I am not a professional photographer but I do love to take photos. I especially love taking pictures of my kids. In fact they were what motivated me to buy a DSLR camera. I wanted more professional looking photos (as opposed to candids) but I didn’t have the money to be hiring a photographer several times a year for important events and portraits. It seemed a no brainer to buy a decent but low end digital camera, purchase a few lenses (off-brand), and then learn a trick or two until I could take photos I would proudly hang on my walls. And I do hang canvas photos of my kids throughout our home. When we have guests I often get comments about the gorgeous “professional” photos.
The best photos tell a story and they give the viewer a glimpse of the child’s unique personality. By getting creative with poses, settings, lighting, and background you give your boring photos some pizazz and create something worthy of being framed or set on canvas and then proudly displayed. You are also helping to document a child’s life. Years from now they can look back at the photos you have taken and see a visual storybook that shares the very essence of the little people they were and the unique person they grew up to be. Photos tell stories… they tell the story of the first day of school, the story of their one and only fifth birthday, and the story of their first school dance. More than just capturing the moment, your photos should give insight into the actual person being photographed and what was being felt at the moment you clicked your camera. What stories do your photos tell? I hope they tell great ones! This post has lots of tips for helping the amateur or hobbyist photographer take better photos of children.
1. Crop Your Photos
Many pictures we take of our kids end up being less than stellar because of the background. Perhaps you have a messy room, a cluttered kitchen, or a big tree overpowering your photo. One way to avoid this is to frame the picture in such a way that the area behind your child is free of clutter and then crop the photo to hone in on the subject alone. Or perhaps you want the subject of the photo to be an amazing smile or some other feature of your child and you want to isolate that in the photo. Simply crop the photo to show only what you want to show. Easy!
This particular photo was taken in my backyard. I wanted to frame my daughter’s angelic face and clutched hands and make them the focus of the shot so I cropped out the rest of the photo.
#2 The Rule of Thirds
Most newbie photographers like to center their subject but one of the most important rules for better photographs is to use the rule of thirds. It just provides more visually interesting pictures. Divide your imaginary image into thirds vertically and horizontally and place your subject along the intersecting lines. Although not a text book example the photo above shows how you can off center the subject or place them along the imaginary lines that would divide the photo into thirds. I like how you get some of the creamy brown background (which was the dirt from a baseball diamond) in the photo and I find the picture looks better visually instead of a centered image.
Since you are trying to tell a story with your photos it is always a pleasure to capture moments of emotion. Certainly your child goes through life with moments of pure happiness, sadness, bliss, tantrums, fear, etc. Those moments are what make us human. Does your photo convey what they were feeling when you took the shot? Does it tell a story on its own?
In the photo above my two boys were “caught” jumping on the bed during the holidays.
#4 Location is Everything
One of the best ways to take better photos is to get in your car and drive someplace visually interesting and shoot there. Your community likely has many places that are great for photos so there is no reason you need to stay at home and shoot there. Take your mini photo shoot on location!
The photo above was taken at a state park in the tall grass near the entrance. We took many photos that day but this one was of the first and captured beautifully the area we were visiting and enjoying that day and how my little guy felt to be out in the great outdoors.
#5 Don’t Say Cheese – Capture Natural Smiles
Some of the best shots are taken when your kids are not posing or even aware that the camera is there. When we ask our children to stop, stand still, and say cheese, we often get awkward faces and smiles. I prefer getting shots of their natural smiles that light up their faces and give me a glimpse into their unique personality. MUCH better than cheese faces!
#6 Capture Their Personality
Can you sum up the major aspects of a child’s personality with one photo? It may be a tall order but it is certainly possible. The trick is to catch them doing what they love to do and all those things that make them uniquely them will shine through. I love this photo of my youngest son because it is so HIM!
#7 Take Interesting Photos
When choosing a setting, background, or pose try to think about what will make that shot visually interesting. Instead of taking a photo next to a blank wall can the child lean on it or sit beside it instead? Instead of a boring white wall can you go outside and take a photo next to an old gate or the brick wall of your garage? Get creative and take visually interesting photos. Once you have some practice you will start to develop and eye for this. I love this photo of my daughter because it is unusual and shows some of her favorite toys.
Bonus Tip: Follow photographers on Pinterest and save your fave photos to a photo inspiration board!
#8 Capture Their Favorite Place and Things
One goal of photography is to capture the essence of childhood and a great way to do this to take pictures of the things and places they love. Do you have a photo of your child with their favorite stuffed animal? Do you have a photo of your child at their favorite park? You will always want to remember those things by capturing them. The picture above was taken at one my kid’s favorite places. The zoo!
#9 Use Simple Backgrounds
You probably don’t have professional backdrops but you can still choose a simple background that will add visual appeal while not overpowering the subject.
I like to take photos against painted walls and then blur the background so you can’t tell its a wall. I also like taking pictures with brick walls in the background. I have also been known to drape a sheet on an existing wall to make my own backdrop. I also LOVE making nature my backdrop.
#10 Always Be Prepared to Shoot!
Some of the most interesting photos will be ones you hadn’t planned on taking. Perhaps you see your kids blowing bubbles outside and you have to run and grab your camera or perhaps they run outside to run around in an unexpected rain shower. Always be prepared to take great shots by having your camera nearby. I rarely go anywhere without mine these days.
The other BIG tip I have is to get a good photo editing program and buy some “actions”. These are often sold by professional photographers and they replicate the steps that professionals use to edit their images with the click of a button. I have Photoshop CS5 and the cheaper Photoshop Elements. There are actions available for both.