First, I’m not an expert in child photography, but I do have a photography degree and 2 kids who I have guiltlessly and relentlessly taken thousands upon thousands of photos in the almost 13 years since I became a mom.
Having made countless photo collages and photo based printables for other people, I have come to the sad conclusion that most people (awesome as they are) don’t have the first clue how to photograph kids.
So here is my not-so-technical guide to getting better photos of kids when you might only have your smartphone as a camera. Seriously, you don't need any technical knowledge beyond how to press a button.
#1 Get you and your kids used to the camera
This is big! The whole “practice makes perfect thing” well that is sorta what I’m getting at. If you are nervous taking photos, you’ll take less photos and less chances. So practice. Take photos often not only on the big occasions. Bonus, if you practice being weird at the same time, trust me it helps. Weird positions, weird angles, weird faces, it will lessen any anxiety that might be lingering.
If your kids aren’t used to the camera, then when they see it, the camera will probably make them act unnatural (think awkward school photo). But if having the camera out and in use around them is normal then they will act more like they always act.
#2 Get DOWN (get down and move it all around)
Seriously! Be at their level when you photograph. Try bending down to match the littlest’s height or even laying on the ground. The image will make much more of an impact if you are taking photos from their eye level. You can even go crazy and look upwards at the kiddos. Sometimes you get the best photos from the most awkward positions.
#3 It’s all about the eyes
Eyes aren’t only the window to the soul, they can also make your photos AH-MAZING! Even if (somehow) everything else is blurry, but you got the eyes in crisp focus, trust me, that photo will be gorgeous.
If you can select a focus point manually on your camera, get it over those beautiful eyes, or at least the closest eye to the camera.
#4 We don't flash people
Natural light is always the best and most beautiful way to photograph. Bonus, if you can get natural light in a natural environment - think park, backyard or garden. For outdoor environments, you’ll get the best light in the morning or early evening. A bright, harsh sun will make dark, harsh shadows which we are also trying to avoid.
If you have harsh artificial light on, turn them off. Really they're gross. Then find a source of natural light inside (when you’re not outside) and use it often! Even just a window, any old window, or a patio door can give beautiful natural light. Start by turning the lights off and have your kid play next to that beautiful light source.
#5 Get Closer
Seriously get closer. No even closer, and closer. Getting the frame tight can remove unwanted distractions and background. Trust me we all know what a wall looks like, we want to see those cutie patooties!
#6 Let them be them
No smile or posing necessary. Letting kids be their authentic selves will help give you authentic photos, it will also help keep the kiddos at ease and relaxed. As soon as it starts being work for them, kids tend to tense up.
#7 Get stealthy
Sometimes you will get the best photos if they don’t know you’re there or at least don’t know you’re taking photos! For real. Let them keep playing legos, or painting or dress up - and don’t make a sound. Just shoot your pics quietly in the background and let them immerse the viewer in their day of play.
#8 Just take the shot
As Gretzky said “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”(I’m Canadian, can you tell lol). But seriously, just take the shot.