It was the middle of a photoshoot with two adorably energetic little boys. I looked at the back of my camera and immediately exclaimed “YES! THAT PHOTO IS PERFECT!” (in my head, so as not to scare the children). I knew the image was a keeper so I flashed my camera for mom & dad to take a look. “Wow, you have a really nice camera,” was the response. It’s always the response. Nevermind that I strategically posed the boys, I was laying on my stomach in the dirt, and I was trying my best to say things that little boys would find funny (ahem, potty talk). No, it was most certainly my expensive camera.
Yes, my camera rocks. Yes, I spent a lot of money on my equipment. But the truth is… you can take a great photo on ANY camera.
[note: all of these photos were taken with an iPhone 4S, not my ‘fancy camera.’]
Tip #1) Be aware of lighting. If you take away one thing from this post, let it be this: lighting alone can make or break your image. The good news is there’s one simple trick. Look for something called a catchlight. It’s the ‘twinkle’ in your eye, as it reflects light.
Check out this example of my son, Colin. In the photo on the left, the lighting is flat and his eyes are very dark (no catchlights). On the right, the addition of the ‘catchlights’ (the reflection of the window on the right) make his eyes sparkle. Such a small thing (literally) can add so much life.
Look for catchlights in your children’s eyes- they’ll lead you to the best lighting. If you can’t see them, change your position or have your child tilt/turn their head or rotate their body toward the light source.
Tip #2) Get down on their level. Add variety to your photos by using different angles. With infants, don’t be afraid to lay on your stomach. With toddlers, kneel down and see things from their perspective.
(psst…. see the catchlights in his eyes?)
Tip #3) See the bigger picture. Yes, your child looks angelic while sleeping. Those chubby cheeks, relaxed & so kissable. But before you snap the closeup, take a step back. Can you use the room to tell the story? What else is happening that will help you document this moment? Think of it as a memory you’re trying to save. More than just a quick photo.
While you’re taking a step back, look for clutter in the background. Is there something colorful & distracting that’ll take away from your photo? If so, try to strategically crop it out or quickly move it.
Tip #4) Do NOT say cheese. I love cheese. I mean really, really love it. Cheese makes everything better. Cheese burger. Grilled cheese. Cheese cake. But not your photos. As soon as the words ‘say cheese’ leave your mouth, your child’s face changes. Out comes the ‘fake’ smile to kill the authenticity of the moment.
Instead, try a stupid joke. Ask your kid if he likes ‘fart pickles’ on his sandwich. Tickle your little baby. Make silly noises. Do whatever it takes to get that real smile. The one they save for mama. That’s what makes the photo a keeper.
Tip #5) Hire a professional once a year. I know, I know. This post was all about how you don’t need a fancy camera to improve your photos. And that’s still true. Because what will your kids treasure in a photo forever? You. Their parents in a photo with them. It’s important to document yourself with your family at least once a year. Hire a professional that will catch those candid moments. So that your children have those memories forever, along with the everyday iPhone snapshots.