My friends and and family with tell you that there is rarely an occasion where I am not carrying around a camera. I ALWAYS have one on hand, whether it is one of my SLRs, a point & shoot, or even my cell phone because you NEVER KNOW when you may encounter a perfect moment.
Before I even got pregnant with Andrew, I was lucky enough to take candid portraits of many local kids and their parents at the urging of many friends and family. I started out with my first SLR in college, moved onto my first digital SLR in 2004 when they really started coming on the scene, and in 2009, I upgraded to a Canon 50D, which is considered a semi-professional level camera. I spent nearly every weekend and even some weekdays capturing images of some of the cutest and sweetest families in the metro area, honing my hobby as an amateur candid portrait photographer.
Because of this opportunity, I got to learn lots about how to catch some great images of kids and I also learned much about photography in general and I also developed a greater understanding of the science of the perfect exposure.
I will be the first to admit that I am NOT an EXPERT on photography (I’m always learning something new). I do have experience, and I’d love to share it with all of you! Once a month, I’ll feature an aspect of photography, starting out easy with tips and eventually working our way to creating the perfect manual exposure with your SLR.
Are there any NOLA moms who got an SLR as a gift and still haven’t figured out how to use anything but automatic? Or, are you a mom with a point and shoot who wants to learn how to get the most out of your camera?
I am hoping that through this series we will be able work together to get some great images of our families and children! Hopefully some of my knowledge and tips along the way will help you take some great images of your little ones!
- The number one tip I give ANYONE for capturing a great image of their kids is just let them BE. Don’t force anything on them, don’t try to make them automatically pose and “say cheese.” When you do this, undoubtedly, you will get a forced, fake smile from your little ones, and probably annoyance on their end as well. Find something they love, let them experience it, and let them BE themselves. I have gotten some of the best shots of little ones in their happy moments, just playing on a playground, chasing ducks, or even just reacting to the love of their parents with an embrace. Or, simply, just play with them. Let the camera be part of their fun. Engage them with it and ask them to look for themselves in the camera. Making the experience like a game will make the experience easier for you and fun for your little one.
- Get on THEIR level. If you have a little baby, lay down on your tummy and shoot straight into their eyes while he or she is doing tummy time. If you have a toddler or even older child, you can kneel in front of them; get to their eye level and focus in on those big, beautiful innocent eyes that speak volumes to you (and don’t they?) Also, move around them. If they are playing, start to their right and make a circle around them. While you are taking their pictures, play and engage with them, talk to them and make jokes. One of my favorite ways to get kids to smile when I was taking their pictures was telling them knock-knock jokes. While they are saying “banana” they get a mischievous little grin and have some of the cutest smiles.
- Shoot from above. This is the case with almost all portraits, but in the case of children, it is great for showing their small stature among the great big world. Sometimes it is as easy as standing above them and talking to them to get them to look up at you. In this case, the photos sometimes speak volumes, like a baby sitting in a pile of toys, then looking at you as if to say “What did I do?” Or sometimes, capturing your little one fast asleep in his bed/crib from the upper view is one of my favorites as it shows that with babies, there are sometimes moments of peace!
- Use natural light if possible. The one great thing about babies and small children is their naturally beautiful skin. One of the best ways to maintain this look well is to avoid using the flash on your camera as it can give a washed out look and over-brighten that gentle skin. If you are taking pictures of them inside, open all of your window shades and let the light in, or take your wee friend outside for a little play. The best times of day for natural light are early in the morning, right around sunrise, and late afternoon, right before sunset. I’ve found that early morning impromptu photos with my little man are the best because he always wakes up in a great mood and the light is just stunning.
I hope these tips are helpful for you to capture some great images of your kids! Remember, you don’t need a fancy camera to compose a great image.