The year goes by so fast and before you know it we realize we haven’t taken a shot of our little ones to post on the family newsletter or to send to Abuelita during the holidays. Keep in mind that a great photo can make a lovely and cherished gift not just during the holidays, but for any special occasion. Taking beautiful photographs of our children doesn’t have to be an impossible feat if you keep the following tips in mind.
1. Forget the rules and experiment! Gone are the days when an image has to be centered. Some of the best images have a subject slightly to the left or right. It is okay to cut a portion of a child’s head in a photo if the shot highlights, for instance, your baby’s eyes and precious face. Look around for photographs you like and see what makes them different than regular snapshots. It is usually the breaking of the conventional rules that makes those images so memorable.
2. Simplify the situation and make your child the star. The less there is to distract from the subject, the better it is to capture your amazing little treasure. Rather than shooting in front of a busy background, try shooting your child on a sofa or a simple rug with a few classic toys with your Christmas tree behind him. If you would like to try to blur the background and have a camera where you can select aperture or f-stop manually, choose the aperture priority setting (AP) and select the smallest number (like 2.8). This will help create a depth of field that may be used to focus a subject while blurring the background.
3. It is all about the light. Photography is basically the practice of painting with light, so be sure to have adequate lighting for your shot. If using flash, diffuse it. It’s simple to do: You can apply either several layers of Scotch tape or small pieces of tissue (yes, the kind you blow your nose into) onto the flash of point-and-shoot digital cameras. You may also layer a few tissues and secure them over the flash with a few rubber bands. Experiment and see how many tissues you want to use. If using natural light, make sure you aren’t getting harsh shadows. When outdoors, hazy days work better that extra bright ones.
4. Get in close. Don’t be afraid to fill a frame with just a child’s face and minimize the background. Children’s eyes are amazing and capturing the magic in their eyes is priceless. Use your zoom or manually come in close. Be sure the image is not blurred, however. Experiment with the best distance to both make your child feel comfortable and get a tight, yet crisp shot.
5. Get on their level. Children move around, and when shooting an image of your child you should be prepared to do so as well. Crawl, crouch, kneel to get the shot. Play with your child. Encourage your kid to jump. If you are a novice photographer and have a digital camera with the automatic/sports setting, use it. This setting is ideal for subjects that are moving because the camera’s shutter moves faster, minimizing the blur that movement may cause. Another setting that can be used is Shutter/Time Priority (TP), where you can choose a fast shutter speed (the larger the number, the faster to close) while the camera automatically sets the other functions so you can get a great shot every time. Activating an image stabilization function on your camera will be helpful as well.
6. Just let go. Magic can happen when you realize that you cannot control the situation–let a child be a child and capture the little joys in that wonder. Come Christmas morning, when your toddler decides the box is more interesting that the $100 train set that was inside, engage him in a game of peekaboo as he pops his head out from inside the big box. Even a tearful baby can make for a momentous shot. Appreciate our human nature and know that sometimes the most memorable moments are the most unexpected.
7. All in all, the most important thing is to be patient. Don’t expect to get the perfect shot immediately. Digital photography affords us the opportunity to shoot continuously and then edit for the best shots.
And don’t forget to have fun! The most important thing to remember is that this should be fun for both you and your kids. Happy shooting!