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Learn to Take Good Photos of Your Children

How to capture precious moments without losing your patience

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Mother sitting on sofa photographing baby boy (6-11 months)
Jessica Peterson/Getty Images
Taking photographs of your children seems like one of those things that should be super easy to do. Line everybody up, get them to smile and say "cheese!" and there you go -- memory captured. The thing is, whether you are taking a candid shot or a posed one, getting great pictures of kids can be quite difficult. The advent of digital photography has certainly made the job easier -- you can take more pictures for a nearly indefinite amount of time (no film to change), but there are a lot of other factors at play here, that all contribute to helping you get (or not get) that perfect shot.

With a little planning and a lot of patience though, taking good photos of your children is not only possible, but something you can do regularly, whether you are looking to design a holiday card, a birthday invitation, or just for something to hang on your wall. Here’s how:

  • Be patient. If you are attempting to take a posed photograph of your children, know that it might not turn out exactly the way you want it to. Kids won’t necessarily share your vision, or understand the importance of what you are doing. Knowing this, make your photography session as fun as possible. The National Association of Professional Child Photographers (NAPCP) suggests singing songs, telling stories -- anything to turn the photo session into play time. If you are happy, the kids will be happy and that translates into big smiles.
  • Always have your camera on hand. Having a camera always nearby is getting easier and easier, as so many smartphones are equipped with them. The NAPCP does caution however, that while smartphones make taking pictures easier, they often are at a low resolution, which means the pictures won't print as well. Still, when your camera is readily available, you'll be able to take pictures of many unexpected moments as well as everyday ones that speak to you -- your child on the swings at the park or even making a mess eating an ice cream cone.
  • Get on your child’s level. You are obviously taller than your child, so if you are taking a photo, it makes sense to either lay or sit down so you can get a better angle. “Not only will you be able to see the world from their vantage point, but you’ll also have better perspective and angles when shooting,” said Chelsea Curtis, spokeswoman for the NAPCP.
  • Use a prop or two. Taking a birthday picture? Have your child hold a wrapped gift. Celebrating spring? Consider giving some flowers to your little one to grasp onto. Some situations lend themselves to props and costumes, and others fit in nicely with creative thinking. Whatever you use props for though, know that your child will likely be interested in it, making for a nice photo opportunity and distraction during the shoot.
  • Just keep shooting. If you are using a digital camera, you don’t have to keep stopping to reload film, so take advantage of the endless possibilities. The NAPCP says that for every good shot, there are typically about 8-10 not-so-great ones. “Change the setting to continous shooting mode to capture lots of shots in the midst of action,”Curtis says. “Even most standard point-and-shoot cameras have some sort of ‘sport mode’ that can accomplish this task.”
  • Forget about the flash. Sure a flash can be a light source if the area you are taking pictures in is dark enough, but as the NAPCP points out, "the flash can actually make children appear washed out." Instead, the group suggests using natural lighting outside or if you are indoors positioning your subjects near a window.
  • Use the flash. The opposite can also be true. By turning on the flash when you would otherwise think you don't need it -- outside for example, you can actually enhance the image. Experiment and find out what you like.
  • Focus on features. Look at anyone's photos for a long time and it is likely you'll see much of the same shot -- top-to-bottom or head-to-waist shots of people facing the camera and smiling. These are perfectly fine photographs and certainly they have their place in photo albums, but try mixing it up a bit. Take pictures that zoom in on your little one's hands or feet. Or turn your child away from the camera if the background is interesting, like the photo above. "Get close or zoom in to capture all of the small details that make your child unique," the NAPCP advises.
  • Let your children be themselves. When taking a picture, especially a posed one, there is a lot of pressure to make sure it is "good" and that everyone is smiling. But even a crying child can make for an interesting shot. If you are set on getting everyone looking forward with happy faces, try making a deal with your kids. For every three "normal" pictures you take, they can take one silly one or some such. (And know that the silly ones might wind up being your favorites!)
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