Every mom wants perfect photos of their precious babies. It’s only natural, right? Our kids are only going to be this little once and we want to capture EVERY SINGLE MOMENT of their littleness. All too often, though, what happens is that you’ll take a billion pictures of your adorable baby and when you look back at them you’ll realize that they’re not so great. Blurry, askew, fake smiles, grimaces, closed eyes, too dark, too light…and to make it worse, most of them all look exactly the same. It’s frustrating, isn’t it?
All hope is not lost, mamas. There are a few things you can do to not only get get better shots of your little ones, but more interesting shots! Here are a few tips:
Be a lover of light. One of the most important aspects of capturing beautiful images is your available light: where it is, how it’s used, how bright or how dim, etc. As a general rule, taking pictures inside is going to be more difficult for your camera than doing it outside. If you want to snap some images indoors, try to take them in the brightest room and, if you can manage it, place your subject (i.e., your cute kid) perpendicular to the window (but not in direct sunlight). Your camera will be able to work more efficiently, thus giving you clearer images, when it has lots of available light to work with.
If you want to shoot outdoors, the best time of day is about one hour before sunset or one hour after sunrise. These times of day are referred to as “the golden hour” and provide the most flattering, magical light. Obviously, though, sometimes it’s not possible to plan your day around “the golden hour” so if you are outside in the middle of the day and want to take a few shots, just keep in mind that open shade is your friend! Find a big tree that provides a lot of shade or a covered playground and shoot away. Try to avoid direct sunlight; it is the least flattering light and harder to work with.
Once you’ve figured out how to look for the light, start trying your hand at manipulating the location of the light as it relates to your subject to give your photos more appeal. An angelic back-lit subject or dramatic shadows on the face are always just a little more interesting than an evenly lit shot. Start playing around with the light and you will be amazed at the images you can create!
Don’t be so square. There is a principle every photographer learns that is called the “rule of thirds.” It is based on the theory that everyone’s eye is naturally drawn to the outer thirds of an image instead of directly to the center. Theoretically, if you try to take images based on the rule, your pictures will be more pleasing to look at.
Try to imagine an image broken down into a grid of thirds both horizontally and vertically, making nine parts. If you place the subject of your image at one of the intersecting lines of the grid, according to the rule, you create a more balanced and interesting shot. Sometimes, this type of composition comes naturally to some people; others, not so much, and it requires practice. And it doesn’t mean you should never take a photograph with your kid smack dab in the center of the shot! Just play around with the theory and see how it changes your images.
Keep it candid. Do not, I repeat, do not try to pose your kids! It never works and oftentimes it leads to a meltdown…for you and the kiddo! Just relax and let your kids do their thing, but have your camera at the ready. More often than not, I will be watching my daughter play literally through my lens. I will walk around holding my camera to my face just waiting for the right moments to pull the trigger. Candid shots are so much more beautiful and real, in my opinion, than anything you could ever capture trying to force your kid to “sit still and smile, darn it!” Also, don’t be afraid to be silly! You’d be amazed at how much more active and happy your kids will be when they see mommy is having a good time playing, too!
Look for the moments. This is when you’ll really get some beautiful images. You have to be ready in the quiet moments, in the everyday moments, in the moments where your children are in their own world or happily distracted by other things. Often, I like to sneak outside with my camera when my husband and kids are playing in the backyard. I’ll quietly watch them and sneak some shots when they’re not really paying attention, like when they’re playing with their dad and they look up at him with an adoring smile (snap!) or when they’re learning how to throw the ball for the dog and they giggle as the dog tries to snatch his beloved ball out of their tiny hands (snap!). When you are patient and wait for those moments, you will walk away with some images you’ll treasure for a lifetime.
Move the focus off your kid. I know this may be a strange concept for some, but bear with me. Every now and then I like to move the focus of my camera off my subject (or in some instances, only capture a fraction of my subject). Sometimes these types of pictures create the most interest. These images are not for everyone and sometimes they don’t turn out the way you wanted them to, but try playing around with shifting your focus. You might be surprised by what you can create!
Try using these tips the next time you’re out on a beautiful day with your kiddos. Just play with your camera, try not to take yourself too seriously, and have a lot of fun!