pull faces, but keep it fun.

8. Get in the frame

This is such a hard one but so important. When your kids page through the family photos one day, they will want to see both of their, and when you page through that baby book one day, you will cherish the photos of you and your baby.

There are a few ways to do this. The most obvious one is a selfie, but a real one. Either set your camera up on a timer and a tripod, or get an app that lets you trigger your camera from your phone. The other option, which I have to admit that I do mostly, is to bribe your #instahusband or a friend. If you know what photo you want, you know the settings and the style, and you are all ready to go, it shouldn’t take long. Or if it’s a more natural, spontaneous moment, just hand the camera over and ask for a few photos. Men like to be asked directly, so don’t wait for them to offer, set it all up and just let them snap a few shots, it’s always worth it.

And then lastly, it's always worth investing in professional family photos. Make sure that the photographer has a style that you like, some are good with posed images, and some are more natural and have a more documentary style. This is my style so that's what I looked for in a photographer. I have recently done some with Tabitha from Grand Little Adventure and couldn't be thrilled with the photos.

9. File your photos

This one is so boring but so important. File you photos and back them up. I have a really simple system I can share with you. I organise my photos by year, then by month, and then often by occasion like a party or a weekend away. That way, if I want to find a photo, I generally just need to know when it was taken and I can find it, and, when I make my family album (next point), it’s super easy to access my photos. The other trick is to get some good software that makes backing up your phone to your computer a breeze (if you aren’t an iCloud person). I use a simple app called PhotoSync that I open on my phone and my desktop, select my images, and do a simple transfer. And then whatever you do, do not forget to back up your photos.

10. Get them printed

This is another more practical tip, but so important. There is no point in taking thousands of beautiful photos if they just sit on a hard drive somewhere. Photos are to be looked at and talked about and enjoyed. There are so many great options, you can do prints for your fridge, or for kids just to look at. I love using Nifty250 because they are quick, affordable and simple to use. Prints for your wall are amazing if you aren’t on the move. And my favourite is to do an annual album. Lexi already loves paging through them and because we live far away from a lot of our family, it’s a great way to stay connected to friends and family.

So get your camera out, leave it out, and keep pushing your creative boundaries to get photos of your children that are visually beautiful as well as just special memories. Please give me a shout if you would like some more specific tips or advice, I would love to help more moms capture precious memories.

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© 2019 Sophie Smith