Friday, March 16, 2018

Tips and Tricks for Photographing your Kids!

It is no secret that I love taking pictures.  It's also no secret that I love taking photos of my daughter, Marlowe!  If you've seen my Instagram, it's 90% something of her (not ashamed!).  It is a goal of mine to document her growing self, and our life as a family.  I am often asked for tips and tricks, what camera is best, what editing program do I use, and if I walk around with a camera strapped to my face.  I know that every parent wants to take great photos of their babies, so I put together a basic list of the things I'd recommend to any parent who wants to capture their kids!  Please feel free to message me if you have any other questions or want me to explain something further!

1.  Invest in a DSLR
One of the questions I get asked most is which camera do I use.  I shoot with a Nikon D3200.  It is nothing special, it is OLD, and is considered a "beginner's camera".  But that's just the thing, you don't need to spend a fortune on the newest camera because in the end it's all about what settings you used and how you edited the photo.  However, a DSLR camera is going to give you a clearer image, and let you shoot pictures you wouldn't be able to on an iPhone.  If you want to take your photography up a notch, then you'll invest in a better lens than what the camera came with.  Again, I shoot with a very simple lens.  I shoot with a 35 mm, f/1.8 Nikon lens.  It doesn't zoom, and forces me to get in the position I want to be in to get the right picture, and gives me a great "bokeh" background (that blurriness behind the subject).

Shot on my iPhone. A decent picture but not as clear as the picture below!

Used my DSLR for the same setting as above.  Notice the clarity, and how it was able to blur out the background, and pick out the blue in her eyes. 

2. Shoot in Manual
If you are going to purchase a DSLR, then you HAVE TO learn how to use it!  This means, DO NOT shoot in Auto mode.  Make sure you put your setting on Manual (or the little M on the notch).  Then, read online and watch youtube videos on how to get the right setting for different types of lighting.  There are tons of resources out there with just a simple google search but here is a great resource!  I NEVER took a photography class, but I did spend an entire weekend learning how to use my camera using my dog as the subject.  And then from there, practice makes perfect!  When you are learning, sometimes it's good to take one picture in Auto to see what settings the camera automatically puts the ISO or aperture on, and then change it to Manual and try to replicate those settings yourself.

3. Shoot in Portrait Mode on iPhone
Sometimes the reality is that you don't have the finances to buy a DSLR, or you don't always carry your DSLR with you.  That's totally fine!  When I don't have my camera, I feel confident that my iPhone can take a decent picture using Portrait Mode.  Portrait mode focuses on your subject, and gives you a blurred out background (bokeh).  I can't tell you how many people don't even know this setting exists when I talk to them!  These images below were all taken using portrait mode.

One of my favorite pictures of my mom and Marlowe!

4.  Editing Your Photos
Whether you use Lightroom, Photoshop, or an iPhone app like VSCO, be consistent with your editing style.  Do you want your photos to be light and bright, rich colors with a high contrast, orange or blue toned, or completely natural? (Just naming a few editing styles!) I love using Lightroom for editing because I can apply the same settings to a whole set of pictures in just a click!  I almost always brighten up my photos, and then change the settings to a pre-made filter that I love.  Here's some filters that you can purchase that match my personal style.  However, if you just have an iPhone, the Instagram app is actually pretty great at giving you tools to edit your photos.  If I was just using the app I would first brighten up the photo, kick up the contrast a bit, and make sure the photo is straight by adjusting the angle.

Before Editing

After editing!  I brightened the photo a tad, cranked up the contrast, and played with the coloring. 

5.  Lighting is Everything
Lighting is key!  I consider myself a natural light photographer, meaning I don't EVER use the flash.  I don't like the orange tone and glare the flash often gives a picture.  When I take pictures of Marlowe, I almost always try to put her by a window.  I open up the blinds completely to let as much light in as possible.  Any pictures where I put Marlowe on a blanket when she was a baby, I would lay the blanket right next to the window.  If you are shooting outside, it's always best to take pictures during the "golden hour".  These means either shooting within the first hour the sun rises, or the last hour before the sun sets.  It's also so much easier to take pictures any time of day on a gray, cloudy day!

I sat her on the guest bed next to the window and I love how the light is coming in and lighting up her face!

The sun was about to go down, and my bedroom was really dark but there was some beautiful glow coming in from the window here with my mom!

I completely opened up the blinds for this shot, and I love how bright and white this picture is!

We went out front during the "golden hour".  If we would have gone out earlier, the sun would have been too strong and Marlowe would have been squinting!

6.  Capture the Candid
Some of my favorite pictures in the whole wide world are candid moments.  Your child doesn't always need to be smiling at the camera and posed perfectly.  That isn't natural for them!  Try to give your little one something to do in the photo, something to laugh at, or just take pictures of them in the moment.  If you see your baby laughing with grandma, grab your camera and start taking pictures! Don't stop them to make them look and you and smile.  Here's some of my favorite candids. 

