While I do think a good family portrait session is due every year or two, kids grow so quickly that you want to be able to document their growth on the run throughout the year, at least I do!
There are two ways you can take children’s portraits:
- Force them, cajoule them, nag them, bark at them to “stand up straight and smile at the camera!!!”
- Let them run around while you play the stealth shooter taking snaps as they do their (beautiful, wondrous, magical) thing!
I’m a fan of the second method (can you tell?) and I’m going to give you a few tips that will have you photographing your kids with ease as you live your lives together.
To start with, the best camera is the one you have at the time! However, I’m a big fan of Fujifilm’s compact cameras. The x100s is a classic, compact and tough little camera. The versatility of the X-T1’s are also excellent for taking day-to-day family photos. They both have large sensors which means you are getting high quality, large format photos for a fraction of the weight (and cost) of the usual full frame DSLR cameras.
Be conscious to take your camera with you when you know fun times are to be had, like picnics by the lake for example. Have it nearby-ish at home in case a beautiful, captureable moment crops up. Sometimes I can’t be bothered getting off the couch or exiting the moment to retrieve my camera and sometimes I do and the moment is over. It’s a judgement call. I think that sometimes It’s better to take a mental snap and forget the camera. It’s more important for your kids to remember you being a part of the action then always behind the camera.
While it’s good to leave the camera alone sometimes, I also find taking my kids out on a determined and purposeful photoshoot is a great way to have a fun time together, focused solely on them – my daughter especially loves it, and I’m sure my son secretly does!
Don’t just take photos of faces (There’s a tip about capturing faces following). Hands, body posture and activity are just as expressive and show the character of your child. A photo of their knees with grazes and all shows they were active kids and you’ll want to remember that too.
Take photos of the details, a little flower in the hair, a cute hair clip or loved teddy, the detail of a well-worn shirt or dress. While the things in themselves may not be important, seeing them years down the track will bring memories of playing with hair, dressing your child, cuddling and even their cute voices and mannerisms from that time.
Get down to their level! An easy way to drastically improve your capture is to make sure your camera is level with your subject. This is particularly important to remember when photographing a baby. Get down to their level and you get a truer picture.
When taking photos of faces, don’t assume they must be looking at you. My favourite way to take natural photos of my children is to have them looking at something, searching for the bugs on a bush or drawing with chalk on the pavement.
Set them up so your background is pretty or at least plain and not garish in any way and talk to them about what they are exploring as you quietly snap away.
Photograph through some foliage. It softens the whole effect and adds colour and depth to your photograph. Just have it a little off to the side so it doesn’t obscure important details.
Embrace their ideas. Embrace the absurd. It might work out. More importantly it gets them on your side so you aren’t the one just directing them around…they might not play along if that’s the case!
When it comes to camera settings for kids make sure your shutter speed is adequate! Try photographing on a sunny day (but in the shade) so that your ISO (that’s your light sensitivity) is the best it can be (that is, the lowest it can be which reduces graininess). If you can set your shutter speed, do that – to at least 400 (which is 400th of a second), and let the aperture take care of itself.
If you’re a little more savvy with your camera, having a wide aperture (that’s a LOW number, 2.8 – 3.2) makes for some stunningly dreamy photographs.
But number one tip for all you novice photographers with a camera phone, just make sure it’s a sunny day and photograph in the shade, or a bright cloudy day is just as good (if not better)!
Let them take a photo of you, even though you may look like a pack mule. They’ll want to know what you looked like while they were little. Who knows, you might too!
Good luck! I hope you take the time to have your own little photoshoot with your own children. A professional can take photos like these with you included, but doing it yourself is an entirely different and special experience!