The first day of school is just around the corner – and you know what that means! Your social media newsfeeds will soon be full of “back to school” photos from every single mom on your list. I know you can’t resist taking them (neither can I!), so why not learn a few rules that will make those oh-so-special shots even better?As a photographer myself, I will always recommend that you make professional photos of your child a priority. A well-trained photographer has the equipment and experience required to capture photos that you will cherish for a lifetime! But the one thing your favorite photographer CANNOT do, is be at your home 24 hours a day. They won’t be the ones to snap a shot the moment your little darling learns to ride her bike, loses his first tooth, or steps out wearing her adorable new backpack on her first day of school! So today I’d like to give you just a few simple suggestions to help you take better photos of all those extraordinary everyday moments. You don’t need a fancy camera to follow these tips – just your cell phone will do!
Tips for Taking Better Photos of Your Kids
#1 – LET THERE BE LIGHT
If you don’t read another tip, make sure you read this one: LET THERE BE LIGHT! Seriously – you’ve got to have proper lighting to take a great photo. The fastest, easiest way to improve your photos is to start paying attention to your light source and direction. While you don’t want light beaming into your child’s eyes (causing them to squint), you do want them facing a light source. If you’re indoors, turn them toward the windows in the room so their face is illuminated. Outside, consider the direction of the light before choosing your location. Earlier this month, a mom friend asked me to take a photo of her with her daughter under a shaded boat dock. I snapped the shot she wanted, then asked her to turn a few inches to the left and face the lake for the next one. That tiny shift took her shot from dark and grainy to beautifully lit! She was amazed at the difference!
Are you taking a photo in the middle of the day? In that case, consider finding a shaded area for your shot. Mid-day sun means you’ll have bright light coming from straight above, which will create harsh shadows on your child’s face. A shady spot will actually give you a better photo – just make sure your child is completely shaded, with their back to the darkest area, and their face looking toward a sunny spot.
#2 – SCAN THE BACKGROUND
Scan the background before you settle on a location or camera angle. Is there anyone (or anything) that you don’t want in the photo? The sweetest shot can be ruined by a stranger awkwardly and unknowingly “photo bombing” you, or a spiky bush right behind your child’s head that gives your little angel the appearance of devil horns! These visual distractions can be usually be avoided by taking a few steps to one side or adjusting the angle you’re shooting from.
#3 – ZOOM WITH YOUR FEET
Professional cameras can be equipped with fantastic “optical zoom” lenses – but the “zoom” option on your cell phone is not the same thing! What your cell phone offers is called “digital zoom” – and it’s really just some in-camera image processing. Basically, it “sees” the image with the camera sensor and then crops and enlarges it. This reduces your image resolution and quality – leaving you with a grainy, blurry shot.
The best advice I can give you to avoid that is simply, “Zoom with your feet!” If you want a closer shot and you have any opportunity to move closer to your subject, do it! The quality will be so much better than opting for the “zoom” option in your cell phone.
#4 – CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE
All too often, we take the shot that is easiest instead of taking the shot that’s the best. We’re busy moms – and we don’t think twice about whipping that camera out of our pocket, snapping a quick pic, and putting it back. (I know! I’m guilty of it too!) But when we take a second to slow down, we can consider the perspective we’re shooting from. Something as simple as changing our angle can make a drastic difference in the final photo. One of the first things I was taught in my college photojournalism class was to always shoot “high, middle, low” and “wide, medium, tight”.
High, middle, low. Sometimes it’s sweet to take a shot standing above your child (high) . . . but there are times you should kneel down to take a photo from their level (middle). You might even consider sitting on the ground to capture the height of their block tower, or their child-like perspective (low) as they’re climbing a tree!
Wide, medium, tight. Don’t just take that shot of your child smiling at you while they build a sand castle (medium). Add another (tight) shot of their sweet little hands in the sand, and a (wide) shot of them building their sandcastle with the seascape behind it. Soon you’ll find that you’re telling a story with your photos — instead of just capturing individual snapshots.
#5 – CHECK YOUR FOCUS
You’ve picked your location and camera angle. You’ve checked the background to make sure there’s nothing distracting in it, and you have plenty of light (that your subject is facing). Now what? Before you click the button to capture that image, tap the screen on top of the person you’re photographing. This is the “focus” feature in most cell phone cameras (but I rarely see people using it). I can’t tell you how many great shots we’ve had ruined (that other people took of our family) because the background was in focus instead of our faces. It’s true that we have “smart” phones now – but they aren’t smart enough to know exactly what should be in focus in every shot. Clicking that focus spot ensures that the faces in your image will be in focus. It’s the final step to making your cell phone shot the best that it can be!
Now grab your phone, grab your kids, and go take some beautiful photos! And Mama — don’t forget to get in some of those shots with your little ones. Your children love you, and they’ll grow up wishing you were in front of the camera sometimes, too!