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Three Simple Tips to Take Better Photos of Your Kids

Tip #1: Remove unnecessary clutter from your background
This can be done in one of two ways. First, physically remove the unwanted item from sight. This could be a bin, a pile of paper work, a sock annoyingly left by one of the children (for some reason children never want both socks on at the same time) or maybe you've left a can of furniture polish out when you got distracted by one of the million tasks that children create, as in this photo below of myself and my mother from many years ago. This is actually one of my favourite photos from my childhood but ever since I spotted the can of furniture polish on the coffee table I can't stop seeing it. I have even been tempted to Photoshop it out. At least its in the distance and a little blurred in the background.
Or it may be that all you have to do is change the angle you are pointing the camera. Look at your surroundings and make a quick assessment as to whether or not you can make a cleaner and more attractive background just by rotating your position a little. When you are out and about there are many things you cannot move so move yourself or your subjects instead.  A cleaner, less cluttered background will make for a more attractive photograph. 

As an aside, however, sometimes your background has something really interesting in it that you want to include so keep that in mind too. It doesn't just have to be about removing clutter but rather strategically placing appropriate elements that add and not distract in your photographs. Years ago I came across a wonderful photograph of a bride on the stairs in front of a Virgin shop. I thought it was a fantastic idea and loved the play on words. 

Tip #2: Look for the good light
Its often there. It just needs to be found. Many non photographers reckon that a beautiful sunny day makes for a great day to take pictures. And to some extent it does. Everyone is certainly in a better mood and a landscape is going to look fantastic with sunlight and blue skies. However people never look their best in harsh sunlight (unless they are wearing sunglasses). 
(I love this photo for the colours and overall happy feeling in this image, however had the girls not been wearing sunglasses they'd be squinting badly. And as you can see my husband is squinting and has rather dark eyes here - very unflattering for women in particular).

A bright sun, high in the sky casts horrible, dark shadows in very unflattering ways, not to mention that you could end up with a whole group squinting into the camera, not an attractive look. And to place your subjects with their backs to the sun will often result in under exposed faces with an over exposed background. There are ways around this but thats a discussion in itself so I'll leave that for another blog post.  

Instead though, try to find open shade. Look for trees, a porch, canopy, covered bridge, anything that blocks the top light from hitting your subjects but still allows the light to come in. This will provide beautiful, soft and flattering light.  

But if you have to live with bright sun use it to your advantage. Below are a few images where the sun was strong but I still managed to light my daughter well. 

(Notice the harsh shadows on the left. For the photo on the right I had asked my daughter to turn her face more towards the sun. Although we still have squinting the light on her face looks much more attractive).

(In this photo the sun wasn't in the right direction causing too much shadow on my daughters face. So I decided to get her playing where I wanted her so I could photograph her in better light - we can't move the sun afterall - see below for the images I took with her in a better position)


Please note that in each of the above sunny examples the sun was not at its highest point in the sky. Each were taken early evening which will also make a difference. As the sun starts to lower it becomes a more flattering light. The colour also warms up making skin tones more attractive. High noon is possibly the trickiest time of day to get good photos. 

Tip #3: Get them Doing Something
Not all kids like to pose for the camera. Mine in particular hate the experience and I rarely get any sort of natural expression. But photograph them while they are already doing something or ask them to do something so that you can photograph them and I can gaurantee that will change. Before long they won't even notice the camera and you can snap away capturing some great expressions. 

While doing so though, keep in mind Tip #2. Look for the good light first and make sure they are facing into it and not with their backs to it. If their backs are to the light you will likely end up with under exposed images that make their faces look too dark and lifeless. Even if it means moving a coffee table or area rug, stage the moment and then snap away. Real expressions will come naturally through play.  

(I took these images of my daughter about 10 years ago and I still love them. Washing up was something she loved to do as a small child but surprise surprise, hates it now.)

Baking in the kitchen is a great opportunity to have some fun and using daylight and facing the window will ensure some lovely light falling on your child, often making the background fall into darkness which then helps to have your child stand out from the surroundings. Colouring at a coffee table or playing with Lego or building blocks by a large window or glass doors is also a great way to capture some great moments. 

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