If you’re like most parents, you probably spend a great deal of your time chasing after your kids with your camera, hoping to capture a great moment.
You also probably notice that the quality of your photographs varies. Sometimes you take a photo and can’t stop looking at it and showing it off to your friends. Other times, you quickly reach for the “Delete” button.
That’s perfectly normal. It can also be quite frustrating!
There are a few photographic principles which underpin just about every great kids’ photograph. They’re easy to learn and doing it will take your ability to capture a great photos of your children to a whole new level.
I use these principles every day in my family photography studio and I’d like to use this opportunity to share them with you.
1. Face Into A Rising / Setting Sun
Some people believe that you should never photograph into the Sun. That’s a myth which originated during the era of film cameras and poor optics and has, unfortunately, stuck around.
These days, even the most basic cameras and everyday lens can cope well with being pointed into the Sun; more so, they’ll allow you to create amazingly dreamy photos by doing so.
The trick is to position your child between yourself and the Sun. Make sure your aperture is set quite wide to make the background blurry and aim the autofocus on your child’s eyes.
2. Get Down Low
Our brains are fascinated by novelty. In everyday life, we tend to look at children from top down; as a result, photos of children which are taken from an adult height level tend to look uninteresting to us.
To add holding power to your photos, get down to your kid’s eye level. And for extra challenge, try to position yourself so that you’re looking up at them – either by putting the camera on the floor or positioning your child higher than you are.
3. Clean Up Your Backgrounds
Most parents make the mistake of focusing all their attention on the child and forgetting about the background.
In every photo you’re capturing a foreground (usually your kid or your parter) plus a background. You need to keep an eye on both! The ideal background is one which is clean, logical and not distracting.
If you’re a more advanced photographer, you can take this technique to the next level by also adding a layer of blurred foreground in front of your subjects – it will add a welcome dash of strength to your photograph.
4. Don’t Force Smiles
If you tell your kids to smile or – worse – “say cheese”, all you’ll get are photos full of fake smiles. The way to get wide, toothy, authentic smiles is to take the kids’ attention away from the fact that they’re being photographed.
Engage them in play or ask them questions about their favourite things. You’re their mum, so you know which of their buttons you can make them push to make them giggle.
When the giggle comes, be ready with the camera to capture the moment.
5. Expose For The Skin
If you’re using Auto or Program modes, your camera will attempt to guess what within the frame is most important to you.
However, the camera is a machine which can’t tell which part of the scene is your chid and which is the tree. If both can’t be exposed correctly (and most of the time they can’t), the camera will cut its losses and will try to expose both “least improperly”.
This leads to nice, but boring snapshots.
The trick is to take a photo, then check the back of the camera’s screen and pay close attention to how the skin on your child’s face is exposed.
Is it under-exposed (dark) or over-exposed (too bright)? Use your exposure compensation control to adjust exposure until the exposure on your child’s face looks light and contrasty, yet without loss of detail.
You will end up with a background that is slightly overexposed or underexposed but, contrary to what your camera might think, that really doesn’t matter.