7 Tips to Become a Better Child Photographer
Okay, I am asking for a show of hands. How many of you found your love of photography after becoming a mother (or father)? MEEEE!! Yep, no inspiring photography class in high school or time spent in the darkroom developing film for me.
So many of us fell in love with taking photos because of the cute little faces of our babes and all the adorable things they were learning to do. And what better way to document all those moments than picking up a camera!
I have been a mother for twelve years. It was not until I gave birth to my third son six years ago that I started CREATING IMAGES rather than solely clicking the shutter on my iPhone to preserve a memory. Once I got my DSLR camera, my obsession started. And as crazy as it sounds, I’ve been documenting my kids daily for over three years now.
In this child photography guide, I will cover some important reasons why you should be photographing children, important technical tips for child photography as well as some great child photo ideas for inspiration.
1. Importance of Child Photography
Lets start with why you would want to and even need to photograph your children? There are many, many more reasons to photograph your kids, but these are the ones I think are the most important!
You Will Become the Family Historian
And it is actually rather simple. Because you are telling their life stories through photographs. You are documenting their changes from babyhood to adulthood and every step in between. From their first smile to their graduation day, you, as the one with the ability to take great photos are responsible for writing this part of your child’s history.
Think about all the history classes you had to take in school. How do historians know these people existed or the events actually happened? They know because of written record and photographs.
So, by documenting these moments for your family, you are THE most expert historian of your family. You are providing them with tangible memories to pass along to other generations. But much of that depends on one thing. You must carry through and actually PRINT these images.
You Will Have Photos to Pass Down to Future Generations
We live in a day in age where pretty much everyone has access to a device or camera that takes photos. I am willing to wager that many of us have literally thousands of images sitting on our phones and hard drives. And I am just as guilty as the next person in that I have trouble going to the last step and printing my images.
We spend so much time actually taking and editing these images, yet we rarely print them to enjoy them. My youngest son often asks why he doesn’t have any photos of him on the walls or even tucked away in a photo box. What makes it even crazier is that he is the one I have photographed the most over the last five years.
I need to take my own advice and stop them from “hiding” on my computer and get them out and into our hands. Without prints or photo books, it will be difficult to pass along these images to our grandchildren so they can pass them along as well.
Photographing Children Can Help You Relax
Another big why I have for wanting to document my kids deals with my heart. Since I started my daily photo journey, I have truly gained much more peace of mind and the ability to relax when it comes to mothering.
Back when I was single and had no children, you could say I was fairly rigid in my routines and anything unexpected would throw me off my equilibrium resulting in stress. Now, twelve years into marriage and raising three boys and documenting them obsessively over the last almost six years, I have learned to let go and not sweat the small things. Like the mud, messes, and all the rest of the chaos raising these three boys entails.
Sure, some days it seems like I am living a life right out of Lord of the Flies, but these moments are real and allowing myself to embrace them instead of cursing them under my breath has been refreshing.
I am very thankful that I have been able to let go and just observe and document them being 100% kids. No longer do messes give me panic attacks, as long as they make them in the prettiest light. The raw emotion and authenticity of our daily lives moves me to continue capturing all the moments we experience in our family.
I am passionate about being my family’s historian. Over the last several years I have found things that work (and do not work) in regards to documenting true moments. My skills as an artist have improved drastically and challenged me to photograph in a variety of lighting situations and locations.
I know my camera and its functions as well as I know how to use a television remote. From the mundane to the exciting, I cherish each image I am able to create when I photograph my children.
Now that we have discussed the WHY behind photographing your children, lets cover some important technical tips for child photography!
2. Find Good Indoor Lighting
Lighting can make or break a photo. And when you are photographing your children you will come across every single lighting situation. From icky, yellow indoor lighting to the harsh, midday sun to the hazy glow of golden hour, you can learn to embrace each of them.
So much of raising the kiddos takes place indoors. In the winter, it is too cold and the exact opposite is true in the summer. Finding good light inside your home (or any other place you frequent) will help take your images to the next level.
One thing I always do at home is to turn off all artificial lights and use only window light. Study your home and the times of day where the light comes in the prettiest. Once you find the areas in your home with the best light, utilize them!
Encourage your children to play in that spot or move to a certain area to do their activities. You can also create interesting shadows and contrast when working with window light. Working indoors was a fun challenge to tackle, and I have come to love shooting indoors.
3. Find Good Outdoor Lighting
Photographing in midday sun can be tough, but many times that is when you and your children are out and about. Soccer games, field trips, or summer at the pool all happen in the middle of the day.
If you know how to adjust your camera’s settings it will make shooting during these time easier. Dropping your ISO, upping your shutter speed and f-stop can help you achieve a properly exposed image.
