Shoot like a pro : 7 ways to drastically improve photos of your children.

Are you frustrated with the fact that most of the pictures you take of your children are repetitive, boring or just don’t look good? Check out these seven tips to mix things up, and break through some of the stubborn habits that prevent your pictures from looking more exciting.

Boy kissing sky

Location

If you venture out with the specific purpose of doing a photo shoot with your children, plenty of options are available, and simplicity is key. Since the goal of your shoot is to come home with great shots of the children, the backdrop is not all that important. Any open space that adds to the ambiance of what you are shooting will do. In the fall, any scene that contains fall foliage will get the point across, and in the summer, you do not need to be on top of Longs Peak to get great mountain shots. Remember, the kids are your subjects, not the scenery. Look for wide, neutral spaces like open fields – this will make your subjects stand out way more than in overly dramatic scenery. In short: don’t try to combine portrait photography and landscape photography: you won’t do justice to either one. Simplicity in the background is the key to making your children shine.

Light

Take everything you’ve ever learned, and do the exact opposite. NEVER make a photo with your back towards the sun. Instead, position yourself so that sunlight hits your subject sideways or even from behind.

Mid-day sunlight is to be avoided at all cost – it is harsh, contrasty, makes kids squint, and casts unattractive shadows on faces. On sunny days, head out early morning or late afternoon. You don’t need a degree in photography to recognize the famous “golden hour”.

Cloudy, overcast and even rainy days are the absolute best time to go out and shoot portraits of the children! Make them wear bright, colorful clothes and your little models will pop right of your screen or paper!

Equipment: from DSLR to camera phone

Surprisingly, this is the least important ingredient. Sure, you will have more control over your photos with a DSLR, but point-and-shoot cameras and even smartphone cameras these days are amazingly sophisticated and capable of producing great results. Added benefit of the camera phone: it is such a small, unobtrusive object that your kids are familiar with. It is therefore much less of a distraction than a hefty DSLR and will inspire natural and spontaneous behavior.

Position: get uncomfortable

Do not ask your models to make things more comfortable for you. The best shots are taken at or below their eye level. And since they are much closer to the ground: so should you! So be prepared to get dirty and roll around in the dirt to get that perfect shot. And if they decide to climb a tree, climb the tree with them.

Composition

Don’t worry about it. That’s right: shoot away. Be like your kids: spontaneous, creative and color outside the lines.

Stop smiling!

The vast majority of kids’ portraits are ruined by very unnatural smiles. It is a deeply ingrained and culturally determined habit to fold one’s face in a cramp-like tooth-baring grimace that I would like to eradicate for once and for all. Please teach your children to act naturally in front of a camera. As the photographer, it is your job to elicit a natural, relaxed facial expression. You want a smile? Ask a 10 year old girl about whether or not she has a crush on someone. Ask a 5 year old boy if he’d like ice cream after the shoot. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with a serious, pensive, relaxed, bored, or mischievous facial expression. They make for much, much better photos than the forced “Smile!”.

Be the movie director, not the photographer

All too often, family portraits are sub-par because everyone involved realizes the photographer is working on a picture. One fraction of a second where everyone freezes and looks uncomfortably in the same direction.

Rather than preparing your models for that one shot, consider yourself a movie director. Set a scene, where you ask specific tasks from your models, and move around, work the scene, and disappear into the background, shooting away while your little movie unfolds. Rather than asking your children to hold a prop and pose a certain way, ask them to build a sandcastle, make a dam in the river, play a game of hide-and-seek, and blend in with the action. The result: natural, real photos that are much more memorable for everyone involved than those shots where mom or dad asked to pose uncomfortably for what seemed like hours.

Happy shooting!

 

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