Are you taking hundreds of so-so photographs of your children? Then slow down; you’re shooting too fast.
Think of your photos as telling a story – a story that doesn’t begin with, “Say cheese!” suggests Me Ra Koh, a professional photographer and mom. Koh is the author of “Your Child in Pictures: The Parents’ Guide to Photographing Your Toddler and Child From Age One to Ten” (Amphoto Books, 2013).
Be intentional about telling the story of, for example, your child’s first steps or first lost tooth. Think about the details you want to capture about different ages. Try to photograph your kids without interrupting their play and getting fake, cheesy smiles.
Her book includes tips on how to select a camera and other basics, but also what she calls “photo recipes” for 40 different scenarios, including your child playing pretend, first day of school or interacting with grandparents. The step-by-step instructions include when to take the photo, what preparations to make, how to compose it and tips for point-and-shoot cameras vs. DSLRs (digital single-lens reflex cameras).
When photographing kids, Koh says, get down to their level, whether you sit on the floor and shoot straight on or lie on the ground. If there is clutter in the background, move it or get in closer to crop it out. Also, be aware of when and where the best light can be found in your home. Walk through your house and notice which rooms are brighter than others.
With toddlers, get creative with ways to distract your little one, such as having treats in hand or a stuffed animal she has not seen in a while. Be prepared to distract him again and again. The point is to keep his attention on you.
Other tips for photographing toddlers, Koh writes:
• Be smart about timing your developmental milestone photos. For example, when your child is learning to walk, try to take pictures when she’s well-rested, fed and ready to move. Shoot at your child’s eye level, and try to catch your child mid-step, with one foot in the air.
• Repeat favorite games and make happy faces as you take pictures.
• Buy a toy camera or a disposable one so your child can have a turn taking pictures.
• Shooting in front of a mirror, such as while a toddler copies his dad shaving, gets both the child’s and parent’s facial expressions. Step off to the side to keep yourself out of the photo. Focus on your child’s face.
• Capture your toddler with one of his favorite objects of affection, such as a blankie, doll or bear. It’s not necessary for him to be looking at the camera.
• For an indoor shot, simplify the background by having your child near a blank wall or door, or a neutral piece of furniture. Dress your child in simple clothes and choose either morning or afternoon when the light is best.
For 3- and 4-year-olds:
• If you want your little princess to twirl, model the action so she’ll have fun copying you.
• If your child is playing, shoot from a distance so he continues to play without noticing you.
• Shoot your child with a pet whenever she shows prolonged interest and is calm enough to sit and pay attention to the pet. Focus on your child’s face. Have treats on hand for both your pet and child.
• Horizontal framing works best for a small group of children, with the tallest child in the center of the photo.
For ages 5 to 7:
• To avoid a fake smile, ask your child to close his eyes, then wait for his face to relax. Once it does, tell him on the count of three to open his eyes and look at the camera.
• Help your child forget she’s being photographed by distracting her with a question about her favorite book or TV show.
• If your child is resisting having his photo taken, set a short time limit for shooting and stick to it.
For ages 8 to 10:
• Ask for photo ideas.
• Hand your camera over to your child and ask her to photograph her world as she sees it.
• Experiment with framing tightly.
• Plan ahead if you want to photograph a group of your child’s friends. Look for a simple background, such as a brick wall. Talk to your child about what kind of photo he wants with his friends.
If you have tips or questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 704-236-9510.