I love photographing families - they are all so unique with their own dynamic and set of characters. However, there will be times when a professional photographer isn't there to capture precious moments and so it falls to you as parents to do your best David Bailey impression.
If you've tried to photograph your children but do not seem to be having too much success, don't stress - here are few tips to help you get started.
1 Distinguish between a quick snap and a set up photograph
There are times when a little bit of forethought and planning can go a long way to elevating your children's photos from happy snaps to works of art. However, not every photo needs to be the latter. If you've just caught little Ava smeared in mummy's lipstick, or 4 year old Jimmy with his hands in the not-so-out-of-reach biscuit barrel, then a quick smart phone snap is all that is needed to text Grandma and Granddad / share on social media. They are also such fleeting moments that they may be over by the time you've ran back upstairs to get out the digital camera.
If you are an enthusiastic amateur photographer, don't feel the need for every image you take of your children to be technically perfect - capturing the moment is sometimes enough.
2 Tidy the background
A messy background is one of the easiest ways to ruin a photograph and detract from the main focus of the image. Luckily, it is also the easiest to rectify. For example, if you are photographing your child before their first day of school, take a second to move the laundry basket in the back of the shot. If an object can't be moved, try shooting from a different angle or asking your little one to move slightly (easier said than done at times I know)!
3 Shoot from their height
A common mistake when photographing children is to simply point the camera down towards them. Make a concerted effort to get down to eye level and shoot from their height. Not only does it allow you to view the world through their eyes, it also eliminates paths, table tops and other objects from appearing to spring out from the side of their heads.
4 Think about the light
Whole books and careers continue to be dedicated to lighting and photography but without getting too technical, there are a few basic facts to keep in mind;
Midday sun is harsh and unflattering and causes squinty eyes - find a shady spot away from harsh shadows. The lighting will be much softer and therefore more flattering. Alternatively, shoot outdoors during the golden hours (an hour after sunrise and before sunset) if this doesn't clash with bath and story time. If you have a north facing window in your house, this provides ideal non-direct light with which to light your children.
Don't place you child in front of the light source (whether it be a window or another source) as it will cast them into a silhouette. Backlighting is a fantastic technique that professional photographers use to create a soft golden light behind the subject, but there is a specific technique for this (worthy of a blog post in itself).
5 Focus on natural traits and expressions
I lose count of the number of families who book me because they love the natural look of my photos and then spend the shoot telling their children to smile and look at the camera. Children have less self-awareness and insecurities than adults, and by simply observing and shooting their candid moments and expressions you can achieve fantastically unique images that truly reflect who they are.
6 Know when to put down the camera
No-one knows your children better than you - so it goes without saying that you will instinctively know when whipping out the camera is likely to cause a tantrum or an onslaught of shyness. Regularly taking photos of your children will help them to get used to the camera and see it as something that isn't scary or out of the ordinary. However, constantly interrupting playtimes and family fun by pausing for a photo opportunity can get tedious and boring. Set your self a limit on how many times a week or month you are going to take photos and stick to it. Knowing mum and dad will leave you in peace once they have taken a couple of shots often leads to more cooperative children!
These are just a few simple tips but they really can help to improve you photographs of your children. I would love to see some of your own family photos. Why not post some below and let me know how you got the shot?