Today I'm going to share some tips with you on how to take better pictures of your kids. Although of course some cameras are better than others, this advice applies to all cameras. With a little more intention and patience you'll be taking better pictures in no time!
Get On Their Level
Squat, sit down on the floor or lay down on the floor--whatever you have to do to get on their level. Why does this work? Most pictures are taken from the same perspective: an adult standing and holding a camera in front of themselves. It’s the same way we see the world as we walk around each day. Using a different perspective shows the viewer what they don’t normally see.
It adds another layer of interest when children are the subject because it's similar to their perspective, like the photo below. I rested my camera on the table and shot from there, basically the same perspective he had from the opposite side.
Set up your composition, then wait
Instead of trying to get your kids to smile for each picture, take a different approach. Compose the shot you want and then wait for something to happen. As photographers, we call this something a “moment.”
In the photo above, I wanted to make a picture that they could always remember their back yard by. The path leading out from the house, the weathered tricycle, the picnic table and their garden in the background. So I framed it and waited for a moment where they were all drawing and laughing at the same time. In the photo below, I wanted to emphasize how high the kid was swinging with the help of his dad. I got low, composed the shot and wait for him to swing into it.
Let’s say you want to photograph your son eating breakfast because he’s become very independent and loves to pour his own cereal and milk. Bring your camera up and look at the four corners to make sure you have included all the elements that tell the story: the cereal box, milk, bowl, spoon and your son. Use your intuition to anticipate moments like the look of total concentration on his face or spilled milk. If you wait too long you’ll miss it--that's where practice comes in...and burst mode.
Use burst mode
Burst mode is super helpful for all kinds of motion. As a people photographer, I use burst mode to be sure that while I’m photographing a moment I’m getting shots where all the factors come together. You can have almost all of the factors--the cereal, milk, bowl and spoon--but if your son is blinking, the picture is not quite there. By using burst mode, you’re making up for the in-between facial expressions or body movements that detract from an image.
Let’s say you want a good action shot of pouring cereal. Start when he picks up the box and keep shooting until he puts it down. Why? Anything could happen! He could drop the box, he could miss the bowl, he could knock the bowl over with the box--you’re a parent, you know all of these things!
For photo below, there are a few photos before and after this one that were *almost* what I wanted. This one shot had everything: limbs totally splayed, sand mid-air and hands in an easy-to-read position (hands can have in-between moments too!)
Kids repeat EVERYTHING
If you do miss a moment, don’t fret. Kids are quite likely to repeat their behaviors. Be patient, set up your composition and wait for them to start again. If your kid just learned to climb stairs, they’re probably going to go up and down at least ten times before they’re satisfied. Take advantage of the opportunity to fine-tune your composition and wait for the perfect facial expression.
In the photo above, I noticed the kid would cross his steps and kick out his foot every so often and then laugh out loud. I knew he would keep doing it, so I kept shooting trying to get the perfect combination of his kick and smile.
Advanced concept: compose a shot before the subject enters the scene
Maybe your daughter is obsessed with the dog and she likes to crawl over to him and lay on his shoulder throughout the day. Get ahead of her and set up your composition. Then, shoot from the time she enters the frame through when she does her best “gentle” pet on the head and the dog licks her hand. Again, use your intuition. You know both your kid and the dog quite well so if you’re in the right mindset you will learn how to predict behaviors and pre-compose your pictures.
For the photo above, I noticed that because of the time of day the kid's shadow was really strong and thought it would be a cool element. He had already slid and jumped off the slide a few times, so I knew he would do it again. I focused on the end of the slide and approximated where I thought his shadow would be to leave room for it on the left.
I hope this was helpful! If it was, please share it with someone you know who loves to photograph their children!