Tip 1: Timing!
Nobody likes being told what to do when they are tired and grumpy. For newborns, the best time to get photos is when they are asleep! Get your shot setup, make sure the area is nice and warm and quiet, then gently snuggle them into the shot and away you go. For older children, making sure they aren’t tired, sick or hungry can help if you want them to sit still, or follow instructions!
However, we all have those classic screaming, angry, silly photos that are great too, and especially fun to pull out at future events (think 21st birthdays and weddings!).
Tip 2: Light it up
If you’re indoors, try to get next to a window with indirect light coming through it – for us in New Zealand that would ideally be a south facing window. Big french doors or ranchsliders are great for this. And if the sun is coming directly in there you could always put up a thin-ish white sheet, net curtain or sun blocking blind to soften it. Sit yourself by the window or even right up against it, and shoot into the room. You’ll need your ‘subject’ to be pretty close to the window, as indirect sunlight can ‘fall off’ quite quickly and won’t reach far. The pic in this tip of this of my kids was taken in our garage, with a nice background, and no other lights or flashes.
To add more light indoors, try getting a big sheet of polysterene (try big applicance stores to see if they have any spare packaging!) or white cardboard, and put it opposite or diagonally to the window to ‘bounce’ light back into your scene. You may be suprised how much extra light you can get, and how you can ‘smooth’ out the shadows.
Outdoors is best to shoot in the early morning or late afternoon when you can – when the sun is directly overhead in the sky it creates big shadows. A really nice time to shoot is when the sun is setting and has just set – photographers call this the ‘golden hour’ and if you time it right you’ll get a gorgeous magical golden glow in your images. If you can find some gentle shade, like under a large open tree without too many ‘dappled’ light spots (which can look like leopard spots sometimes!), this can be great for portraits.
Tip 3: Get Down!
Eye contact is fantastic in pictures, and getting level or even below their eye level will give you a great perspective. I often find myself crawling along the ground (through food strewn floors, mud and wet grass!) to get down on their level.
Another lovely setup is for them to be lying down, with you shooting from above – just be careful and get some help if you’re not confident with how you are leaning over, and ensure you have a good hold of your camera! Saftey first!
Tip 4: Speed it up!
Kids and babies move fast – they twitch, wriggle and run! If you have a camera with any manual controls, try shooting in Shutter Priority Mode (usually Tv on a DSLR), or a sports or kids mode. Shutterspeeds of 1/250sec and faster will help you get those shots nicely in focus. And if they are running and splashing, kicking, popping bubbles etc, even faster shutterspeeds could help you freeze that action for a cool shot.
Also try ‘panning’ which is a fun technique when shooting a fast moving object (think bike riding or running really quickly) — as they come towards you start moving the camera to match their speed and take the photo while still moving. If you get your pan right, you’ll get them nicely frozen with a blurry background that gives speed and movement in the photo.
Tip 5: Playtime!
While ‘posed’ portraits are great, photos of your kids playing are also fantastic to remember that favourite toy or dress up. Get them to draw a picture while you take pics of them concentrating and telling you the story of the picture. Grab your pets (if they are happy to play!) and take pics of them and the kids playing ball or cuddling. Hide behind your camera and ‘pop out’ and take the shot! Get them building towers with their building blocks and knock them down. Anything that brings out their fun, laughter and personality as kids have that in spades!
And our last little tip, make sure to get in those photos yourself! We’re often so busy taking the pictures that we miss out on being in them – find someone else to take the photo (you might need to gently coach them, or set the shot up first!), take it on a self timer, or a selfie on your phone, or hire a lifestyle or portrait photographer to get some photos of you with your family – remember you are a very, very important part of their lives
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