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4 simple tips for taking awesome photos of your kids (part 1 of 4)

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the mommyhood memos: 4 simple tips for taking awesome photos of your kids (part 1 of 4)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

4 simple tips for taking awesome photos of your kids (part 1 of 4)

My child is famous on facebook.

There’s probably many reasons for this: 1) he’s an incredibly good-looking baby; 2) his mother is a photo-fanatic; 3) his father is almost equally enthusiastic about snapping away; 4) we have a lot of friends in various locations around the world due to our work; and 5) neither my husband or I live near our families so they have to stalk facebook to get their baby fix.

But I also like to think I can take a decent photo.

Truthfully, I was much more confident in my photography back in the days of film {gasp} and I have never really learned—yet—how to edit digital photos beyond a few simple things like adjusting the exposure or contrast or cropping. (But this is one of my goals as soon as I’m able to afford a decent computer to edit on.) 

So that's my disclaimer to say that I’m not pretending to be an expert on this subject! In light of that I’ll leave the technical stuff for someone else to tutor you on and we’ll stick to the basics here.

But I am convinced that anyone—with any camera—is able to take decent photos with just a few little pointers… so let me pass on some of the most useful (and easy) ones I know to you.

Oh, and I should say here that you can take great photos with a small “point-and-shoot” camera. Of course your photos will look better with an SLR camera… and they’ll look waaaay better if you have an SLR camera and a good lens. But even a simple camera can take great shots if you pay attention to lighting, composition, and settings. I will cover these over the next three days, and on the fourth day we'll finish with some editing tips.

Today's focus: Light

1. If you can, turn the flash off. Try to use as much available light as possible without using the flash. Flash photography can make a photo look very “snapshot-ish”, unless the flash is diffused or the photographer really knows how to work it. (In saying that, some cameras have awesome built-in flashes.) Use sunlight, use lamps, use ceiling lights. If you can avoid using that built-in flash… do. BUT, as with anything, experiment. Try taking the same photo with the flash turned on and off and see which one looks better. (Hint: one time not to take this hint is when you’re outside and you’re getting harsh shadows on a face. Turn the “force flash” setting on and let the fill flash make those shadows disappear.)

{although this is a cute photo, the flash makes it look very snap-shot-ish... not so great.}

{compare the flash photo on the left with the natural light photo on the right.}

2. Avoid harsh direct sunlight. If you’re a regular follower of my blog, you may have noticed that a lot of my photos of Levi are in the same places: on the orange and white bedspread, on the white couch in the office, or on the gray carpet in his room. That’s not because these are the most “beautiful” places in my house… it’s because they have the best light. They all have big windows with lots of natural light coming through without harsh overhead light casting bad shadows.

{plenty of natural--but indirect--light causes a nice, soft glow
and creates some light and shade without harsh shadows.}

3. Find a place that will give you good “catch light”. Have you ever seen a photo where the subject’s eyes look a little bit glossy and there’s a speck of light visible right in the eyeball? This is called “catch light”. When you are able to put your child in a place where the light will reflect off their eyes like this, it will instantly add “life” to the photo. (For amateurs like us, this works best when using natural light, not flash photography.)

{catch light will bring life and emotion to a photo - see the "sparkle" in his eye here?}

{catch light brings the eyes alive.}

4. Experiment with different types of lighting. Try turning the lights off and then using one source of light (a window or a lamp) to cast light from only one direction. Or try doing a silhouette with minimal detail. Use your imagination and play with light to give you some different, creative shots.

Look at how natural light is used differently in each of these shots:

{from the side.}

{from behind.}

{from behind and reflected on the wood floor in the front.}

{from the front.}

Other posts in this mini-series:
  • Part 1: Lighting - How to use light to take the best photos possible. 
  • Part 2: Composition - How background, framing, and placement of your subject effects your photos.
  • Part 3: Settings - How adjusting your camera settings can create different effects and feelings in your photos.
  • Part 4: Editing - How using simple editing tools can help your photos go from good to great. (A guest post by Mandy from A Sorta Fairytale.)

      Dear friends, do you have any photography tips related to lighting to add? Have you learned something today and taken a great photo because of it? If so, leave us a link in the comments so we can come and check it out!

      constantly clicking,

      Have you registered your blog here yet?

      adriel booker | the mommyhood memos | 2010 
      do not reproduce without written permission

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      At October 7, 2010 at 12:41 AM , Blogger ~Jamie Kubeczka~ said...

