How can I take better photos of my kids? I get asked this all the time, the reason I get asked this all the time is because it’s hard to take photos of kids! What is it they say, never work with children or animals! There is a reason for that saying. But it’s a good thing that I love kids and I love to photograph their little smiles and personalities. I thought I’d share a few simple tips that I use in both my studio and outdoor sessions. The age group 1-4 is really the toughest age group you can photograph simply because you just can’t expect children this age to take any kind of direction so here is my 3 top tips for getting the best photos of your kids.
- The technical stuff – Find the light.
Knowing good light is one of the most important aspects of photography and I’m not expecting you all to be experts on it as it takes years to master good light but it really will help you if you just bear in mind that light can make a huge difference. I don’t expect you to have a fancy studio or flash equipment so I will keep this simple. If your indoors find a window. Window light can be amazing, so much so that I often use the window in my studio instead of studio lights. You want the direction of the light to hit your subject at a 45-degree angle. The light will hit the face in a flattering way adding depth to both the shadows and the highlights. Faces are full of character and if the light is too straight on it can make your portrait look flat. If your outdoors then perfect but harsh sunlight is tricky to work with. Photographers really struggle with this too! If its sunny you will want to try to find the open shade, this is anywhere that a shadow is cast outdoors and if you keep to the edge of the shade you should still see some direction to the light. If it is cloudy outside then perfect, the clouds act as a giant soft box to the sun creating really flattering soft light. Try not to overthink it, it’s just useful to bear this in mind when taking photographs. You will also need a fast shutter speed because kids move quickly!
- The fun stuff – Let them play.
Don’t start with a bribe or even tell them what you plan on doing, let them have fun, it’s the best way to get natural photos of your children, when they are genuinely happy and having fun you can capture them at their best. If your outside then you can get them to explore and do things that you know will make them laugh. We were at Haddo house the other day and my son was really into Halloween this year so I asked him to cackle like a witch. Or if we are all together Ill chase him and his Daddy and get then to cuddle, play hide and seek from behind the camera or get him to roar like a dinosaur. Getting them to run towards you to catch you and playing peek a boo are winners too. In the studio I do the same, I let them play first and then when I want them to sit still for a minute they are way more willing than if I just asked them to come in, sit and smile. By letting them have fun you get more naturals smiles and to be honest it’s not all about posing and looking at the camera, I love the photos where they are playing in a world of their own and totally oblivious to what us boring grown-ups are doing. There’s also some tricks I use, for example if I want a child to look out the window I will either get another parent or grown-up to be outside making faces or just use my phone on the windowsill and put something on that will engross the child for a few minutes! Other challenges are to get children to sit with their younger siblings, if they don’t want to do this then you can hide chocolate buttons on the baby. Works a treat. I also have a feather duster, monkey puppet and you can hear me making some crazy noises and fake sneezes to try and get the attention of younger children. I will literally make a complete fool of myself to get a giggle! So be silly, it will make them laugh or at the very least you will get a bemused expression.
- Take lots of photos!
Practice, take your camera with you all the time on adventures, take photos of them in the bath, reading stories at bedtime, playing in the garden. If you have good camera use it, don’t just use your phone all the time. The more you practice the better you will get. We have a travel camera that is a bit smaller that our professional ones and we take it everywhere, I try to document our lives with our little camera because it really is a joy for me to see photos of my little family in their everyday habitat. Whether its happy moments or sulky moments, every day stuff or once in a lifetime holidays. We take photos all the time and we print them too! We have a big keepsake box of prints from when Charlie was a baby to now. Some are professional photos taken in the studio but honestly most of them are photos of everyday life and all the memories that we love to look back on as our babies grow up. The photos don’t need to be perfect. They just need to capture the moments.
And that’s it, my 3 simple steps to taking better photographs of your kids. I hope you found my tips useful and start to get practicing!
Haley Fraser is an award winning family, wedding and baby photographer based in Ellon, Aberdeenshire. She is a member of BANPAS, The Master Photographers Association and The Guild of Photographers. Hayley’s style focusses on simple setups and natural poses to create timeless images of the most precious moments in life.