As parents, it’s hard to resist the urge to pull the camera out at every opportunity. The little ones grow up so fast and preserving their journey through the early years of life is so rewarding. As always, you want to take the very best shots you can, which is why we’ve written this guide to photographing your kids. So when you look back on those photographs in years to come, they’ll be as beautiful as can be!
Read on to learn how to take better photos that truly capture your little bundle of joy’s personality, energy and uniqueness.
Get Them Comfortable and Used to the Camera
The first step in taking the best photos of your children is to get them comfortable being photographed. The easiest way is just taking pictures of them often enough that they get used to seeing you pointing a camera at them. After a while, they’ll learn to forget it’s there and you’ll have the opportunity to take candid, natural shots of them exploring the world.
Once the kids have gotten used to you snapping photos, there are other ways to help make them feel more at ease. Photograph them in locations they’re most comfortable, or you could even include their siblings, favourite toys or even pets to help them relax.
To capture a genuine sweet smile from your little one, get them talking. Ask them about their favourite cartoon, food or animal and see them light up!
But your child doesn’t always have to be smiling to make it a great photograph. It’s best to capture shots of your child as they naturally are, which won’t always be all laughs and smiles.
Patience is certainly a virtue when it comes to photographing children. That perfect shot you want may not happen quickly, but a little patience and a keen eye will be rewarded with a few gems you can truly treasure.
A little stealth can work wonders if your subjects are particularly camera-shy. Don’t let them know you’re taking photos of them. Just innocently observe your kids at play and wait until they’re completely engaged in what they’re doing before you lift the camera and start snapping.
This candid style of photography often results in the best pictures, as your little one will be completely relaxed and not trying to pose.
Get Down to Their Level
One of the biggest mistakes grown-ups make when photographing children is shooting only from eye-level. The problem with this is every photo will be taken from an extreme downward angle, making them look far smaller than they actually are. Instead, capture the world from their perspective by getting down to their level. If anything, seeing you crawling around might make them giggle, which always helps if they’re feeling grumpy about having their photo taken.
Capturing the world from their point-of-view will create far more intimate photos, with a better view of the child’s face, as well as give you a better, more detailed background than the floor. If you’re taking snaps of more than one child, the best thing to do is make yourself the same height as the tallest one.
Remember that with photography, you want to make your shots interesting above all, showing the viewer something they haven’t seen before.
Experiment with Composition
Have fun experimenting with different compositions. For example, off-center portrait shots are often more interesting to the viewer than centred ones. Instead of relying on posed shots, look for those candid moments during playtime where your child is about to throw a ball, or take a leap.
Rules are made to be broken. Although we suggested taking the majority of your shots from the child’s eye level, there’s nothing wrong with taking some from above. A photo taken from directly above your child can be one of the most interesting. Next time your child is sat in the living room playing with their toys, try to capture an action shot from directly above for a really unique perspective on playtime.
Shots don’t always have to be taken from the front, or even include their faces at all. Taking a shot of the children running away from you, or with their face buried in a comic book tells just as much of a story as a classic portrait shot. Removing the face from the equation allows the viewer to fill the blanks themselves and paint their own picture of the subject’s emotions.
Unless you absolutely need to, we’d discourage the use of zoom. Instead, you should “zoom in” by moving closer for a really engaging photo.
Don’t Just Take Pictures of Their Face
Of course, your natural inclination is to take as many pictures of their cute little face as possible, but the options for creativity open to you go far beyond that.
Don’t be afraid to focus a shot just on a single hand, your child’s eyes, feet or whatever makes a great shot in that moment. Including another object or element is an easy way to highlight scale and help tell the story of the photograph. Abstract photos such as these are a fun way to add a lot more interest and variety to your shots.
Ultimately, every photo is a story told in a single frame, and the greatest photos can show no face at all. If they’re playing with toys, focus on their hands, or if your little one is enjoying a bubble bath, make sure to grab a snap of bubbles clinging to their hair.
Use Scale to Your Advantage
Following on from our advice about unique compositions, it’s sometimes fun to take shots from below your child’s eye level, thereby exaggerating their size and making them appear far larger than they are. The opposite is also possible, for example by placing your child in a large armchair or making them wear adult-sized shoes or clothes.
Candid is Better
The beauty of having children as your subjects is they’re far more honest about their emotions in the moment than most adults. They’re far more comfortable in their own skin and lack the self-consciousness adults have. This gives you the chance to take shots that really stand out, especially when you capture them how they are, playing and enjoying the world naturally.
Use Play for Real Reactions
Give your kids the freedom to play and explore their surroundings naturally instead of restricting them with poses. This won’t just make them feel more at ease, but you never know what cool spots they’ll find for photos that an adult would have completely overlooked.
Shooting candidly as much as possible is important, but there’s nothing wrong with asking your child to stop for a moment now and then so you can take a photo, such as just before they dive into a pool or jump off the tree they’ve been climbing.
How to Take Better Portraits
Of course, capturing your children naturally at play is important, but we know as parents you’ll always want a few hallmark portrait shots.
Focus on the Eyes
It’s important to correctly direct the viewer’s attention in any photograph you take. As humans we’re naturally drawn towards the eyes, they’re the first things we look at when we speak to another person in real life, and they’re just as important in photos. Therefore, the focus in your portraits should always be on your child’s eyes. If your camera has the ability to manually focus, set the focal point directly between your child’s eyes. Ideally in any portrait the eyes should be in razor-sharp focus, and showing the whole eyes not part of them.
Make Their Face the Brightest Thing
This doesn’t necessarily apply to every portrait, but for the most part if your child’s face is your focus then it needs to be the brightest thing in your photo. This can be as simple as moving yourself until your angle places a dark wall behind your subject, rather than the bright sky.
Keep a Simple Background
Children are often dressed colourfully, so this advice is more crucial than in other styles of portraiture. Backgrounds give context to your shots, but if there’s too much going on it can distract from your subject. If you’re at home it’s easy enough to tidy up the area behind your child to visually simplify it, but if you’re out and about you may need to get creative with angles.
Shoot in Continuous Mode
During your hunt for perfect candid shots of your children at play, shoot in continuous or burst mode. The more pictures you take, the more likely you are to get some cracking natural shots. Don’t think of it as “spray and pray”, just “hedging your bets”!
Kids are unpredictable and move around a lot, so it can be difficult to just wait for an opportunity to take one perfect shot, so shooting plenty at once can really better your odds. Unfortunately, it does mean a lot more time spent deleting the shots you don’t want later!
As well as searching for those amazing individual shots, photographing continuously while your children are playing gives you the chance to find “series” of shots, such as multiple frames of your child jumping through the air or playing on a swing set that would look great broken up on a panoramic canvas print. These sorts of action-packed series tell a far bigger story than a single image ever could, as well as adding variety!
Above All, Have Fun
Don’t forget to just enjoy the moment with your children instead of stressing about getting that perfect photo. Show the kids some of the funny photos you’ve taken, get silly with them, try to make them laugh.
We hope our guide to improving your photography of your children has been helpful. If you’ve taken any shots you’re especially proud of, be sure to share them with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.