Confessions of a Work-at-Home Mom: How I Learned to Photograph My Kid
Learning to take illustrative, how-to-do-Tulsa photos with a toddler as a model has been a huge learning process for me, earned mostly through trial and error. While I in no way claim to be a professional photographer – I am far, far from it, in fact – here are a few simple tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way that might help you as you document your own travels about town with your kids.
1. Always, always, always have at least one camera with you.
Because when you have kids, you never know when photo-worthy magic is going to happen. And yes, your cell phone camera counts, thanks to some of the incredible apps that are available to help you make your small-res photos look professionally processed.
When you’re planning an outing to a beautiful spot, though, you might want to opt for a mightier piece. As a professional blogger, of course I consider my DSLR camera to be one of my best and smartest investments. But, it’s also been invaluable in my life as a parent. Buy one, learn to use it and you’ll have photos of excellent quality to treasure forever and ever, especially when you need good stuff to “accidentally” leave on the coffee table when your child starts dating.
2. Fill the frame.
Also known as, don’t be afraid to get all up in your kid’s grill. Practice getting close and allowing your child to fill the entire frame of your viewfinder or preview screen and I promise you’ll notice an immediate difference in the quality of your photos.
3. Turn off the flash.
Behind filling the frame, turning off your flash is path No. 2 to instantly improving your photos, whether they’re of your kids, your latest success in the kitchen or the giant snow drifts in your back yard. My personal philosophy is, until I have the time and money to purchase the lighting equipment necessary to properly work in low-light conditions and the know-how needed in order to operate said equipment, I don’t bother too much with attempting to photograph my son in dark rooms or after dusk. Instead I find a big window or head outside before the sun is so harsh that my son’s giant hair casts hard shadows on his face.
4. Don’t be a poser.
No one is going to want to look at photo after photo of your child in a hard, unnatural pose while flashing a stiff smile, including yes, even you, Mom and Dad. Instead, allow your child to do what comes naturally and practice capturing those candid moments. My bet is that once your child understands what’s happening that he or she will toss a ham-it-up shot or two your way – at least, that’s been my experience.
By the same token, don’t feel like your child has to be at the center of every photo frame. Allow him/her to occupy other parts of the space – the rule of thirds has always helped me to experiment with this.
5. Take a lot of photos.
And by a lot, I mean at least 100 per session. The days of when photographers were forced to conserve film are gone – live into that reality with vigor and vibrance, like how you do when the grandparents offer to take the kids for an overnighter. Think of it this way: The more photos you take, the greater the chance that you’ll walk away with a gem.
6. Don’t be afraid to post-process.
While I don’t like to mess with my photos much other than to resize them for posting on the web, lots of folks like to play with their shots in Photoshop and to create something totally different from what was uploaded from the camera. Which is totally fine. They are, after all, your photos. My only advice here is to remember to save back the original versions of the photos – it’s hard to get back to an original image otherwise, should you ever decide you’d like to try.
7. If you have a DSLR camera, learn to use it in all of its glory.
Warning: This isn’t typically a fast-track course of discovery. I’ve had my camera for a year now and I still fumble around with the manual settings (big time). But even understanding what your camera offers in terms of preset settings and pre-programmed modes helps you to maximize your experiences as the official photographer in your family. And then there’s always the Pioneer Woman catalog of photography tutorials, all easy to grasp and only a click away.
What are your tips and tricks for taking the best photos of your kids? I’d love to hear about them in the comments – we photo-snapping parents are always looking for fresh ideas.