I am really happy to share some of my tricks with my readers!
It takes a lot of courage for me to write such a long post, because as you might know, English in not my mother language. So I apologize in anticipation for any english mistakes you might find.
I want you all to be able to take nice shots of your kids – that’s how we build nice memories! I am going to talk to everyone, independent of what camera they use. For people that shoot with DSLR, I am assuming you know what is white balance, ISO, raw, Aperture Priority, Speed priority and etc. If you don’t shoot with a DSLR and you don’t have full control over your camera settings (meaning not only change to portrait, sports, macro etc), don’t worry about this information, they do not interfere on you photo.
What camera to use?
The first big question is: what camera to use to photograph my kids? That is very simple: use whatever you have! Your camera should not impede you of taking good shots of your kids, although there are some advantages or disadvantages depending on the camera you have.
Mobile cameras: Very simple to use, the mobile cameras from nowadays can offer good quality photos. The disadvantage would be the complete lack of control over the photo.
Point and shoot cameras: These are small, easily carried around, non intrusive cameras. Point and shoot cameras might have some features that can help you to make good shots, like smile detection, auto-focus, blink detection, etc. You can also find point-and-shoots with all the controls available in a DSLR. For instance, when I do not want to carry my big camera I have a Cannon G16 that gives me full control over my photos and even shoots in raw.
DSLR cameras: These cameras are bigger and heavier, but offers superior quality image, work better in low light conditions and offers a complete range of controls to set up the photo as you want. A big mistake many people do it is to buy a DLSR with the kit lenses and shoot it in auto-mode. Sorry to tell you, it does not do a better job than a point and shoot! If you own, or you want to own a DSLR, you have to lose time (and sometimes money) learning about the controls that your camera offers. You also need to invest in better lenses (f=2.8 or wider) that sometimes might be more expensive than the camera itself.
What time to photograph?
Before telling you when you should do, I’ll they you when you should not! Never when the sun is fully high, meaning around noon. At this time funny shadows fall over our faces putting dark circles in everyone eyes, aside of the fact it is hard not to squint.
If you are photographing under sun look for open shades – underneath a tree, a gazebo, etc. This will help your kids from squinting.
Overcast days work greatly! The clouds work as huge diffusers, making a nice soft light! Snow days are also great for photography: the snow works as a big reflector bringing light from all directions. If you can manage the white balance your photos will turn really nice!
Make them Sparkle
Have you notice those photos where the subject eyes are full of life and sparkle? What you see is also called catch light. Try to place you children in a way the light can be reflected on her eyes, like in front of a window or facing the sky. This will make a much more flattering portrait.
Natural light x Flash
Except in really low light conditions natural light will always work better than the pop up flash. If you are in a low light environment like a house with few windows and you can select the ISO on your camera, put it up and check the results. Normally all the cameras work pretty well until ISO800 but above that you might start to have noise that will interfere on the quality of your photo.
If you are using a DSLR choose to buy a flash and use it pointing it to the ceiling instead of the child’s face.
Explore different angles
Climb in a chair, lie on the ground, but specially, reach the children’s level, so you do not distort her size. Be adventurous, tilt you Camara, look for unexpected angles – it is going to transform your photos!
Fill the frame with the subject: don’t be afraid of getting close.
Use the rule of the thirds – divide your frame with two horizontal parallel lines and two vertical ones, and place your subject where the more external lines cross. Photos where the subjects are lightly on the side of the frame are much more flattering than the ones where they are on the centre of the frame.
Natural is nice!
Capture your children playing, running, laughing. Instead of asking them to pose, just capture the beautiful moments that you want to remember.
To take the perfect photo of a child may take long than what you think. They are not always ready to cooperate and simply ask them to pose and smile not always work. Engage with your children, let them feel comfortable and the moment will arrive.
Children are movers! They’ll just run right on the moment when you were ready to press the shutter button. This will happen and there is nothing we can do about it. Just try to be faster. If you are photographing with a DSLR use the speed priority mode (Tv) and set it up in a higher speed (1/125 or faster).
Select Nice backgrounds
If you can bring your children to the beach or to a park for a photo-day, do it! If not, just try to remove any distraction from the frame. Pay attention what is behind your kid, as garbage cans and traffic signs. If you shoot with a DLSR you can use an aperture priority shooting mode (Av) and select a wider aperture to blur the background and focus on your child. For one child only f=2.8 is a good aperture, but you really need to be careful and focus on the eyes.
Show them a picture
Kids that are not really willing to cooperate might change their minds if you show them what you are doing. Kids love to see pictures of themselves, and they might actually start to pose to you!
Shoot, shoot, shoot!
Hip hip hooray for digital photography! Shoot as much as you can, one after the other, and select you best after all. If you have the option, use “continuous shooting”, and your chance to get a winner shot sky rocks.
One last think: About Newborn posing
As this is my main field of action, I should not just ignore newborn photography when I want to make you a better photographer for your family. If you have a newborn or you will photograph someone’s else newborn, many of the tips I gave before applies. Place them close to the window and use speed priority if they are awake, because they move their arms very fast.
If you are not a trained newborn photographer I strongly suggest Lifestyle photos. DO NOT TRY TO POSE A NEWBORN WITHOUT BEING TRAINED FOR THAT. Those squish curly poses that you see might be harmful for the baby if you don’t know how to do it. You still can make wonderful shots of your baby on mother’s arms, on her crib, over your bed, etc.
I hope I gave you useful information! If you have questions, just let me know! It will a pleasure to answer them!