We've all got a little more time at home these days…why not use some of it to shoot some family photos? You don't need any fancy equipment, you can use a cell phone or whatever camera you have to shoot amazing pictures of your kids. Here are a few tips I've picked up along the way.
#1 Get Down On Their Level
I shoot a lot of pics laying on the ground….it really helps bring the viewer into the perspective of the child. When you crouch down or lay on the ground, you see things from their point of view and it really helps pull the viewer into the moment.
#2 Use The Light You Have
You don't need to have a fancy lighting set up to get great pics. Use what you’ve got. Soft, even lighting is the name of the game. You don't want harsh shadows or bright highlights. Reflected light is the best. I find that the stairwell in our house is just perfect for even lighting…the white walls bounce the right amount of soft light onto their faces and the bare walls make for a clean and uncluttered backdrop.
If you don't have a great option for even lighting, you can always use bright light to your advantage like in the photo below. Put that stream of light right next to their hair or behind their head and some real magic happens.
If you're shooting outside, try to stay in the shade to avoid harsh shadows (remember...soft, even lighting). Contrary to what you may think, the sunniest days aren't the most ideal. Cloudy weather can provide the perfect diffused lighting and give you some fantastic results.
If all you get is sunshine and you can't find shade, you can also just shoot early or late in the day to increase your chances of getting soft light. Another way to fake shade is to put their backs to the sun, again this is probably counter intuitive, but it works.
3) Let Them Play
Don’t get too fussy trying to make them do what you want. Just observe, be ready with the camera and eventually they’ll turn around or pause for a breath and that’s your moment. It should be fun for everyone…if it’s torture, it’ll look like torture. And if you don’t get it the first time, try again tomorrow. Remember when the light was good and go for it again.
Working for our Christmas Card photo below...lots of play but we finally got one or two shots that worked! (If you're looking for more tips on Christmas photos, make sure to check out my other article on How to nail your holiday photo
If you're working with a baby or toddler, a game of peek-a-boo can create some amazing photo ops. Have them hide behind a door and you'll get some smiles for sure!
4) Technical Tips
If you’re using an SLR camera…shoot at a minimum of a 200th of a second. Any slower and you risk a blurry image. Kiddos are in constant motion so crank up your ISO and get that shutter speed over 200 to lock in the sharpness. As far as F stop goes, if you're shooting one kiddo, you can go pretty fast. F 6 or even 4 can blur the background just enough to keep focus on the eyes. If you're shooting 2 or more, you'll want to keep the F stop up above F10 so everyone stays in focus. It can be heartbreaking when you think you got the shot but turns out the focus was too soft.
If you're using an iPhone, try the portrait setting or even the one for fast motion if they're wrestling like mine often do.
5) Don't Force The Outfit
We all have the tendency to want our kids cleaned up and looking sharp for photos but if you've ever tried to get them dressed and ended up with a crying toddler in all your photos, you know, it can go very wrong. Getting them dressed up in the perfect outfit can ruin their mood and give you nothing but grumpy faces. Shoot when they're having fun, in play clothes or with messy hair and you'll be rewarded with images that really capture their childhood spirits.
And if you manage to get them in clean clothes without a tantrum, shoot fast and reward them with a treat at the end because you just did the (almost) impossible!
The bottom line is try and try again. The more photos you shoot, the better you'll get at it and the more chances you have at snagging that perfect moment in the perfect light. Most of all, have fun and don't get caught up in the search for perfection...because it almost NEVER happens ;)