We have photographer, Anna Hardy on our blog today sharing her tips for capturing those memories on your camera or your phone.
With summer in full flow, we’re all busy making precious family memories.Here are my 10 top tips to help you get the best from your family photos in the coming weeks, whether you’re at home or out and about! As a parent myself, I understand the challenges of trying to get good photos of your kids whilst in busy mum-mode. The last thing you need is to be faffing around trying to work out complicated settings, so these simple tips are applicable to any type of camera, including your phones. Happy snapping!
1 - LOOK FOR THE LIGHT
Photography literally means ‘painting with light’. Light is, without a doubt, the thing that has the biggest impact on the quality of any photo. When you’re outdoors, avoid harsh, direct sunlight – it bleaches skin, creates harsh shadows and makes people squint – it’s really unflattering! Ideally take photos in gentle, cloudy light or in the shade. If you absolutely have to take photos in direct sunlight, make sure the sun is behind your subject to prevent them squinting and looking washed out. The best times of day for lovely gentle light tend to be first thing in the morning, and the hour or so before sunset (the ‘golden hour’), so these can be great times to try to take photos of your kids if they’re in the mood!
When you’re indoors, let in as much natural light as possible. Open blinds/curtains and move anything that’s obstructing window light. Turn off all lights and lamps – artificial light is actually very dull and ‘muddy’ and may turn everything a strange yellow/orange colour. Once the lights are off, look for areas of light/dark contrast; and take pictures in those pools of light wherever possible. This will usually be in front of windows and patio doors etc. Don’t use your flash! It never looks good 🙂
When you point your camera at something, it will measure (meter) the light but often phones get this wrong and the image on your screen can be far too dark or bright. All you need to do to override this is tap the thing you want to focus on (usually a face or object) then drag your finger up or down on the screen next to it. Doing this you’ll ‘drag’ the exposure up or down with it, making the picture brighter or darker, as you wish.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when photographing children is to try to force them to participate in a photo when they don’t want to. It never ends well. Tired and/or hungry children also never enjoy having their photo taken, so make sure you let your kids’ mood dictate when you take the photographs, and not the other way around. Just after breakfast/lunch or just after they’ve woken up from a nap tend to be ideal times for pics – when I’m arranging professional shoots I try to work around these too as you’ll always get much better results.
3 - CAPTURE GENUINE MOMENTS
Genuine moments are by far the most valuable things to photograph. As soon as you let your kids know you’re taking their photo, especially if you ask them to look at you and smile or say ‘cheese’, you’re creating an artificial moment; and the results won’t be as ‘real’ or interesting. Kids also get REALLY tired of being asked to smile or look at the camera – it’s a sure-fire recipe for grumpy, photo-avoiding kids or at best, plasticky fake smiles. Create opportunities for real play, games or fun activities, and wait until they are distracted doing something they genuinely enjoy. Once they’re absorbed in this, try to sneak up on them quietly. Watch them carefully and wait for the right moment. It takes patience but the results will be so much more meaningful and impressive.
4 - USE THE RULE OF THIRDS
Most people choose to position their subject smack bang in the middle of the frame, but more often than not this can actually make the image have a lot less impact. The rule of thirds tells you to break your image into thirds with two lines both horizontally and vertically. For greatest visual impact, points of interest should lie along these four lines, especially at the four points where these lines intersect (these are known as ‘power points’). Many camera phones call this the ‘grid’ - turn on this setting to help guide you while you’re taking photos.
5 - USE CONTINUOUS SHOOTING
Kids don’t like sitting still – they move – a lot, and quickly. Often the biggest challenge is catching them in that short moment when they’re doing whatever you want to capture. If you press the shutter just once, you risk missing this altogether, usually just by a split second. Shoot in continuous mode so that you have a number of frames captured within a couple of seconds. Don’t just take them from one position – shoot a burst of shots from one position, then move a little and shoot another burst from a different angle. You can then flick through these and choose the best one(s). Most cameras, including phones, have a continuous shooting mode (also known as ‘burst mode’). This is usually activated by just holding your finger down on the shutter button instead of pressing and releasing, but you may have to turn this on in your camera settings.
6 - AVOID THE ‘USUAL’ VIEWPOINTS
Most people photograph others from a standing position, at a fairly close but ‘polite’ distance from their subject. As we’re used to seeing photos taken from this vantage point, the results can lack impact and seem a little ‘boring’.
Try the following:
Getting in close – fill the frame with your subject, get as close as possible and capture all those wonderful details (eyes, hands, feet, mouths, noses, hair)… These can have huge impact in a photo and make for an interesting and unique portrait.