Finding a patch of open shade will also be helpful and will eliminate the shadowy shark eyes often present in photographs taken at midday. Once you are comfortable shooting midday, you will come to love the rich, vibrant colors you can achieve.
4. Shoot at Golden Hour
Who doesn’t love taking photos during the golden hour? That beautiful warm glow illuminating an image is perfection!
Just like I mentioned above, guiding your children to do their activities in the best light will help your image become more beautiful. So, why not guide them to play, read, ride their bikes, etc. during a pretty sunrise or sunset?
Some of my favorite, most canvas worthy images of my boys were taken when I encouraged them to go play in prettiest spot of light. My six-year-old will even say now, “You want us to go play in that patch of light?”. I have trained them well.
5. Always Be Ready to Photograph Children
Three years into my daily photo project, I have become a pro at having my camera on the ready. Batteries charged, card inserted, and my trusty 35mm on my body and packed into my oversized purse.
When I first got my camera I did not take it out often. I am also an introvert, so I was overly self-conscious about people looking at me (and I had no idea what I was doing). Ha! I missed so many photo-worthy moments because I was too scared and embarrassed to take my camera out in public. But now, it is rare that I DON’T have my camera with me and the feeling of everyone staring at me has passed.
I love documenting the real moments out and about with my boys. Don’t let fear or embarrassment hold you back from documenting your kids in public places. I take the fly on the wall approach to pretty much anything I photograph, from weddings to my own children, so it is natural for me to back up and document natural moments. And having my camera with me permits me be able to document these memories.
6. Tell the Whole Story by Photographing Details
Many times when documenting our kiddos, we always get the big picture but miss out on are the details. It is easy to snap a photo of a moment, but if you want to tell the entire story include some detail images.
My work as a wedding photographer has encouraged me to take more time to document the small details that help tell the complete story. The bonus is that it will help you branch out from what you are accustomed to shooting and take pictures from different angles and perspectives. Detail shots have come to be some of my favorites!
Learning to embrace different lighting situations will make it easier to become comfortable documenting all the various activities of your children in any location. And by documenting the big picture down to the small details, will help you tell the complete story.
7. Ideas for Photographing Children
Like I mentioned previously, I've been photographing my children daily for over three years now. I will be the first to agree that taking on a 365 day photo project can be daunting, but I have learned a few helpful ideas on what to photograph and how to create images of daily life that will inspire you and help you tell the important story of your growing family.
Photograph a Child's Routines
One thing I think you will always want to remember are the everyday moments of raising your children. Do you have pancakes every Saturday morning or have a special nighttime routine? Make sure you take a photo of that! These everyday moments will slip from your memory, but you will always have images of those routines to treasure.
So many of the images from my childhood are from holidays and events. There are only a few photos of my brothers and me just doing the regular, everyday things. I love that I am able to photograph these moments for my boys to be able to look back on.
Photograph What a Child Loves
I have three boys. Three country boys at that. So my days are filled with dirt and critters. They LOVE being country boys. And I love documenting them in their element. If your child gets engaged in an activity they love, they will hardly notice you snapping away.
Right now my middle son is obsessed with cooking, so you bet I have several images of him in the kitchen preparing food. Seek out moments where they are engrossed in their hobbies, and you will be able to document some of these memories.
Take Comparison Photos of a Child
I love taking simple portraits of my children spaced apart by a measurable amount of time. Of course, I love documenting them around their birthdays so I can see how they have changed from year to year. But other times like the beginning and ending of school, or even a before and after a haircut. Photographs are the perfect way to freeze the changes your children go through.
Photograph a Child's Out of the Ordinary Moments
Does your little one dress up in a Halloween costume to go to the store, or is your teenager performing in a violin concert? All these events beg to be documented in photos.
I can almost guarantee that these will be the moments your children will look back on and laugh about and be able to reminisce on those memories. These out of the ordinary moments will be easy to recognize, so be ready with your camera (or even your smartphone!) snap them before the moment is gone.
Get in the Photo
I have said it a million times, mamas and daddies, get in the frame with your children. Sure, taking photos of just your kids is easier and does not require much more than clicking a shutter. But it will be worth it to invest in a remote (or just use your self-timer) so that you can jump in the frame from time.
When your children are grown and have children of their own they will love looking back on the fun times you shared with their parents when they were small. Have your partner snap some photos for you interacting with your kids, too. All will be cherished.
Here's a challenge to all the photographers and parents reading this. Start capturing and becoming your family historian today. Whether you have a young family, teenagers, or even grandchildren - today is the perfect day to start!
Make sure to capture the everyday moments, those details that you never want to forget about their lives and be sure to come share with us in the Pretty Presets & Actions community, too!
In addition, here is a great tutorial and cheat sheet for editing children in Lightroom.
Do you have any questions or comments about Child Photography? Leave us a comment below - we would LOVE to hear from you! And PLEASE SHARE this post using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!