So many parents seem almost embarrassed or ashamed to admit to me that they take photos on a phone but I LOVE to see families documenting their day-to-day life. Those candid moments you only get in real family life are precious!
Sometimes the best camera really is just the one right there in your hand. Of course I’m also a big believer in capturing professional photos with everyone in the picture but it’s just unrealistic to expect that to happen every weekend, or during the biggest period of restriction of our everyday movements in a lifetime…
So while we’re all safe at home and your kids are maybe trying out some new things, clapping their hearts out, or exploring your neighbourhood in new ways I thought I’d share some of my quick thoughts on how to improve the photos you capture along the way. Documenting family life doesn’t have to be rocket science. Without adding the pressure of more lockdown learning I’m going to give just five little tips you can think about when you pick up your phone or point-and-shoot camera. I’m deliberately keeping this non-technical and taking it right back to basics but if you have any questions at all please just get in touch – I’d love to help.
1 – Light over Location
This is my dealbreaker. The non-negotiable EVERY single time.. while it’s my job as a professional to manipulate light, use flash, bounce it into a scene, and make it work it’s probably not something you want to get tangled up in at home.
Instead you want to make the most of the available light that’s coming in to your home from windows, patio doors etc.
Outdoors avoid the extremes of harsh sunlight or lots of shade. Take a look at where the light is coming from and where it’s falling – who or what is in shadow. Something as simple as repositioning yourself so the kids are facing the light can make a world of difference.
For example, if your kids are sitting at your kitchen table doing some home schoolwork or craft with the patio doors beside them, try positioning yourself so when you look at them the light is falling on their faces, not behind their heads. Changing which end of the table you shoot from can make a world of difference, so experiment moving around the table or room and seeing how the light changes.
2 – Get some perspective!
Get down to their level. Basically, whatever is closest to the camera tends to look the largest so taking a photo looking up or down at your child is likely to distort their features. I spend a lot of my time on kids shoots hunkered down so I’m eye to eye with my little subjects.
Not only does getting down lower help the perspective of the photo but seeing the world from their level helps build connection with kids and makes it more likely you’ll capture them looking toward the camera. Children react to familiar voices and little ones in particular will follow you with their eyes as you talk to them. Having your partner or another family member attract their attention by hovering over your shoulder will also make them look toward the camera, even if not directly into it.
3 – Keep it natural
“Cheese! Sausages! Look at me! Look at the camera!” – only very rarely do any of these prompts really lead to great photos.
I find the best photos come from genuinely making kids smile – singing a silly song, talking to them, giving them something fun to do, telling a joke so the laughter is real not forced. You know better than anyone what delights your child!
4 – Compose your scene
Look out for those distracting features in the background. Trust me, those new fancy phone modes that blur backgrounds are not the answer to cover it all up! Look out for plants coming out of heads, street lighting poles, or distracting colours in the background – sometimes all you need is to move just a little to one side and it can transform the scene.
If you want to get a bit more creative and take your photos up a level you might want to consider “the rule of thirds” – basically if you split your photo into a 3×3 grid the most interesting part of your photo should be on a third line, or even better at the intersection of two lines. Many smartphones will have the option to turn a grid on your phone camera so you can see it overlaid when taking photos and experiment with shifting away from always focusing on the centre.
You can also try looking for leading lines which help guide the eye through the image (e.g. with a path) or the opportunity to “frame within a frame” using windows and doorways.
5. Exist in your own photos!
Last but by absolutely no means least, make sure you get in some photos too! I meet so many parents who are always the one taking the photos and never in them. Looking back in the future, trust me your kids won’t care about your roots, those few pounds you want to lose or the fact you’ve spent most of 2020 so far makeup-less or in loungewear. They’ll care that you were there helping and guiding them through these tricky times and they’ll want to see you were there in these memories too.
Don’t let this become a forgotten period. Instead let’s cherish the time together at home and capture some memories we never thought we’d create. I’d love to hear (and see!) how you get on…