      Great photos and great advice! I LOVE taking pictures and even more so of my kiddos!

      At October 7, 2010 at 12:59 AM , Blogger Brandy said...

      Awesome. love this!
      I think if you have a baby as cute as yours all pictures look amazing!

      At October 7, 2010 at 1:01 AM , Blogger Sommer J said...

      Excellent advice!

      At October 7, 2010 at 1:02 AM , Blogger Sommer J said...

      Excellent advice! I know I will love this series. I love taking photos.

      At October 7, 2010 at 2:15 AM , Blogger Nikki said...

      Great tips! I'm still learning on my camera. Haven't tried very hard though and resort to point and shoot. I'm printing these off!

      At October 7, 2010 at 2:32 AM , Blogger cooperl788 said...

      These are really great tips! Some things I've learned about lighting -
      "Beautiful" spots in the house can change depending on the weather. One room in our house that usually gets too much sun is the perfect spot to have a photo session on a cloudy day.
      If you take the flash off, be prepared to hold your camera very still, because it can make your shots come out blurry if your hands shake. (I've found this is easier when I use the viewfinder v. the LCD screen

      At October 7, 2010 at 2:43 AM , Blogger Mandy said...

      This is such a great post!! I'm sure it will help so many people to understand more about how lighting can effect a photograph!

      At October 7, 2010 at 2:48 AM , Anonymous Jamie said...

      Great series! So many people think you need a really pricey camera to take good pictures. That's not true! You just need to understand how things work so you can take a good picture with ANY camera. Turning off the flash is step number 1 in getting better pictures, IMO.

      At October 7, 2010 at 3:25 AM , Blogger PorkStar said...

      Wow your site is awesome, great tips on photography overall, just what I was looking for myself.

      At October 7, 2010 at 5:26 AM , Blogger Brittany said...

      Great pointers!

      At October 7, 2010 at 5:55 AM , Blogger Unpolished Parenting said...

      Thanks for these great tips! I'm looking forward to learning more. For Christmas I am wishing for a canon xsi and need all of the help I can get with actually using it!

      At October 7, 2010 at 7:31 AM , Blogger Mellisa Rock said...

      Thanks so much for all the great advise...I am starting to think more and more about how and when I am taking photos. That catch light tip is amazing. Can't wait to see what you have to say about this subject tomorrow!

      Stopping by from SITS Lamby Tribe

      At October 7, 2010 at 11:06 AM , Blogger Laura @ The Things I Said I'd Never Do said...

      Helpful! Thank you. Your kid is adorable.

      At October 7, 2010 at 11:43 AM , Blogger TheManager said...

      excellent advice! i only have a point & shoot camera right now so i need all the help i can get! these pics are great!

      At October 7, 2010 at 12:11 PM , Anonymous Natalie said...

      Very nice! I've been drooling over SLRs for a while now- just have a point and shoot. I think I've taken some pretty good pictures, though. It's definitely a skill I need to work on. My favorite editing stop online is picnik. It's awesome for putting together collages for some of my posts, and it's very user friendly- I like it much more than Photoshop for just simple edits. Can't wait to see more!

      At October 7, 2010 at 12:56 PM , Anonymous Jenni said...

      Oh, I really love this post. Great advice! And the photos you posted are fabulous!

      I especially loved your advice on natural light.

      Hello from Lamby Tribe!

      At October 7, 2010 at 2:55 PM , Blogger Crystal said...

      Thanks for the great tips!! SO good to know!! Now if only I can get my kids to sit still long enough for that perfect shot!!

      At October 8, 2010 at 3:25 AM , Blogger Cameron said...

      Oh my gosh I love it that you posted this!!! I really need some tips on taking pictures! My main problem is that since having Isis, I tend to take a million pictures with my iPhone & I never take them with my actual camera anymore. What kind of camera do you have?

      At October 9, 2010 at 5:22 AM , Blogger flyrish said...

      Truly awesome tips! I'm far from a photography expert, so any practical advice is always welcome. I would love to get an SLR one day, but for now I will rely on your tips!

      At October 12, 2010 at 10:02 PM , Blogger Laura Elliott said...

      Another great series. I'm terrible at taking photos, my camera is always set to "auto" and all I do is point and shoot. I wish that I had your talent, your photos are spectacular.


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