For the last seven years I’ve served as the Academy’s unofficial school photographer. Taking pictures of everything from the first day of school to graduation and everything in between – I feel like I’ve watched some of our students grow up through my viewfinder!
While I’m not formally trained, and still consider myself quite a novice when it comes to photography, I’ve clicked that shutter button no less than 2,000 times on my trusty Nikon, and thought that the following tips might help you the next time you want to capture better photos of your kids!
1. Get on their level
Kids experience the world differently than adults (on oh so many levels!), and getting next to them to take your shot as opposed to shooting up or down at them from your height can really help make the picture more personal, thus capturing the child’s true personality. Is little Johnny swinging on the monkey bars, reading on the floor, or huddled inside the fort he just built? Get on his level and click away!
2. Use the rule of thirds
This simple way of looking through your viewfinder to realign your shots can revolutionize your picture-taking. Trust me. This site does an awesome job explaining and demonstrating the concept. Did you know that your iPhone camera has a rule of thirds grid mode on it? You can turn it on when you’re in the camera mode: Options>Grid>On.
3. Think about your shot before you take it
A handful of good pictures is worth so much more than 100 mediocre (or bad) ones. As a self-professed minimalist, I try to only keep the pictures that I consider frame-worthy and delete the rest, but I realize that idea sounds terrible (and terrifying) to most of you, but regardless, be selective with your shots. In the world of digital images, it’s overwhelming to think about downloading, sharing, printing, and backing up 400 images from the last family vacation – so overwhelming that most people avoid it completely – thus resulting in full iPhones and camera cards.
The next time you’re headed to a family event, think about what photos are on your must-have list – little Jane with the cousins from out of town? Or how about Susie blowing out the candles on her Hello Kitty cake? Before you hit that shutter button, think about what exactly you want to capture before you press it. A little bit of intentionality can make your photos better and the management of your photos (and your life) so much easier!
4. Put the light at your back
Taking pictures toward the sun or toward a bright window with your child standing in front of it will rarely turn out well and usually results in dark faces and figures. To solve this, put the light at your back so that the natural light will help to illumine the shot. And, remember, the more natural light in your photo the better!
5. Read your camera’s user manual and experiment!
Certainly all of us can benefit from reading our camera’s user manual, but I’m especially talking to those of you who have spent the money on a DSLR! For cameras with such high capacity for taking beautiful photos, it’s a waste to only keep it on the green auto setting!
I know you are busy being chauffeur and meal-planner and don’t have a minute to spare, but take the manual along with you to the next soccer practice or orthodontist appointment. Learn about shutter speeds, ISOs, and f-stops – and how to get good pictures without using the harsh flash. Then play around with it to get the results you want!
6. Do something with your pictures and treat them with care!!!
I feel passionately about this one, so excuse me while I step onto my soapbox. My heart breaks when someone tells me that they do nothing with their precious family photos: that they have five camera cards full in their camera bags untouched – that they aren’t backing up their photos on a separate hard drive or site like this. (I unfortunately learned this the hard way and lost the bulk of my honeymoon photos when my computer hard drive crashed. I’m now a religious backer-upper.) What a shame that in a world where we are taking more photos and videos than ever before, that fewer and fewer people are making these memories part of their family history and are failing to treat them with the importance they deserve. (Stepping off of soapbox.)
Sites like Picaboo, Shutterfly, and MyPublisher make it so easy to create a family photobook or yearbook – reducing hundreds of images (which would’ve, in the 90s, taken up six thick photo binders) to a beautifully bound ½-inch thick book – perfect for displaying on the coffee table, taking to Christmas at Grandma’s, or storing on the bookshelf.
Or, if that feels too overwhelming to you, print a few of your favorites and frame them in your house, order a canvas from a site like this, or just hang them on the fridge! Personal photos bring such warmth to a home that a piece from HomeGoods never could.
When your kids look back at their childhood, please give them visuals!