When she was about 11 months old, she LOVED getting into nightstands when she thought we weren't paying attention.

The crawling stage, always getting stuck behind things!

She loves sneaking away to her bathroom to wash her hands and make a mess with the water.  Had to capture that!

My dad and Marlowe playing on the couch! I love how she is looking at him!

When I let her play with lipstick. I had NO idea what to expect. The more candid, the better!

She went through a "shower" stage.  So one night I grabbed my camera and started taking pictures!

7.  Natural Positioning 
This might be personal preference, but I absolutely hate photos where the parents put their baby in unnatural positions.  I'm imagining those sleeping newborn baby pictures where they wrap the baby in something and then hang them in a swing or prop them up on their hands.  It's just weird.  For example, if your baby isn't sitting up yet, don't try propping them up awkwardly for a photo.  Instead, take a picture of them laying down.

At 10 months, Marlowe did NOT want to lay down for her monthly pictures.  It just wasn't her, so instead of forcing a pose, I just let her be and sit up!

I originally had her on her back here, but she didn't want to lay that way.  She was just learning how to push up and so I just let her do what she wanted and I'm so glad I did!

8. Keep the Background Simple
Pay attention to the background in your pictures! I like clean, simple backdrops.  When I'm out and about I look for solid walls that I can position Marlowe in front of.  I try to keep as much clutter out of the picture as possible, so that I can really focus on her!  Obviously, in places like Disneyland it can be hard to keep others out of your picture, so in this case I just make sure she's the center of the picture so that my eye is drawn to her, rather than the people in the background!

This is just the side of our house in our backyard.  It makes a great simple backdrop!

I pulled down the plaid comforter we have on this bed to expose the white sheets instead.  I didn't want all that pattern behind her!

I'm always on the hunt for fun walls!  Walls with foliage make a great simple backdrop!

Garage door pictures are a thing too!  If you have a garage, stand in front of it for your pictures!

Putting Marlowe in the center and in the foreground here, helps distract from the crowd of people behind her at Disneyland.

9.  Consider the Angle
One of the biggest mistakes parents make when taking pictures of their kids is not getting on their level.  It helps to bend down so you are their height!  Also, when photographing babies do NOT take pictures up their nose, it is unflattering! This is such a huge pet peeve of mine.  Instead, stand directly above them, or angle from above their head like the examples below!

Bending down at her level!

Standing directly above her!

Again, standing above her.  Use a step ladder or stand on the bed/couch with the blanket below you!

Angled just above my shoulder instead of straight on.

10. Get in the Picture
Think about what type of pictures your kids are going to want to see when they are older and look back at old photos.  They are going to want to see their mom and dad in the picture with them too!  Don't forget to sometimes jump into the picture when you can.  Often times, I just set the camera on the right setting so that all my husband has to do is press the button.  When I look back on photos, I will also want to see what I looked like as a young mom, holding my babies in my arms.

I was a total bum here and didn't want to get in the picture when she was playing in the bathroom, but I'm so glad I jumped in!

11.  Don't Forget the Details
Think about wedding photography.  Typically a good photographer will take photos of all the little details and decorations from the day.  They take pictures of the bride's shoes, of the rings, or the centerpieces etc.  Think about photographing your baby the same way!  Kids change SO MUCH in such a short amount of time, and it's easy to forget those special things that make them so unique.  Take the time to capture their little hands, their feet, their eyes, their changing smile with the addition of new teeth.  You won't regret it in the future!

Focused on her eyes here!

Can't forget those sweet hands.

Those little teeth!

I'll never forget this fuzzy blonde hair.

Her button nose, those tiny lashes. 

Her bangs.  I love them. 

12.  Take Lifestyle Photos
Take pictures of you and your kids in your home!  Again, not every photo needs to be sitting on the couch smiling at the camera.  When I grew up, we ALWAYS stood in front of the fireplace to take pictures and I so wish I could go back in time and do it differently.  Instead, take what are called "lifestyle" photos.  This means, take photos of your daily life in your home with your kids.  Have your spouse take a picture of you rocking your baby to sleep, or of them hanging on your leg as you cook.  Hire a lifestyle photographer for newborn photos of you in your babies nursery, changing them, nursing them, and holding them.  Take pictures of the mess, the beautiful mess that you will one day miss.

Marlowe's first bath.

Our nightly routine.  Never want to forget this. 

Grandma feeding Marlowe a bottle.  Totally walked in on this. 

Kyle reading a 4 month old Marlowe Rainbow Fish. 

Came home to these two napping.  Be still my heart. 

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