How to Take Great Photos of Your Kids

With summer upon us there will be no shortage of photo opportunities with your little ones. So, with the urging of a friend and fellow mom (thanks Gail) I thought it would be a good time to post some tips on how to take great photos of your kids.
First and foremost I believe the only way to get great shots of your little ones, whether with a professional or on your own, is to make sure they are in the mood. Believe me, I’ve tried many times to force my daughter into mini-photo sessions when she just wasn’t up for it, the result…not one good image. Regardless of age, make sure they’re well-rested and have full bellies. And bring snacks! Preferably something that won’t make their mouths blue or their clothes orange;)
Snacks and a treat for the end of your session are always good for a little bribery too:)
And for the real little ones, bring a favorite toy or something you know makes them happy. They may just need a little break.

Yep, this is the goofy expression I get when she doesn’t want to cooperate, fun times! And definitely not the look you’re going for.

But you can turn it around. All they may need is a little distraction, give them an activity to do; tell them to jump, make silly faces, tell you a joke, talk about their favorite cartoon, whatever it takes to get them too loosen up and forget you have a camera. This also helps to avoid the dreaded “say cheese” smile!
A little reverse psychology never hurts either…if you do want that smile, just tell them not too, they’ll be sure to give you their real smile:) Seems to work every time!

For Avery’s 4 yr pictures she was just SO crabby and did not want to smile or do anything but pout, I simply asked her to dance, and wow, suddenly she couldn’t have been a better little model. Sometimes, it’s the simplest of things.

Or give them a prop of sorts. Maybe a flower and ask them to smell it, or their favorite toy. Oftentimes, this will distract them and you’ll get a great candid and reminder of what they were like with something new or their favorite toy.

Don’t force them into an environment they’re not comfortable in. This is why, generally speaking, I don’t like portrait studios. They’re so confined and foreign to kids, and not at all where they want to be. Most kids would much prefer to run around outside and explore a new or favorite environment, your child’s personality will dictate where they’re happiest.
To go along with the candid nature of this type of environment, don’t force your kids to sit and pose. Simply follow them around and see what they do. That’s half the joy of capturing images of your kids, well, being kids. They do some crazy stuff and what you’re really aiming to capture is their true personality. That smiling image all parents want is great, for sure, but catching those moments where they’re more serious and contemplative also shows their personality. No one is smiling and happy all the time, sometimes those crying shots or those moments where they’re looking off into the distance, distracted are the best images.

This is, by far, one of my favorite images of Avery, she was just walking around with her “buddies”, Milo and Lilly, and decided to take a seat in front of this waterfall and set Milo right next to her so he could take in the view too. You really just never know what they’ll come up with!

Environment…look for a background that is not distracting. Try to be aware of what’s around you; distracting cars on the street, strangers you’d prefer not be in the shot, garbage on the ground, a lamppost that appears to be growing out of your child’s head. Just shift your position to get the least amount of clutter so the focus can be on your child.

This shot of Avery & Declan, is fine, but all the stuff in the background…cars, benches, buildings, posts, etc., don’t make it great.

In my opinion, this is much better.

These two photos are also good examples of perspective. A lot of times adults tend to shoot from their adult eye level. With children, try to get down on their level, kneel down, sit on the ground, this will give a better perspective as to what the world is like through their eyes.
Keep in mind that sometimes it might be better to shoot from a higher vantage point. The shot just above here is a good example, it eliminates the distracting elements in the background shown in the previous shot.
With kids this can sometimes be the ‘right’ way to photograph them if you want to show them from a parents perspective.
Don’t hesitate to play around with your perspective, lay on the ground, stand on a chair, it’s fun to see how an image can change just by changing your position.
Ah, light, the most difficult for last. This is a subject matter that books are written about. I will try to keep it simple here.
If at all possible, try to shoot during the golden hour, generally speaking, an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset. This will give your images a soft, warm feeling with fewer lighting concerns.
Oftentimes, this is not possible given the nature of kids and when they need their sleep and are happiest. Believe me, I completely understand!
So, if you can’t make it out during that time and you end up shooting in the middle of the day, with intense, bright sun, which generally causes horrible shadows under the eyes or involves much squinting…neither of which is a good look. Do the next best thing and find some open shade! The shade of a tree or tall building casting a shadow will work nicely.
Also,  keep in mind, cloudy days are some of the absolute best lighting conditions to do portraits in. The light is even and diffused, and generally creates a very soft and pleasing image.
There is much more detail I could go into regarding light, depth of field and other technical aspects of photography. But, overall, I believe when it comes to making images of your children your goal is to create a memory of their personality. If you’re bogged down with technical thoughts you’ll miss the moment. Try to keep it simple and follow the basic suggestions above and you’ll be sure to catch some memories you’ll cherish.

Striking a modeling pose under a shady tree!

I must be fair and include one of my little lion on a cloudy day last Halloween. (Notice the very even and soft lighting on both images.)

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