3 Simple Photography Tips for Parents – How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

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One of the most frequently asked questions I receive as a writer here at Digital Photography School is, “How do I take better pictures of my kids?”. There’s just something about becoming a parent that helps you understand exactly how fleeting childhood is, as well as how important it is to capture it. Whether you’re using a pro-level DSLR camera, a point-and-shoot, or your phone’s camera, here are a few quick and easy tips that will help you take your momtography or dadtography to the next level and take better pictures of your kids.

3 Simple Photography Tips for Parents - How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

1. Emotion Trumps Perfection

It’s never a bad idea to learn about the technical aspects of photography. But when it comes to photographing your own kids, the truth is that the photos you’ll treasure the most are the ones that capture genuine emotion. When you pull your camera out, don’t just look for the perfect smiles. Look for genuine expression and emotion, which tends to happen most often when your kids don’t realize you’re watching them.

Similarly, when you’re culling images, don’t automatically trash every image with soft focus or strange cropping. Sometimes, those technically imperfect photos may capture genuine emotion so perfectly that it would be a shame to delete them just because they’re not perfect. You may not want to blow those imperfect images up onto a giant canvas, but definitely keep them for your own records!

3 Simple Photography Tips for Parents - How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

Let go of perfection

Technically speaking, there are a few things about the above image that I don’t like. I wish I hadn’t cropped off some of one daughter’s fingers, and I wish the other daughter was in focus. I was super tempted to delete this photo right away because it’s not quite up to my standards. However, every time I look at this image it makes me smile to see the absolute joy on their faces. I remember their excitement at seeing the cherry blossoms covering the ground like snow, scooping them up by the handful, and throwing them up into the air while laughing and squealing with delight.

As family and friends flip through photo albums, they don’t comment on the other image I took that day of the girls standing perfectly still while looking at the camera and smiling, they comment on this photo. They mention how happy the girls look, and how much they love this photo. This image is beloved not because it’s technically sound, but because emotion always trumps perfection when it comes to photography.

3 Simple Photography Tips for Parents - How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

2. Find Beauty in the Ordinary

When it comes to photographing your kids, don’t wait for the moments when everyone is perfectly dressed in coordinating outfits at golden hour. Those moments are beautiful, but they’re few and far between. Instead, look for ways to capture the beauty in the ordinary everyday moments.

Snap a photo of your kids reading a bedtime story every once in awhile. Take a quick snapshot of their messy faces after spaghetti night. Capture the mismatched crazy outfits that they put together when they dress themselves. Quietly sneak out your camera as they’re practicing writing their name at the kitchen table.

3 Simple Photography Tips for Parents - How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

Life isn’t always perfectly styled, it’s messy and full of mundane, repetitive moments. It’s really tempting to wait to pick up your camera until your house is cleaner, or the kids are dressed in something that isn’t stained, or until the flowers in the backyard have bloomed. Don’t wait.

Take the opportunity to photograph your kids just as they are right at this moment, and see if you can’t find some beauty in the ordinary.

3 Simple Photography Tips for Parents - How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

3. Capture What Your Kids Love

At any given point in time, your kids are likely to have at least one thing that they’re absolutely obsessed with. It may be a stuffed dinosaur, their favorite book, a hat that they want to wear every single day or a best friend.

Regardless of what their current favorite thing is, taking photos of your childen with the things that they absolutely love is a really sweet way to remember them at the different stages of their lives.

3 Simple Photography Tips for Parents - How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

Chances are that in a year or two, your child will move on to a new favorite thing. You’ll forget all about that stuffed dinosaur or favorite blanket much more quickly than you’d probably think. It’s fun for both you and them to be able to look back and say “Remember when you used to….”

3 Simple Photography Tips for Parents - How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

Bonus Tip: Get the Photos Off Your Computer!

How many of us are guilty of taking hundreds of photos of our kids, maybe uploading a few to social media, and then letting them hang out on our hard drives in perpetuity? In all honesty, one of the most important parts of photographing your kids is to actually print the photos you take of your kids.

There are so many great resources out there now, whether you want to send prints off to a professional lab or print a photo book right from your Instagram feed, there truly is something for everyone. You don’t have to do it all, but just pick something, and get those images off your computer and into your lives!

3 Simple Photography Tips for Parents - How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

Do you have any non-technical tips that you’d share with moms and dads just trying to take great photos of their kids? If so, please chime in below in the comments.

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Meredith Clark

is a wife, mother, native Oregonian, complete bookworm, Top Chef lover, and new quilting addict. She can also be found blogging at La Buena Vida and Meredith Clark Photography.

  • Cuttie2b

    My only comment is that many parents rely on their cell phones to take photos of those precious moments and I’ve tried many times to remind them that it’s not the best quality photo and you often never get them printed! They continually stand there at momentous times in their child’s life and take a photo that at best is never going anywhere but on the phone! And if you lose the phone and don’t use a cloud backup, they could be lost forever! I loved your advice and will remember it for the next shoot. It makes me think of the times when I thought I got a great shot only to find out that the one I thought was not so great, was the one the client loved the most!

  • Lev Bass

    Most importantly – get down to their eye level.

  • Meredith

    Hey Lev! I see that advice a lot and I understand why it’s recommended. That said, I have actually found that many parents prefer images shot from just slightly above the child’s plane of vision. I think this is probably partially because it allows for better catchlights in the eyes, and partially because parents spend a lot of time looking at their kids from that perspective.

  • Meredith

    I think printing images is SO important! I personally use a service that prints my Instagram photos each month–the quality isn’t great, but it’s inexpensive and my kiddos LOVE the small books and look at them all the time. There are so many options for printing photos nowadays, and I really try to encourage people to just pick *something* that feels manageable to them and do it!

    The phone vs dlsr is a whole different topic, with people who feel strongly on both sides of the issue! 🙂 I fall somewhere in the middle–cell phones are really beginning to rival dslr cameras in terms of quality now, and though I do think there’s value in having high quality images of your kids with a dslr, I’m also happy that people who probably would never carry around a dslr have more photos than they would otherwise thanks to their phones!

  • Lev Bass

    Hi Meredith,
    just slightly above sounds fine, what I don’t get is shooting almost pointing down – as if the photographer doesn’t want to make an extra effort to present the subjects as equals, to ‘enter’ their world.
    I am not sure I understand your point about the catchlights. Doesn’t their appearance depend mostly on the light source location and size?
    Regards

  • Meredith

    Even when it’s cloudy, the sky is essentially one HUGE light source, so when you’re working with natural light (opposed to a ring flash or something of that nature), it’s easiest to capture catchlights when your subject is looking up slightly towards the sky. One way to accomplish this is to shoot from just above the child’s plane of vision, or just above their “level”.

  • Von Will

    Getting my kids to go out on photo walk gets them interested in Photography , and when they are interested they are willing to let you take more pictures of them. which for us translates into more natural images. https://www.flickr.com/photos/phyguy/ https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/db35b82df29b5144c076929cfce656f5d5cc9ad39a24444868f06a1c1abfa23c.jpg

  • glennsphotos

    Wonderful article. Print, Print, print those photos people.

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