How to take better photos of your children at home – super simple tips to improve your family photos
Would you love to be able to take better photos of your children? Here are some super simple tips for photographing your family at home. I value your time as a busy parent, so have kept to the main points and avoided excessive explanation.
These are beginner level tips but they pack a big punch. As with most things in life, there are exceptions to all these ideas, but…they will get you off to a great start.
My suggestions will be helpful no matter what type of camera you are using – from DSLR camera to mobile phone camera. If you are keen to improve your photos – give them a try!
First things first
There are 3 main elements that go into making a photo: the light, the location and the subject. If you want to take better photos of your children, I suggest focusing on these 3 things first. You need beautiful light, a location that doesn’t detract from your subject and an interesting subject matter. If you address these 3 things well, your photos will be much improved.
Light when photographing inside
For indoor photography, it is best to photograph during the brighter hours of the day (not very early in the morning or late in the day when it is getting dark).
Turn the flash off on your camera. The in-built automatic camera flash will not give you a flattering result. (Note: flash photography is a complex subject beyond the scope of this beginner tutorial. If you follow my natural light tips in this tutorial you shouldn’t need flash. I sometimes use an external flash when the lighting situation calls for it but I never use the in-built camera flash.)
Turn all lights off in the room you are photographing in. If it is too dark to photograph without the lights on, then wait until there is more light – good photos require good light.
Position your child/ren close to and beside or facing towards a window which does not have direct sunlight shining through it. Aim to have their face/eyes looking towards the light outside.
As a general rule, your subject should not be facing away from the window into the room as this will usually result in their face and eyes being shadowed. The exception to this is if there is another window to the front or side of the subject.
In the accompanying photo you can see that we are positioned immediately beside a large floor to ceiling window.
Light when photographing outside
It is easiest to photograph outside earlier in the morning and later in the day when the sun is softer and lower and there is more shade. The middle of the day is the most challenging time to photograph as it is harder to find shade and to avoid the harsh light.
The easiest way to get flattering light outside, is to position your child/ren in a shaded area facing out towards the open sky. Avoid placing them where any harsh sunlight will hit their face as this will lead to unflattering hotspots and shadows. Also avoid photographing them in very dark areas of shade facing into darkness.
If you really want to get photos of your children in a location where there is no shade and no way to put the sun behind them, then I recommend taking a wider shot where your child/ren are not looking at the camera – this will mean that the hotspots and shadows on your children’s faces will not be so obvious. This is the approach I have taken in the accompanying photo – my son is in the bright sunlight and it is hitting him from the front. Because he is looking away from the camera, the sunlight hitting his face doesn’t matter so much.
Choose a non-distracting background
Choose a suitable non-distracting background (next to or facing a window if you are photographing inside or in the shade facing towards the open sky if you are photographing outside). Set up an activity your child/ren will enjoy there and that you can photograph them engaged in.
Don’t feel you have to accept the situation as it is without helping it along a little. It is best to have a clean space surrounding your subject/s. Clear up clutter in the immediate area surrounding your child. Avoid having lamp shades, candlesticks, toys, tree trunks, overflowing laundry baskets (not that I would ever have a laundry basket lying around….) or other items behind and sticking out behind your child/ren.
Consider what is the subject of your photo
Give some thought to what your photo is about.
Try to make it something interesting, funny, beautiful or with some movement or emotion. Kids usually make achieving this part of the equation pretty easy. Take photos of your children involved in their favourite activities (except screen time as that’s not very interesting!).
Your children don’t need to be looking at the camera – it is actually much more interesting if they are involved in whatever they are doing. Bonus points if you can get photos of more than 1 person involved in an activity having fun and interacting with each other. Wait for a burst of emotion or laughter to take your photo and see what magic you capture!
If you are using a mobile phone camera, make sure to set your focus and exposure for your subject. Check the manual to see how to do this for your phone model. For an Iphone, simply tap the screen on the child’s face to set your focus and exposure there. If you are keen to get a blurry background, use the portrait mode if your mobile phone has this option.
If you are using another type of digital camera, you can either keep it simple and stick to the fully automatic settings. Or, if you are keen to get a blurry background, then set your camera on portrait mode or AP (aperture priority) mode. Choose the widest aperture setting your lens and camera will allow – this will be the smallest f-number on your camera lens (e.g. f4.0). Please read your camera manual to find out how to set these settings.
Don’t pinch to zoom on a mobile phone camera
Never zoom by pinching/stretching your fingers to expand your screen on a phone camera. If you do this, you will lose lots of pixels and quality will be reduced so that when you print your photos they will look pixelated.
Instead, if you want a closer up view, move in closer with your feet. Newer mobile phones often have 2 lenses – a wide angle 1 x lens and a telephoto 2 x lens. If you are lucky enough to have this option, you can use the 2x telephoto lens for closer up photos.
Keep your camera level to the horizon not angled to the side. Don’t put your camera too close to your subject’s face or it may distort them giving them a big nose – not very flattering. Also best to avoid taking photos from below your subject upwards as this is unflattering.