Do your kids refer to you as “mamarazzi?” Are you always carrying your camera around and taking endless photos of your children? If you answered yes, then these 15 photography tips are for you!
Tip #1: Vary your point-of-view.
This is probably the single most important tip I can give moms. Browse through a batch of recent photos on your camera or computer. If most of your shots were taken standing up, try crouching down and placing the camera at your baby or child’s eye level. Or set your camera down on the ground and take a photo. Stand on a chair and point the lens down toward the floor.
Getting down on the level of your child can really make a huge difference in the photos. I find that I take most of my kids photos lying down on the floor with my camera.
Tip #2: Find the best light.
Walk around your home and yard during different times of the day and study the light. When is the light streaming through the windows or doorways? When do you get a beautiful stream of golden light peeking over the fence? Look for the best natural lighting. Place your baby on a blanket in that spot, or ask your child to play in that area. If you have a dark home or live in a region with very few bright days, you may want to invest in a speedlight (a flash you attach to the top of your camera).
Tip #3: Eliminate the clutter.
With kids, come toys, books, dolls, and stuffed animals. Clear the clutter by zooming in with your lens or walk in closer to your subject to remove any distracting elements in the background. Shooting in aperture priority mode or manual mode will help, too. Be sure to reduce your depth of field, which will blur the area in front of and behind the subject.
Tip #4: Raise your shutter speed.
As you know, kids often move fast! To freeze their actions, increase your shutter speed. If you are shooting with a point-and-shoot camera, select the sports mode (usually a running man). With a DSLR, select shutter priority mode or manual and make sure to choose a shutter speed of at least 1/250 for most kids photography. If the kids are running at full tilt, you'll probably want to be at 1/500 or faster.
Tip #5: Use continuous shooting mode.
With this mode, you will be able to take a lot of photos very quickly by simply holding down the shutter release button. Your camera will likely sound like a machine gun firing away, but you will be happy to have lots of photos to choose from. Take as many photos as your memory card will allow; you can always delete some later.
Tip #6: Try back button focusing.
Most of you probably push the shutter release button down halfway to focus and then all the way to take a photo. There is another way! With back button focusing (BFF), you press a button on the back of the camera (AF ON on the Nikon D700), which activates focusing on the camera, and then you depress the shutter release button fully to capture the image. While BBF can be challenging to get used to initially, I’ve found it is much more versatile, especially for portraits and action shots. For a tutorial on how to use back button focusing on your camera, check out this post.
Tip #7: Unleash your kids' creativity.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you just won't be able to turn a boring pose into something more fun for the kids. One of the best tips I've found is to let the kids do the creative thinking. Let them have fun and see the photos on the back of the camera. Sometimes their ideas are far more interesting than our own.
Tip #8: Learn to Shoot in Low Light
If you are still shooting in automatic mode, you really aren't taking advantage of what your camera can do. Especially for shooting the kids indoors, you could get much better results by shooting in aperture priority mode. Jim wrote an awesome in-depth tutorial on getting out of automatic mode which could totally change the quality of your indoor photography.
Tip #9: Keep your child entertained.
If you are taking posed photos of your child, give them a chair to sit on, a toy to play with, or offer them a lollipop. Have stickers (and easy-to-eat snacks) on hand to keep your child happy and cooperative.
Tip #10: Eliminate “smile” and “cheese” and replace them with a simple “look”
Instead of saying, “smile,” try words like “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” or “serendipity” or “abracadabra”, or just point the camera at the kids and ask them to simply look at you. I often find that they give natural smiles when they look at the camera, but really cheesy smiles when you ask them to “smile and look at the camera.” Wouldn't the photo above have been ruined if the boy had a really corny smile?
If you still have trouble getting your baby or young child to smile, try attaching a Shutter Hugger or Camera Creature to your camera lens or smartphone. It will not only capture their attention, but also their grins.
Tip #11: Move into the shot.
Set your camera on a table, counter, or use a tripod. Turn on the self-timer and move in front of the camera. Or ask your partner or family member to take a photograph of you playing with your kids. The photo doesn’t have to be posed; candid shots are great, too. Years from now, your kids will love seeing you in some of the family photos.
Tip #12: Let kids be kids.
Take a few steps back and just let your kids play. Don’t direct them, don’t tell them where to stand or what kind of face to make. Just let them interact and capture them in their natural environment. If you have a telephoto lens, you will be able to move farther away and then zoom in. In fact, your children might even forget that you are there!
Tip #13: Don’t delete images of kids in the camera.
It’s difficult to determine whether an image is stellar or just so-so on a small LCD display–especially when your subject is a small child. Sometimes the photo itself may not be terribly interesting, but when you view the photo on the computer, you may notice an expression or something funny in the photo that you like. For that reason, wait to delete photos until you’ve had a chance to view them on your computer.
Tip #14: Introduce a prop
When shooting babies, infants, and toddlers, sometimes they don't have interesting expressions on their faces. Despite all your work to get a little laugh or smile out of them at picture time, it doesn't always work. Adding a prop to the photo can really help to add interest to the shot in these situations. If you need a little inspiration, check out our list of the cutest baby photography props.
Bonus Tip #15: Don't let your ambition rob you of your love.
So many so-called “momtographers” (I hate that word, and this is why) miss out on the joy of photography because they want to turn their love of taking pictures into a business. If that's you and you love taking pictures for others, then go for it! But before you turn your fun photography hobby into a business, step back and ask yourself if it will mean you'll add pressure and stress onto yourself that you really don't need, and if you'll be a happier person and happier mom by just using your camera for your own family.
Above all, moms, make sure you are having fun! Keep shooting and smiling!