Let me tell you: photographing kids is not for the faint of heart! When they aren’t moving (well, let’s face it – when AREN’T they moving?), the photo still isn’t great because there’s junk in the background, or the light wasn’t quite right, or you got a big ol’ lens flare going on, and the whole photo just isn’t quite good enough to make the photo album cut.
But I’m here to give you 10 quick, concrete tips to help up your momtography game and take better photos of your kids TODAY! No fancy camera or editing software needed!
1. Get On Their Level
My number one tip for photographing kids is to get on their level! Bend down, squat down, lay down, hunch over, whatever it takes to bring your camera down to the same plane as their face. Your photographs will be 10x more dynamic when your littles are looking straight at the camera instead of up at it.
2. Get In Close
Another tip you’ll see on virtually any other list like this is to get close. Fill the frame up with their adorable little faces. This serves two purposes. 1. Aren’t they the reason you’re taking the photo in the first place? 2. It’s easier to get rid of unwanted background if it isn’t there to begin with. Imagine you’re shooting a photo in your house, laundry on the couch, toys on the floor, dirty dishes in the sink (oh wait, just me?). Pull back away from your kid, and all that stuff is now in the picture, and no one wants to post THAT photo on social media. Instead, get in closer, fill up the frame with that cute little smile. No one needs to know you haven’t tidied the house in 2 weeks!
3. Pay Attention to the Background
This one is very closely related to the last one, and is essentially another way to solve the same problem. If you want to take some more pulled back shots of your kiddo, pay attention to what else is occupying the frame with them. Can you move a chair out of the picture? Can you scoot some toys to the side? Shoot the picture from a slightly different angle? This tip applies equally when shooting out and about too. Choose your shooting angles means not needing to crop your photos, or try to edit objects out later (infinitely harder if you are a momtographer with no access to editing software!).
4. Light From Behind
When you first start photographing your kids, your first instinct is probably to have them face the sun, so that you get all that light on their face. However, this can create “hot spots” where the highlights get blown out, and it is extremely difficult to edit later. As well, it can create really dramatic shadows across the face that is distracting from the overall image.
Instead, have the sun behind your kiddo. They will get a nice even shade and skin tone across their face (no hot spots, no dramatic shadows). The additional bonus is you often get this awesome glowy light in their hair if you can do a true back light properly (get their head or shoulders directly between your camera and the sun). They look like little angels!
5. Avoid Sunflare
While some photographers like sunflare, I personally don’t. Now, sometimes it can add a little something to an image, for the most part it is just distracting, and looks a little amateur. Sunflares are caused when light goes directly into your lens, causing sun spots across your image. They are fairly easy to avoid, however, and the key is to shade your lens. Sometimes it can be as simple as cupping your hand around end of the lens (make sure your hand doesn’t end up in the shot!). They also make “lens hoods” for lenses that do this for you. Another method is to simply shoot from the shade. If you are standing under a shady tree, you will not get sunflare, even if your subject isn’t in the shade. Lastly, if you have a helper, friend, or partner with you, have them hold something up (like a piece of cardboard or something similar) to block the sun directly on your camera.
6. Shoot During Golden Hour
I don’t often get a chance to shoot my kids during golden hour – mainly because I am NOT a morning person, and my kids still nap. By the time we get up and anywhere in the morning, golden hour is long gone. And in the afternoon… well, same. Golden hour is the first hour or so when the sun rises in the morning, and the last hour or so before the sun goes down in the evening. If you have a chance to shoot during these times of days, the sun gets this wonderful golden glow that adds just a little extra touch to those photos.
7. Get Them Laughing
Ever mother knows this to be true: A baby laughing is the best music in the world, and a kid laughing makes the best photo in the world. You know your kids better than anyone else on the planet, and you know what kinds of things make them laugh and smile. At the dinner table, it might not be appropriate to make farting noises and blow raspberries, but for good photos, sometimes that’s just what the doctor ordered!
8. Capture the “Real Stuff”
Despite our most heroic efforts, sometimes our kids just don’t want to cooperate with us when we want photos, and that’s ok! They’re kids! Right now, they just want to play (and honestly, can you blame them?). So ride that wave, honey! Let them play, let them cry, let them dance – and just keep rolling! Some of my favorite photos (both of my kids, and ones I’ve captured for other people) were when the kids were done posing, so we just let them be kids!
In fact, before I was a photographer, we took our daughter for a cake smash photo shoot. Within a minute of the start of the session, she slapped the top of the cake and got frosting all over her hand. She took one look at her hand, started crying, and didn’t stop for the rest of the session… However, the Katie Trottino (bless her!) didn’t stop rolling! And in between the tears and the sad faces, she caught some wonderful shots of my daughter that capture her personality perfectly! (And yes, she did send us a couple of her crying as well, and I love those just as much! Especially because it reminds me of how much she HATED getting her hands dirty back then!)
9. Take in the Details
When you are getting close to your kids, don’t be afraid of getting real close (especially if you have a camera that can handle it). Crop those photos down so all you see are their perfect little details. They won’t be this small for long, and you will love looking back and seeing just how tiny their toes, fingers, lips, ears, and eyelashes were! Favorite photos from newborn sessions are often the detail shots!
While on the topic of details, don’t forget other details: their favorite dress, the only pair of shoes they would agree to wear out of the house, their trusty stuffed animal, the ball they can’t leave home without… Photograph those things on their own, and with your child. They probably won’t have these things forever, but looking back on them will bring you so many happy memories (even if right now you secretly want to throw away that Peter Rabbit toy that tells the story over and over, because your kid keeps turning it on every 5 seconds… no? Just me? Oh, well then…).
10. Break the Rules
While these tips can be very helpful to get your photographs looking a little more polished right off the bat, you have to remember that sometimes rules just need to be broken! Here are examples of me breaking all those rules I just taught you, haha.
Were these tips helpful for you? Do you feel more confident taking photos of your kids? Do you have any other tips or tricks you would add? Leave a comment below and let me know!