Tips on how take professional-looking family photographs of your children
Family photography is not only a job for me but a passion – a passion borne out of my life as a wife and mother. Ever since becoming a mother I’ve experienced flashes of panic that a special moment, be it a look, an embrace or a silly face, will be lost to the annals of time. The way I try to preserve these moments in perpetuity is by taking photographs. These photographs enable me to document each fleeting stage of family life. They will give us something to look back on, allowing us to reminisce together – sharing and comparing memories. A gift for our future selves.
Although it’s wonderful to have professional photographs taken of your family by someone like me, I am the first the acknowledge it's not physically or financially possible for a professional family photographer to be able to capture each and every moment in time. This is why I thought I’d share a few tips on how to take the best possible photographs of your own family.
(Don’t) Strike a Pose!
I’m a big believer that natural is better – there’s no posing for my camera! The best way to take natural shots is to always have your camera at the ready, be patient and to click, click away – this way you’re more likely to capture those flashes of joy, knowing looks and snatched kisses. The images can be whittled down later, and it’s often at this stage that you’ll discover the hidden gems that will bring your photo album to life. If you are photographing a particular event or occasion and you’re a little worried your children won’t play ball, you may find my post about preparing children for a family photoshoot and my post about children misbehaving helpful.
I’m a big proponent of photographing using natural light. But this is not to say that light isn’t important – in fact, it’s crucial. Consider light your collaborator – work with it, not against it. For instance, if the sun is in your child’s eyes causing them to squint or look away, simply change position. If the sun is behind you and your child is not looking directly at it, but busy in their own little world, the sun will illuminate them beautifully. Conversely, if the sunlight is behind your child, known as backlighting, it will add depth to the image, bringing them to the fore and enabling them to look towards the camera without squinting. Backlit photographs take a little practise, but it is worth the extra effort. However, the most straightforward route to beautiful, finished photographs is shooting just after sunrise or just before sunset – the golden hours, when the sun is low in the sky, emitting a soft, warm light. If you’re shooting outside in the middle of the day, open shade produces the best results with minimum effort – photographing underneath trees is often a winner. Get more tips on how to work with light.
Snapping your children in their natural habitat often produces the best results. If you’re photographing them at home, give them their favourite toys to play with or set them up with a chosen activity—be it colouring, baking, reading—and then just wait for them to get lost in what they’re doing before inconspicuously picking up your camera. This way you’ll end up with completely natural family photographs. Being at home, you’re more likely to catch those tender moments between siblings – a stroke of the hair, a cheeky tickle or a furtive giggle over a private joke. These are the moments you desperately want to hold on to.
Out and About
For the most natural shots when you’re out and about, I recommend going somewhere familiar and beloved by all the family – a favourite park or beach, perhaps. It’s these settings that are often the best places for taking action shots – swinging little ones around, playing ball games, building sandcastles or dens. Whilst the photographs taken at home may have a calm, cosy feel, the ones outdoors often have an atmosphere of wild abandon – muddy knees, sandy faces, sweaty curls and gleeful grins. It’s family days out like these that we all hold dear and desperately don’t want to forget. The picture of your little one with ice cream dribbling down their chin is sure to bring you untold joy in years to come.
The high low
An absolute game changer when it comes to taking photographs of your children, is getting down to their level. Crouch down and try to roughly line up your camera lens with their eyes. If they’re playing on the floor, then lie on the floor with them. Instead of looking down on them, you’re immediately part of their world and less likely to miss the subtle gestures and expressions that define their childhood personalities.
It’s the little things in life...
Create context and meaning by including cherished toys or items in your family photographs. It will be these little details that will elicit squeals of recognition and bring a tear to the eye, years down the line, as happy memories come flooding back.
I hope my tips have left you feeling more confident about photographing your children. You can find out much more on my blog – plenty for you to adapt and apply to your own family photography sessions.
If you’re interested in booking a professional family photoshoot, then please do get in touch.