Recording the growth and development of your little ones, be they children or grandchildren, is something digital cameras are made for. When we had film it cost so much to develop your shots, and so few came out right – these days it doesn’t matter how many shots you take, you can just keep the ones that work.
Photography is fun! Follow these 10 tips when your children are your subject and you will end up with wonderful shots to keep and look back on in years to come.
They grow up so fast, and if you don’t take that shot today the opportunity may never come again, so get that camera out, load up an empty card, and start shooting! You’ll be glad that you did…
- Keep shooting. A mistake a lot of people make is only to shoot one or two shots. This dramatically reduces your chance of getting the keeper shot, as children never stay still for long, or keep that expression for more than a second or two. Keep shooting – try different angles, zoom in and out, move around the child, but keep shooting.
- Get closer. If you are aiming for a portrait type shot, fill the frame with your child’s face. That’s what you are really interested in after all. Those lovely close ups of the eyes, showing the tiny little lashes and down on a baby’s skin are wonderful images you will treasure for a lifetime.
- Focus on the eyes. If your camera lets you decide where the focus will be, always focus on the eyes, and if the face is not facing you straight on, generally focus on the eye nearest to you. Shots with the eyes out of focus almost never work.
- Choose Portrait mode on your scene dial. Most cameras have various little icons you can select for different types of shot. Use the portrait or baby mode – these set the camera up for head and face shots which will optimise the camera for skin tones, and also reduce the depth of field. This means that the face is nice and sharply in focus, but the background will be slightly out of focus – a much more pleasing photo than having the whole shot in focus.
- Get down low. When I’m shooting children, I normally end up lying on the floor or at least sitting or kneeling down. The best shots of children tend to be from their height, and they have a few years of growing before they are 6 feet tall like me. Being down with them also makes them inquisitive and more likely to engage with you which will result in better shots much of the time.
- Have the camera to hand. A camera is a tool, and so many wonderful moments are missed because the camera is put away. Keep it out, charged and with a memory card with lots of space free, so that when the children start something, you can be shooting in a matter of seconds. My children don’t even see the cameras any more because they are so used to seeing me using them around the house, which means I can get natural, unaffected shots.
- Use your zoom. The best shots of children are often the ones they don’t even know are being taken. I can be in the next room, but with a zoom lens I can fill the frame with the fleeting expression, or capture that pose or frown, recording the moment for ever, when breaking the spell of the child’s concentration would have meant losing the shot.
- Enable Multi-shot. Most cameras these days have a multi-shot option, where you press down on the shutter and the camera fires off a sequence of shots. This is great as it gives you several chances to get the perfect shot, and this is especially important for those key moments like blowing out the candles which can be difficult to recapture, especially as they get older and have more candles to relight!
- Avoid using flash. There are few less flattering lights for skin tones than flash, so avoid using it if at all possible. The lovely translucent, silky look of a child’s face is completely ruined by flash lighting in most cases, so always aim to use natural light, or even normal indoor lighting – you can either change the white balance setting to reduce the orange cast to shots or adjust the image later on the computer.
- Use the children’s stuff as framing and context. I was looking through some shots of Daniel, my one year old earlier on, and as a tiny tot we shot him a fair bit on the brightly coloured play mats he lay on – wonderful colours and textures. I also shot him through the bars of the cot quite effectively, and pram hoods, play bricks – all make great context additions to shots of little ones.
Joe Houghton Photography runs small group photo shoots, individual 1 on 1 tuition and photography assignments. You can see some of Joe’s photography on ArtistRising or at The Canvas Works, or on his Flickr site.
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