6 Steps to Better Photos of Your Kids

In our digital world pictures are being taken more and more but did you know that your camera can LIE to you??  Yup you heard me, your camera can lie to you!!  Which when you think about it makes sense… it is just a machine and doesn’t always see things the way we do, therefore it can’t always produce the picture that we want.  But we can help it out and create that AMAZING picture we see and want to preserve.  

Here are 6 simple things that you can do today to help you and your camera take better pictures of your kids, your adventures, and your everyday life. 

Find the light

Photography means “painting with light” so there is nothing more important than light when it comes to taking a picture. Learning how to use light is an important part of photography, but one that many tend to not pay attention to and then get frustrated when their pictures don’t turn out how they envisioned them in their head.

When first starting out light can seem very overwhelming because you just want it to work with the shot you want to take but in reality light needs to be the first thing you consider when setting up a picture

To make it easy when you are first starting out, put the sun behind you, whether you are indoors taking a picture of your kiddo or outside. This will ensure that the light is hitting your subject from the front. 

It makes sense that this light is called front or flat lighting. Even though it can be dramatic to use, it is also the safest and most predictable. 

If the front light is soft, then it will be flattering on your subject, smoothing out imperfections in the skin, and giving great catchlights in the eyes. 

Front Light Diagram
Using front light

I could write a whole post on catchlights and what they do for a picture but for now know that catchlights fill your subjects eyes with light and sparkle!

What to do now-

Find a window and start using front light. Set yourself up so that your subject is facing the window and your back is to the window.  Make sure you aren’t casting any shadows on your subject. And snap away. 

Turn off your Flash!!

Now that you know how to find the light you don’t need the flash.  Turn it OFF!!! And never look back. 

Flash does absolutely nothing for your subjects- the light that a flash produces is hard and unforgiving. Think red-eye and very very bright in an unflattering way. Instead of using flash, move your subject closer to the light sources (ie a window). Light changes throughout the day making each room in your house have different light. In my post Finding the Light I talk about how to observe the light in your home to determine the best spots to take pictures in. 

What to do now-

It is very simple, TURN OFF YOUR FLASH!! Whether you are using a fancy DSLR or just your phone turn it off and don’t think about it again. 

Clear the Clutter

Once you have figured out the light take a minute to look in your viewfinder and see the scene. What is there? What is in your frame?  Clear away anything in the background or the foreground that doesn’t help tell the story.

If you can’t move the distracting object from the background consider moving your position. Can you shoot from a different angle to crop out the distracting element in the background. Try to shoot from 3 different angles, you can decide later when you are editing which one you like best. 

You can also change your focal length.  If you are using a zoom lens just zoom in closer or if you have a prime lens or your phone walk closer to your subject. Getting your subject to “fill the frame” will remove the distractions from the background and will make it so that you have a clear subject for your picture. 

Fill the Frame Example

What to do now-

When you take your next picture think before you click! Take 3-4 seconds to check out the scene. Is there anything that is distracting in the background or foreground and taking away from your focal point? If I am afraid I am going to miss the shot (remember I mainly take pictures of my very active kids) I will take the shot and then remove the distractions or change my angle. That way I know I have the picture and now I can just focus on making it better. 

Watch Where You Crop

As you begin to eliminate distracting elements in the background and zoom in closer to your subjects make sure that you aren’t cutting off your subjects arms or legs in unflattering ways. 

Generally speaking you don’t want to crop an image at a joint– so fingers, wrists, toes, ankles, elbows, shoulders, and so on. This will make your subject look like they are missing that part of their body.

What to do now-

After you have checked your frame of distractions, check the edges of the frame and make sure there isn’t a missing finger or foot. If you are, move just a little so that it is included in your frame. I have to admit this is a hard one for me. 

Use the Rule of Thirds

Composition can make or break a picture. If the viewer’s eye isn’t drawn into the picture by lead lines or strong focal points our brain will deem the picture too cluttered and we will just move on. 

When first starting out I suggest using the Rule of Thirds to draw your reader into the picture

The rule of thirds is one of the most basic “rules” of composition. To use the rule of thirds, imagine that the frame is divided into nine equal sections- three sections horizontally and three sections vertically.  You should aim to have your subject fall generally along those lines.  If you are photographing a person try and have their eye be where 2 of the lines intersect. 

My post on Using the Rule of Thirds goes into this rule in more detail and gives some examples on how to use it. 

What to do now-

If you are just beginning I suggest you turn on the grid feature on your camera or phone.  Every camera is different in how you can turn this feature on, check out your manual to figure it out for your camera. 

Then when you go to take your next shot try and place your subject along one of the lines, making sure your main focal point (maybe the eyes) are positioned where the lines intersect. 

Watch Your Shutter Speed

As humans we are always moving and kids are moving even faster.  Shutter Speed on your camera is what can freeze that motion.  If you are still using auto the camera is choosing the shutter speed for your picture and more often than not will choose one that is too slow causing blur in your pictures. 

To fix this learn how to take control of your camera in manual mode. Using manual mode will give you complete control over your settings, and therefore the final image that you take. 

I am not going to lie, it is hard to learn manual mode but stick with it.  Switching to Aperture Priority Mode is a great first step when considering a switch. My Aperture Priority Guide is a great place to start. 

Aperture Priority Mode Guide_ad image

What to do now-

Taking your camera off AUTO is really the only way of solving this problem, I don’t want you to feel discouraged if you aren’t ready to make the switch.

If you are on AUTO and you notice that your shutter speed is below 1/100, try to get more light into your scene- more light will allow you to use a faster shutter speed and in turn freeze motion. 

If you are in AV mode (aperture priority) and you see that your shutter speed has dropped, you can either raise your ISO or lower your F-number. Both of these options will let MORE light into your camera and allow you to have a faster shutter speed. 

Now that we know how to handle light, block out distractions, avoid cutting off fingers and toes, AND how to get in focus pictures you are READY to get out there and practice!! 

Grab a willing subject and get them to sit in front of a window. Make sure your flash is turned off, check out the frame (look for distracting items in the background and missing fingers/toes), and check your shutter speed.  Then start CLICKING!!! Don’t just stand in one spot, move around to get different angles, see what angles you prefer. Make sure to watch the light and how it falls on your subject. 

That’s it! Of course, you will want to expand your knowledge and learn everything you can to help you take great photos.  If you are ready to take some control of your camera Aperture Priority Mode is a great place to start and my Aperture Priority Guide will HELP

~Click with Love~


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