How do I take better photos? Many people think that they need to run out and buy an expensive camera to take good photos of their children. While they may take higher quality files, a good photograph can be taken with a phone camera, a point-and-shoot, or entry level DSLR or mirrorless. If you’re using a DSLR/mirrorless camera, start here to begin learning how to use the manual settings. However, if you’re looking to take better photos today, start with these following basic composition and photography pointers.
Basic composition rule – Rule of Thirds
Look up photography composition on the internet and you’ll find four or five main “rules”. One of the most foundational, and simple, is the Rule of Thirds. Master this simple concept and you’ll see your pictures immediately look more composed. Best yet, it’s easy to crop pictures into the Rule of Thirds, so you can give even less than perfect photos a little face lift.
Imagine dividing any picture into three vertical columns and three horizontal rows – basically a hash tag of the body of the picture. The Rule of Thirds hypothesizes that putting points of interest at one of the four intersections will make the most visually interesting images. That point of interest will often be an eye, face, or body, depending how zoomed in or out you are. Incorporating this basic rule is one of the fastest way to take better pictures of your children.
In the Wikimedia picture above, the photo on the right features the object of interest at the center of the photograph. Many of us automatically gravitate to this. The problem is, it doesn’t allow for movement or interest in the photograph.
By re-framing the photograph with the rock formation to the left third, the picture becomes more interest. Your eye naturally moves across the picture to the horizon. The rock formation is made move interesting because it now stands in contrast to the horizon.
Using the Rule of Thirds to Take Better Photos of Your Family
The same is true of child photography. Move your child or children to the edges of the photograph rather than always framing them. Allow the open space to be where movement is implied to be. (Are they running? Moving in to paint or draw something? Looking at something?). Even in the header to this website, I’ve framed myself and my daughter so that we’re looking out into the right two-thirds of the photograph. (My husband took to photo so I cropped it to comply.)
Many cameras and some phone-based cameras will allow you to display grid lines. Try turning this option on and using it in your next photo shoot. Review a few pictures and you’ll soon see the visual impact this “trick” has with little effort.
Zoom In / Out
Break the bad habit of taking a picture from where you are sitting or standing. Watch a professional photographer and they’ll be running, crawling, and rolling around to get properly framed photographs. Zoom in and out as much as possible with your feet.
Decide what is the image you’re trying to focus on and capture. Is your child alone the object of interest? If so, zoom in on your kid’s face. If the event or scene is the focus, zoom out to get the totality of an event.
Too many times I see people taking full body photographs. Worse yet, are somewhat close in photos that cut people off at the knees. Rarely do we care about what shoes someone is wearing – so get in close: capture that smile, that twinkle in the eye. If you do care about the shoes, make the shoes the focus of the photograph! Just get in close and fill the frame. Like the photograph above of my daughter, don’t worry about even cutting off the top of a head.
KISS: Keep it Simple Simple
Children are natural mess makers. Creating a visually simple background, as much as possible, will help to give your pictures more visual impact. In the original picture below, there is a stripped bed skirt, a green and brown cabinet, stroller body, and striped pants. It’s hard to know what the focus of the picture is supposed to be. What am I supposed to looking at? Cropped in close, I see it’s the humor of my daughter’s engrossed face and she “reads” a Reader’s Digest. (This photo was taken with a 5 year old cell phone camera.)
Capture the little moments
Make a set list, but don’t forget to capture those little moments between mom, dad, siblings, and baby. Keep your camera ready during diaper changes and position changes. When photographing your own baby, make sure to capture those special moments during baths, feedings, or diaper changes. Choose one thing a week from your daily routine and turn it into a fun photo shoot.
Get down on their level
Even if it means laying on your stomach, shoot babies and children straight on. Squat, kneel, lay down if you have to. If you’re shooting from above, let it be deliberately from above, achieving an aerial perspective.
Some days kids are tired. Some days they have too much energy and don’t want to sit still. Don’t be afraid to put down your camera and try again later. Trying to force a picture will not result in a great photo. Instead, work with you child to see what they want to do and try and incorporate that into the picture. FOr some tips on how not to take family pictures, check out these helping tips on things to avoid.
Armed with these simple tricks, start taking better pictures today! Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter under the About tab. And remember, capture every moment, because It Goes By In A Flash.