|"Smile!!" (see Point 7 below...)|
As a mum I know that photographing your child is always a bit of a challenge - you need to have a quick trigger finger so that you can seize that perfect candid shot, or be very, very, very, very patient!
It is possible to tip the balance in your favour though, and with a little bit of forethought you can get beautiful photos. Plus, now that we've nearly all got digital cameras, you can just keep clicking as many times as you need to - it's OK to delete the ones you don't like (something I need to do more often!).
So here's a few basic tips that might help:
- Candid Photos: Remember, it may not be completely necessary for your subject to look straight at the camera - a candid shot, caught when they were unaware of you can sometimes be much more effective. Rather than telling them to strike a certain pose, or smile, just sit back with your camera at the ready and let them do their thing - but keep your finger hovering on that shutter button! Do what they want to do - enter their world, encourage them to chatter.
- Check your background and foreground: Make sure there is nothing obscuring your subject, or that it's not too busy and therefore distracts from the subject. Sometimes all you'll need to do is shift your own position slightly to get a different perspective. Keep an eye on trees, plants, buildings, etc in the background to avoid that "bush for hair" or "speared by a lamp post" look!
- Indoor Lighting: If you use a flash then be aware that the closer the subject is to the background, the bigger the risk of shadows. If you're photographing babies or very young children, they can sometimes be startled or frightened by a flash too. Try placing your child near a natural light source such as a window to get softer, more natural lighting.
- Outdoor Lighting: If you're photographing outdoors, be aware of harsh light/dark shadows which can ruin an otherwise gorgeous photo. Take note of where the sun is and make sure it isn't causing the child to squint. Don't be afraid to use your flash outdoors too - it can add a little to the overall look of the image. If you're using a digital camera try taking a few shots with the flash and some without - you can always delete the ones you don't think will do.
- Try close-up's: Many digital cameras have the ability to take beautiful close shots without losing quality. Check if you camera has this close-up or "macro" function (usually the setting dial has a small flower symbol for close-up shots. I love taking close-up photos of my daughter Amy: her gorgeous skin, long eyelashes and pretty freckles!
- Pick your moment!: It sounds obvious, but don't try to photograph young children when they're tired, bored or not in the right mood - you'll both end up cross and with a photo that doesn't look right. Choose your moment - when they are relaxed and happy, and feeling responsive to you. Give yourself plenty of time too, don't make yourself feel pressured because you're trying to take a photo when you should be getting the dinner on!
- Say cheese..: It's tempting to tell your subject to smile and say cheese, but this can sometimes give a fake smile effect. Little ones can often be distracted however - try asking them an interesting question that makes them stop and think, ask them to imagine something lovely, pull a silly face or make a funny noise - and be ready with your shutter finger for that perfect reaction! If you find it easier to use a word like "cheese" try getting them to say something else - something a little bit rude can make for some great giggly shots ("pants" works well in my experience..!) And remember, it doesn't always have to be about smiles - thoughtful, quiet pictures when the child's face is relaxed can be poignant and beautiful.
- A little trick: A good trick to avoid that slightly glazed expression when you take someone's photo, is to ask them to look down for a count of three before raising their head and looking into the camera. It is just enough for them to alter their point of focus and avoid those staring eyes!
- Get down on their level: When photographing children try getting down to their level rather than photographing down onto them which tends to make heads look overly large and their legs too short! Kneel down, sit on the floor or a chair - try to keep the camera at their eye level. (This applies to photographing pets too!)
- Hold it steady!: Whilst problems such as 'red-eye' created by a camera flash can be corrected, blurry photos that are out of focus just can't be improved. Avoid smudgy photos by resting your camera on a solid object, or keeping your elbows tucked in. If you're sitting on the floor to take your photo, try sitting so that you can lean your elbows on your knees to stop the camera wobbling, or grab a chair or stool to lean on. Most digital cameras have a 'half-press shutter' which means you press the shutter button half way down, giving the camera time to adjust focus. When your camera has found its focus, click your button all the way.