I hear many photographers talk about “photographer child syndrome” where their own kids run whenever they see a camera come out. My approach to taking photos of my daughter almost daily for well over a year has been more laid back and, frankly, easy for both her and I to capture amazing, candid photos of her. My unique perspective being her mom means I can capture so many different facial expressions, small moments, and laughter that another photographer would likely have a hard time doing. We have the luxury of having a lot of time together, so there’s no time pressure that we have to get a certain shot at any specific moment. This is where parent picture gold comes in, my friends.
#1 Get them in good lighting
My number one tip for taking better photos of your kids is making sure they are in good lighting. Homes can be tricky because they are often darker, but there are always pockets of light or nice windows to be found. You just have to look around your home and notice where the light is coming from. Once you find your light source, face your child towards the light (so the light is at your back). The key is to move your child’s activity close to a window so that you don’t need to use your flash. And don’t use your flash (ever) if possible. It’s not flattering for anyone.
#2 Get them involved in an activity
Tip #1 runs right into tip #2 which is to get your child involved in something. If you ask them to come by you, stand in one spot, don’t move, and smile I can guarantee you will have problems getting their photo. I always have my daughter involved in some activity or at least talking to me while I take her picture. Think about if you were asked to stand in one spot and not move while smiling. You probably wouldn’t last long either! I have snapped some of my favorite photos of her this way. Not only is she involved in an activity and having fun, but it also captures an activity that she loves at the moment. These are great to document!
#3 Don’t ask them to “smile” or say “cheese” EVER
I have a TON of smiling pictures of my daughter and guess how many times I’ve actually asked her to smile? NEVER. Not once. Why? When you ask a child to smile chances are they will scrunch their nose and give you that “box” smile that’s not authentic. Cute, but not what we’re going for. We want to capture genuine smiles because that better represents who they are! How to do this? Talk to them. Ask them funny questions. Tell fart jokes (seriously). Anything to get a genuine smile from them.
#4 Don’t ask them to stand still
Children are just made to move. If you ask a child to stand in one spot and don’t move, you’re asking for problems. They might even start to associate your camera as something that’s not fun. Let your child move and play and dance and sing and have fun! Cameras can handle a higher shutter speed if you have decent lighting, so up your shutter speed and let them go! Plus, adding movement to your photos can make them more interesting. Think of a twirling dress, moving hair, jumping, or running. This better shows what kids are like anyways!
#5 Get down to their level
My last tip is a biggie. Think about your point of view as the adult. You’re used to seeing your child from where you stand. Instead, you need to get down to their eye level or get really low and shoot up at them for a different perspective. This better shows their point of view and how they see the world. Pictures taken at their eye level make for great portrait shots. While you’re down there, fill your frame up with their face and get them to laugh next to a window. Boom. You will have child portrait gold!
There you have it! My 5 tips for taking better photos of your kids. These have really transformed the pictures of my daughter from a “snapshot” to a child portrait. The best part about taking your own kids’ photos is the luxury of time. You can experiment with locations, lighting, prompts, and see what works! The most important tip is really to just take the time to take your kids’ photos. Our kiddos grow up too fast as we know. Document the little moments. Talk to them. Enjoy them. Have photos of those special interests to keep and look back on.