Moving further away – step away from your subject, either to create a lovely environmental portrait (perhaps showing your child in their bedroom) or to use negative space (when you fill most of the photo with a blank wall or a sky etc). By leaving the majority of the image blank or undetailed, you can draw more attention to the subject.
Shooting from above – try looking directly down on your children playing on the floor, so you have a ‘bird’s eye’ view of them.
Shooting from below – getting down low and shooting upwards towards your subject can isolate them from ground-level clutter (great for photographing in a messy room!) It can also make them look much more dramatic.
7 - EMBRACE THE IMPERFECT
People often fixate on trying to capture ‘perfect’ moments with their camera – but the reality is, life isn’t perfect, and that’s totally fine! All the messy, chaotic moments are just as much a part and parcel of our lives as the smoother bits, and should be embraced as part of the rich fabric of your family story.
Often the imperfect parts can actually be full of real beauty – humour, character, personality, energy – chances are you’ll look back on them fondly and even wistfully in the future. The imperfect stuff is the good stuff - wild hair from breezy walks and tickling frenzies, muddy knees, sticky fingers, hand-me-downs, paint smears, laughter lines, sulky faces, daft costumes, snotty noses, messy dens and real, lived-in family homes full of life, energy and laughter. So don’t wait for the ‘perfect’ times, get your camera out and snap away, warts and all!
8 -DON’T FIXATE ON FACES
A lovely portrait is always nice, but don’t forget about all the other wonderful faceless details that make up the story of your day. With people, look also at their hands and feet – these are often really expressive! Also think of things to photograph that tell a story about that person – favourite toys, spaces, food etc. Don’t forget about other things you see as you go about your day and that help to tell a story of your summer – ice creams, shadows, silhouettes, flip flops, writing in the sand, bright colours, plants and flowers, reflections, water, buckets and spades, parasols, birds, books, campfires, shells, daisies, swimming costumes, sprinklers, picnics, washing on the line... these can often tell a much more vivid story than any ‘say cheese’ shot.
With camera phone photos don’t ever bother using the Zoom function unless it’s absolutely essential. On any camera a zoom degrades image quality, but on a phone it’s really really rubbish. So rubbish that you should honestly just stay away from it altogether. You’re much better just walking nearer to what you’re photographing – you can easily zoom with your feet! With ‘proper’ cameras, zooms will be of a better quality, but even so, unless it’s dangerous or impossible for you to move closer, you’ll get better results just getting closer so a zoom isn’t needed.
10 - DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR PICS!
Many people take lots of lovely photos only to leave them all festering on their memory card or phone memory, soon to be completely forgotten. Get into the habit of reviewing your photos at the end of each day, and marking your favourites – it’s much easier to do this as you go rather than sifting through thousands at the end of the season or year.
You can easily edit your faves with filters if you want to – but try to stick to just one colour one and one black & white one - mixing up lots of different filters isn’t a great idea, as if you ever want to display them next to each other (either on a wall or on Instagram) it’ll look messy. I like to use VSCO for mine, they’ve got a great selection. Once you’ve edited your favourites, get them printed! It’s such a pleasure seeing your best photos on your walls and in your home. Photos are supposed to be printed. Companies like FreePrints and Inkifi are great for quickly, easily and affordably getting photos off your phone or camera onto paper in lots of different creative ways.
I really hope these little tips have been helpful to you and that you now have some new ideas for taking great pics this summer. Of course, the problem with being the main photo-taker is that you’re rarely in the photos yourself (always my problem too - plenty of my kids, very few of me with them!) and other than using the dreaded self-timer where everyone waits for the click with frozen grins, terrified like rabbits in the headlights, it’s impossible for anyone to be able to take those precious pictures of their own whole family together.
So if you’d ever like help with that, please do bear me in mind - have a read of my family photography brochure and check out my website (links below). There are also lots of free resources for families, as well as a simple online course to help you take better pics with your ‘proper’ camera. If you get in touch quoting ‘BABA+BOO’ you’ll get half price session fees for family shoots, and a £10 discount voucher for the Camera Crew
Please do get in touch to say hi, ask any questions and/or have a chat, I’d really love to hear from you :) Have a wonderful summer!
Free stuff for families: https://annahardy.co.uk/resources/
Family shoot brochure: https://annahardy.co.uk/familybrochure/
Camera Crew photography course: https://annahardy.co.uk/camera-crew/
Anna is a photographer specialising in honest, relaxed, documentary family photography that celebrates real life, character, emotion and individuality. She mentors and runs workshops for other photographers, helping them to carve out their own successful photography businesses, and is a proud mum to two lively boys aged 16 and 6.