9 Photo Tips for Taking Better Photos of Your Kids

9 Photo Tips for Taking Better Photos of Your Kids

Ottawa and Gatineau Portrait Photographer, Little Lamb Photography

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Summer is over and fall has begun.  However, it doesn’t stop kids from having fun outside.  I may be a photographer, but I’m also a parent.  So, I love having great shots of my child.  I know that all parents feel the same way, so I’ve written about 9 photo tips for taking better photos of your kids.

I wanted the examples to be as realistic as possible. Thus, not only did I make sure to only use photos in which I’ve only used available light, but I’ve also only used photos of my own child at various ages and times of year.  This is to show you that it can be done.  Just read my tips in order to help you get great shots of your own kids.

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1)  Lighting:

Natural light can look really beautiful if you know how to use it.  You can use a window as your light source, while shooting indoors.  As long as the sun is not shining directly into the window, window light can create beautiful soft light.

If you’re shooting outdoors, make sure you’re not shooting when the light is very harsh (10:00 am-3:00 pm).  Shoot either in the early morning or the early evening to avoid squinting eyes or dark circles where the eyes should be.  If this isn’t possible, either shoot when it’s slightly overcast, to get diffused light, or place your subject in open shade.

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If you’re shooting outdoors in the early morning or early evening you can get some really beautiful light.  It’s called ‘golden hour’ and it’s my favourite sort of light for shooting portraits.  I find it best to have the sun behind your subject in order to get that rich golden glow all around them, creating a halo and beautiful sun flare.  Try it out.  Please note that you’ll need to play around with your camera setting so that it’s not metering the bright sun, but instead the light directly in front of your subject.  If you let the camera metre the direct light from the sun, you’ll end up with very underexposed photos.

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2)  Aperture:

I’m including aperture, but I know full well that not everyone will be able to choose the aperture on their camera settings–especially if you’re using automatic settings on your camera.  However, for a parent who wants to get better shots of their child and has a bit of know-how with changing settings on their camera, the smaller the aperture number (ie. f/2.8) the more bokeh you’ll get.  Bokeh is the pretty out-of-focus background that you see in most professional portraits.  Likewise, the higher the aperture number (ie. f/22) the more in focus your background will be.  If you’re able to change the apertures on your camera, I highly suggest that you go for a blurred background in order to make your kids stand out more in the photos.

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This is shot at f/1.8 at 1/800 sec.

3)  Shutter Speed:

If you’re taking photos of your kids doing any sort of movement, you’ll want to make sure that you’re using a fast enough shutter speed.  If you’re unable to choose your shutter speed, then choose the sports scene mode on your camera.  It’s usually a little silhouette of a person running.

If you’re able to choose your shutter speed, make sure you’re shooting no slower than 1/250 sec or else you might get camera shake.  If your kids are running around, shoot with a shutter speed of about 1/500 or more.

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These photos are shot at f/2.0 at 1/1250 sec.

4) ISO:

ISO comes from back in the day when film was rated for its sensitivity to light.  That means that the higher number your ISO was, the less light was required in order to take a photo and have it be properly exposed and not blurry.  For example, if it’s a sunny day, you want to shoot with the lowest ISO possible, which is usually ISO 100 or 200.  This is because there’s plenty of light to give you a high shutter speed.

Shooting indoors

If you’re shooting indoors, there’s less light.  So, you’ll want an ISO that will work better with low light situations.  ISO 800 will probably do the trick.  You may need to shoot at a lower shutter speed to compensate for the lower light.  However, don’t shoot lower than 1/100 sec as you don’t want to get camera shake or get blurred images.  Finally, if your kids are jumping or running around, you’ll need to set your ISO and aperture in order to keep a faster shutter speed.

One thing to always remember about ISO is that the higher the ISO number, the more grain it will have.  That’s why it’s best to shoot with the smallest ISO you can in order to keep the grain factor under control.  I shoot at ISO 200 as much as I can–even if it’s in the shade or the late afternoon.  I compensate by opening up to a wider aperture (ie. a smaller number, like f/1.8, f/2.8 or f/4) so that my lens will receive more light.

Sometimes it’s not always possible as the daylight is almost gone, or you’re trying to shoot photos of your kids with not much available light.  I’ve given an example of two photos shot the same evening.  As the light grew dimmer, I had to bump up my ISO to compensate.  I zoomed in on both photos to  show you the grain.

If you’re still confused about ISO, Digital Photography School explains it much better.

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Notice the grain in the photos, with more being on the photo shot at ISO 4000.

5)  Camera Level:

Get down to the level of your kids.  If you have a baby or toddler, make sure to sit down on the ground or even lie down on the ground to get a shot at their level.  You can sit or squat down to photograph small children.  For this photo, I’m pretty sure that I was on my stomach to get down to her level.

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6)  Keep them busy:

If you want natural smiles or your children acting natural, get them busy doing something.  A great place for this would be at a park.  You can also take great shots at home by getting your kids to blow bubbles, blow on a pinwheel, play in the pool or a sprinkler, play with their toys or just each other.

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7)  Let them be silly:

Kids will be kids.  They love to act silly and be goofy at times.  Embrace it.  Take photos of them being silly.  Childhood is such a short time, so go with the flow.  If you let them be silly, your chances of getting genuine smiles out of them will be MUCH higher.  Trust me.

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8)  Lifestyle:  

You don’t have to photograph your kids in a formal style portrait pose.  Also, they don’t have to sit or stand still and say “cheese”.  Instead, why not try a lifestyle portrait approach, which is to let them do whatever they want to do and you photograph them doing that.

I like formal portraits as well as lifestyle/journalistic portrait photography.  Imagine when your kids are older and they see photos of themselves playing, creating something or playing a musical instrument.  I’m sure that they (and you) would cherish those photos.  They’ll have something to see and reminisce about the good ol’ days.

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No, this was not staged. She actually was enjoying looking at her book. She loves books.

9)  Have Fun:

Remember to have fun when taking photos of your kids and above all else let them have fun getting their photos taken.  Not only will you be creating images of fun times to remember, but you’ll be creating lasting memories for you and your children to cherish for a lifetime.  🙂

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I hope that these tips will help you to take better photos of your kids.  Kids grow up so fast, so it’s important to capture some of those moments.  You won’t regret it–especially if you’re able to capture great photos of your kids.  🙂

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If you’re looking for a portrait photographer, I would love to hear from you.  I shoot kids and baby portraits as well as family photos.  Contact me today.  You can check out my social media:

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