Gone are the days when you had to be careful about taking too many photos of your kids, as the cost of developing the film could get expensive. Thank goodness you can now capture every nanosecond of your child’s existence on your camera phone (not that you should). Whether you’re using a DSLR in a more formal setting or capturing spontaneous moments on your iPhone, the following tips will make those shots even more special.
Timing is everything
Kids can be cranky. Make sure yours are not hungry or tired before a family portrait session. If you have young children, get everyone else ready during naptime, so you’re ready to go when they wake up and they’ll be in a better mood for the shoot.
Make ‘em laugh
Simply saying, “smile,” will probably get you a staged grin. Instead, ask them to say a silly word or, better yet, act silly yourself to capture their reaction. A photo with your kids laughing and smiling is a great memory to look back at in the future!
Take candid shots
Go beyond the mandatory group shot and capture them in their own world. A toddler picking up a Cheerio, kids blowing bubbles or twirling around to music. When kids are doing what comes naturally, they’re more comfortable and it’s easier to capture those special moments.
Lighting is important
Shoot outdoors when you can – natural light is better (generally), especially in the late afternoon when the sun makes everything golden or in the early mornings about an hour and a half after sunrise. Photos are gorgeous at this time, facilitating perfect light on your subjects. Also, don’t have your subjects stand in front of the sun or they’ll be backlit and underexposed.
Think about the background
A solid colored background is nice and will make your subject pop more. De-clutter and minimize distracting elements. When shooting people, note if anything is “growing” out of the person’s head – palm trees, poles, etc. Move them or change your angle. You can also remove these items digitally in Photoshop afterwards, or even change out the background.
Shoot from multiple angles
Don’t just take pictures from one vantage point, which is usually eye-level from where you’re standing. Squat down, stand on something, shoot through an object and get creative.
Shooting with your camera phone
The quality of smartphone cameras keeps improving. We’re fortunate these days to be armed with a camera 24/7. Don’t zoom in when taking shots (it makes them more pixelated/fuzzy) — crop the photo later for a close-up effect. Take advantage of free photo-editing apps – some of our favorites are: Photoshop Express, Retouch, Snapseed and Aviary. Even older kids are getting into the action and applying filters in Instagram.
Learn basic photo editing
Most photos can use some editing, whether it’s to adjust the exposure, crop, resize, etc. You can also turn a color photo into B&W or sepia-toned, along with hundreds of other options. Go to Adobe’s site and learn Photoshop for free. You don’t need to buy the entire PS software anymore (in fact, you can’t as Adobe has now moved to a subscription-only model). If you own a version of Photoshop CS3 or later, you can purchase a subscription to download Photoshop CC for only $9.99/mo. until December 31, 2013, which includes Lightroom 5 and 20GB cloud storage. New customers will have to pay $19.99/mo. to download a single app, like Photoshop, which is more affordable than previously having to purchase the software for hundreds of dollars.
Liz Laing is a writer, web designer and photographer who lives in Los Angeles. Her latest projects may be followed on Liz Laing.