Children are always so photographic, with their dimply smiles, wild hair, and endless playfulness. I’ve always wanted to cover my walls in photographs of my children – what parent doesn’t! And with the numerous social media platforms enabling us to share pictures with others, it’s nice to be able to send the best pictures of my kids to my family. However, even with the easy access to photographic children and shareable media, it’s still difficult because children never seem to stop moving!
Nonetheless, over the last couple of years, I’ve met some moms who’ve given me some pro tips on being a successful amateur child photographer. I’ve used quite a few of these different tactics and have found that some work very well at catching that perfect emotional or adventurous portrait. So, I’ve compiled them here for you too, in the hopes that you get what you desire – the perfect picture of your family!
Cameras for Candids
Before getting started, be sure to be familiar with the camera and scenery that you are using. Cameras range in both price and practicality. The camera on a smartphone is a great choice if not looking to invest in something bigger but it has a few limitations when taking shots of moving or shadowy targets. Compact cameras are great for busy families and can be purchased on a budget. I’ve always liked simple cameras that aren’t too difficult to use as whipping it out fast is imperative for those once-in-a-lifetime shots. But the bigger and more functional cameras can also allow you to get stunning candids that can be blown up for a big wall canvas. You can find more on camera types here.
Personally, I use a Nikon D5300 as it was given to me as a gift. This camera generally runs around $500 so it’s actually on the cheaper side of the spectrum. It’s given me some astounding photos of my children though and has been simple to use and adjust for my needs. I believe as long as you are familiar with your camera, it should do you well!
As for scenery, lighting is your object of manipulation. For the best and brightest photos, I always take pictures outside on cloudless days. This provides the best backdrop and lighting to highlight my children’s activities. Almost every photograph is wall worthy if taken outside I’ve found. However, not all memories are made in the wonderful outdoors. Some of my best captured images were taken indoors with bright lighting, natural light, or mirrors.
Natural light and artificial light tend to mix unwell, giving harsh undertones or strange shadows to a picture. I try to choose one or the other when trying to get the perfect shot. Natural light that comes through your windows is soft and mood captivating. Artificial light, when it’s bright and everywhere, can produce outstanding photos (ever wonder why the best selfies are shot in bathrooms)? Mirrors can also provide more light to a shot, if your child will look into one long enough!
The Uncooperative Child
Now that we’ve covered the minor basics (the easy part), let’s look at how to capture candids of those moving targets! Not every kid wants to have their own personal parental paparazzi, so catching them in the zone can be a little tricky. Here are those pro tips from the moms I’ve met with some photographing experience!
- Embrace Their Desires
To get your desired picture, you’ve got to give a little! What do your children love to do most in the world? Is it dressing up as a superhero? Jumping wildly into a pile of leaves? Cuddling on the couch with their favourite stuffed animal? Let them do it while you snap away to get that perfect portrait! Letting them do exactly what they want will put the biggest smile on their face and will also help you capture the memory of their favourite pastime. A win-win!
- Play a Game
This little trick of misdirection can work wonders on tantrums, chores, and even photography! Invent a game to get your child to do the image you’re trying to capture. If you want a running shot, throw a soccer ball. If you want a goofy shot, play Simon-says with them. If you must have a messy shot, help them finger-paint a picture. Make a game out of the picture and watch them get creative!
- Time Your Work
Your child or children do have a schedule to keep. It may not be as diligent as yours, or as precise, but it does make a huge difference in their lives if the schedule is disrupted. You will never get the goofy shots when your child is tired, or the cuddly shots when your child is playful. Work to the schedule you’ve built for them already and you will have tons more luck nabbing that perfect candid!
- Let Them be the Photographer
Every child is curious, always wanting to see or do what their parent is doing. Give them a chance behind the lens if they should give this indication. It could help quench their thirst for knowledge a smidge and also give you an opportunity to get a selfie! My children have had so many opportunities to take photos now that they happily let me snap away and then come see the photos afterwards!
Kinds of Candids
There are many different kinds of photography – landscape, architectural, sports, wildlife, aerial, etc.
But when it comes to my kids, I’ve landed on a few that make my heart melt to look at. I’ve listed them as well, and my tips on how to capture them for your wall!
- Action Shots
I love taking photos of my kids when they are in the middle of playing particularly active games. To do this without getting a blurry photo, I had to try a few different things. One, I learned the best action shots are taken outside. If taken inside, I had to really brighten my home! Next, I had to focus the camera’s centre on my child. This meant I would not be able to get a photo of them running past me, but more a photo of them running at me. Last, I had to increase my camera’s shutter speed and turn on the continuous shooting mode. These functions are typically on every camera other than phone cameras. If you are using a phone camera, the other tip you can try is to shoot often. This is not an ideal solution but sometimes you will catch that one-in-a-million shot!
- Silhouette Shots
Another type of fun shot that can be produced by manipulating lighting is the silhouette shot. I find silhouette shots (or black and white photos) make the best dramatic pictures. Many moms-to-be or new moms get these dramatic shots taken of them, and they make lovely, soft, emotional photos. Other silhouette shots that are hilarious (and super contrasting to the softer photos) are the imaginary play shots. I think the best ones are when children dress up in their favourite costumes and act out their wildest imaginary stories. These are likely the most fun indoor shots for toddlers and preschoolers too! Turn out the lights, and let the natural lights from the windows make shadows of your kids on the walls. Try to capture both your child and their shadow in the shot. They will love to make more for you once they see what you’re trying to achieve!
- Sensitive Shots
I have found that these photos are the easiest ones to take as they only seem to require dramatic lighting and cuddly child. To get the best results, I like to use dark backgrounds for black and white photos (coupled with dark clothing colours and your child’s face will really stand out). If you want a colourful sensitive photo, I also like to shoot with the sun behind my child. It makes for a pretty neat silhouette portrait that’s soft and dreamy in nature.
Portraits are easy to take if your child is unnaturally cooperative! They often require a steady hand and a large pile of chocolate for bribery purposes. I find any camera is able to handle these shots too, especially if taken one of two ways: have your child look up at you while you take the picture (vertical shot) or use a mirror for horizontal shots. The vertical shot, when you’re standing and looking down at your child, emphasizes your child’s eyes. Children naturally have large heads and their eyes tend to pop when looking up. These photos make heart-melting portraits. The horizontal shot, just a simple head-on photo, is easiest to take in a mirror I find. You take the photo of the mirror while your child looks into it. This prop helps scatter light all over your child’s face while giving them something to focus on.
- Scenery Shots
These shots are also particularly easy to take but require good lighting and a pleasant backdrop, such as the golden hour and the glorious outdoors. These shots focus less on individuals and more on the group, perfect for family action shots! Get the gang together for their favourite pastime and snap away! Shoot away from the sun during the golden hour. The golden hour is the hour after sunrise or the hour before sunset. This time period makes soft, warm pictures. To get more vibrant pictures, I take pictures in the middle of the day and then play with the camera effects to enhance the colours. It helps to focus on one colour, like the background, to do this. Use elevation to your advantage, like being at the bottom of a hill and looking up at everyone to catch the blue sky, or vice versa, to catch the green grass.
Well there you have it! Please feel free to use any of these tips to get that perfect picture of the child or family! Also, please don’t forget that I’m still learning the ins and outs of the child photography world and any tips for me are greatly appreciated! Leave your comment for the KARA family or just for me! All are welcome and happy photographing!