17 Essential Kids Photography Tips Every Parent Should Try

1. Get to Know Them.

Except for number one, this list is in no particular order. This method is ranked first because it is the single most important thing you can do to enhance the images of your children. If you just do one thing on this list, make it this one. When photographing your child, bring the camera down to or below their face level. This gives the audience of the picture the feeling that they are looking them in the eyes rather than looking down on them. Take a knee, or if your camera has a flip-out panel, flip it up and compose the picture using live-view while keeping the camera at your hip to take the shot. Visit our blog for more tips and guides on vlogging equipment.

2. Take a lot of pictures

My parents used to buy a roll of film with 34 exposures that had to last an entire vacation when I was a child. You can get a 32 GB memory card for about ten dollars these days, so the number of images you can take is practically limitless. This comes in handy when photographing your children. You can take as many images as you want to get the ONE shot of them all laughing and looking at the camera. The remainder may then be deleted or archived.

3. Take Pictures During the Golden Hours

The “golden hours” are loosely described as the hour immediately following sunrise and the hour preceding sunset. Without being too technical, this is the time of day when the sun is low in the sky, requiring more atmosphere to pass through than when it is high in the sky. This softens and decreases the strength of the light while also making it look more reddish and humid. All of these qualities make it a desirable light for photographing people.

4. Look for plain backgrounds.

Keep an eye on the history of your images. If you want your children to stand out in your pictures, make sure the images are composed so that they are not vying for the viewer’s attention with the background. You can do this in a variety of ways, one of which is to place them so that the clutter behind them is minimised. This can be more difficult in some situations than others, such as when you’re only making a fast grab-shot. At the very least, switch the camera so that your child’s head is in a background that is free of clutter. It can be as easy as shifting a little to the right or left before taking the picture to achieve this.

5. However, Not Against a Wall

A wall is technically a clean backdrop, but it’s also a dull one for the most part. People sometimes line their children up against the wall in the hall or entryway, resulting in a picture that looks like a prison lineup. If you use a flash, you risk throwing shadows on the wall, which is something you should try to avoid. I’m not saying that building a wall is always a bad idea, but if you have other options, I’d look into them first.

6. For compression, zoom in.

This is the third time I’ve mentioned the importance of having a clean history. This is due to the importance of backgrounds in picture composition. Often the backdrop is cluttered all around you, and you can’t get the clean portrait you want. You could try backing up and zooming in in this situation. This has the effect of “growing” a small clean area in the background, allowing you to fill your image and isolate your subject more effectively. Finally, if you find yourself in a situation where there isn’t a clean enough backdrop, look behind your subject and try to remove something unsightly, such as trash cans, port-o-lets, or light poles arranged as if they are coming out of someone’s head. Both of these are blunders I’ve made in the past.

7. Fill Shadows with Flash

Have you ever heard the phrase, “You don’t need a flash when you’re outside?” This is valid in some cases, but you can still create excellent photos without it. Using the flash, on the other hand, will fill in some shadows and brighten your subject’s faces. If your camera has a hot shoe, I strongly advise you to purchase a separate flash. This is true not only for children’s photography, but for all photography. It doesn’t have to be expensive; there are plenty of third-party flashes that perform just as well as the name labels. To use in daytime, make sure they have high-speed sync. My Speedlite flash has a special place in my heart. I’ve taken tens of thousands of pictures of people outside during the day, and I’d say I’ve used it in about 90% of them. One of the first things I suggest to my friends who are searching for accessories for their DSLR or mirrorless camera is an on-camera flash.

8. Indoors, use Bounce Flash.

Another benefit of using a hot shoe flash for your camera is this. Instead of pointing your flash forward when taking photos indoors, aim it at a nearby white wall or ceiling and let the light “bounce” back onto your subject. When the light from the flash reaches the ceiling or wall, it uniformly distributes the light across the room. Instead of using a harsh direct flash from the camera to light your subject, you’ll be using softer indirect light, which will make your images look more natural and professional. The exposure settings for each of the images above were identical. The only difference is that on the second one, I pointed my Speedlite at the ceiling and lit up the room.

9. Seek out the Light

Although using a flash is often beneficial, there are times when a natural or another available light source will suffice, while also adding some images to your picture. Whatever you do, make sure you consider your light source when taking the picture and place your subject to get the most out of it.

10. Put Them In Their Natural Environment

Give your kids their favorite toy and let them play with it as you photograph them instead of making them stand and look at you. This is a great way to catch their true happiness. For the record, I used the #9 suggestion in this picture as well. The only source of illumination was a wide window directly behind me.

11. Let Them Laugh

It can be difficult to photograph children at times. One of the most difficult aspects of photographing children is getting them to smile naturally. I’m not a comedian, but I’ve found that telling jokes and asking them questions has helped me in the past. You might tell them to say something ridiculous like “underwear” or inquire about their brother or sister. You might also tell them not to smile and then make a huge deal out of it if they do. Just be ready to snap at the magical moment when they offer you a sincere smile, because it will most definitely vanish in an instant.

12. Take pictures of them in action

When my children participate in sports, I am the unofficial (and sometimes official) team photographer. I still volunteer because I want to make sure I get good pictures of my kids in action. The advantage to the other parents is that they, too, will receive fantastic photographs of their children. My favorite part of this hobby is photographing my children playing sports. It also keeps me in good shape for my paying gigs as a side benefit.

13. Take your camera with you wherever you go

You never know when a good opportunity to take a great photograph of your children will present itself, so why not be ready? We all have our phones with us at all times these days, so we still have a camera with us. That’s fantastic, but if you own a DSLR or mirrorless camera, I’d like to challenge you to use it more often!

14. Take the photo by yourself.

It’s difficult enough to get a group of kids to look at the camera at the same time while photographing them. Why make it any more difficult by adding more cameras to the mix? Obviously, this is better said than done at times. However, if you can work out a deal with the other parents to allow just one photographer for the community picture, you’ll significantly improve everyone’s chances of getting a good shot. If you are fortunate enough to be the appointed photographer for the picture, try to get it to the other parents as soon as possible, whether you are just taking a snapshot or a carefully framed and designed image. This will improve the chances of being entrusted with this mission in the future.

15. Take pictures of them having a good time.

Any time we take the kids out front these days, the adults tend to congregate in the driveway and talk while the kids play. Take a break from the adult talk and relax with your camera on the ground near the kids for a few minutes. You’ll be amazed by how many unforgettable moments you can capture simply by photographing children having fun with their peers.

16. Experiment with different perspectives

Remember rule #1 from the beginning of this list? Laws are designed to be broken, after all. However, knowing the rules before breaking them is a good idea. It’s enjoyable to add variety to your pictures. Don’t be afraid to use your imagination. 

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Christophe Rude

Christophe Rude

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