8 Tips for Taking Better Family Photos at Home

This is an unprecedented time. If you're reading this, you've likely been at home with your kids for at least 2 weeks - helping them with school work and coming up with creative ways to keep them entertained - all while trying to keep yourself sane. My guess is you're cherishing this extra time with them while also cursing the gods for taking away any semblance of "me time" you previously had.


My recommendation? Embrace the chaos. Enjoy it. Document it. Like I said before, this time is unprecedented. You'll likely never have this much time with your kids ever again. Despite what I'm sure feels like madness on a daily basis, I have a sneaky feeling that years from now you'll LOVE having photos from this wild time of your lives.


While I don't have children of my own, I do have many years of experience documenting families! I decided to put that knowledge to good use and create a guide so that YOU can take better photos of your kids at home. My goal with this guide is to provide tips and tricks while also inspiring you to look at this unique situation from a different perspective - and then capture it!


1. TRY THE RULE OF THIRDS

A simple way to create a more compelling image is to use the rule of thirds! Your subject doesn’t always have to be right in the middle of the picture — try dividing your frame into three and place your child’s face on one of those imaginary lines!



2. USE NEGATIVE SPACE

Negative space is just “empty” space around your subject. It emphasizes your subject and removes other distractions. It helps the viewer of the photo focus on the most important visual elements in the frame. Combine this approach with the rule of thirds to make sure the image is well-balanced.



3. EXPERIMENT WITH DIFFERENT KINDS OF LIGHT


INDOOR LIGHT

When you're taking photos inside, hug the windows! Use as much natural light as possible. And don't forget to turn off the lights. A combination of natural and artificial light throws off the camera's white balance.


Front light:

Use front light if you're taking photos of faces. Front light will evenly cover the face. This kind of light is best for portraits.



Side light:

If you want to add a little zest to your portraits, try side light. This will add dimension and shadows to your image. Pro-tip: Try using a reflector, such as a white sheet or white poster board, opposite the window to reduce the strength of the shadows on the face.



Back light:

Back light is best used to accentuate interesting silhouettes, NOT faces. I repeat: do not use backlight if you're trying to photograph a face!



OUTDOOR LIGHT

If you can't get enough light inside, head outside!


Direct Sun:

Direct sun is great for candid photos of your children engaging in an activity. Be careful with direct sun if you're trying to get them to smile at you for a shot -- often times it won't work due to squinty eyes and harsh shadows!


Golden Hour: Ohhhh golden hour. The photographer's favorite time of day to shoot. And for good reason! The light during golden hour is soft, warm and golden. Pro-tip: Try backlighting your subjects at golden hour. And then just before the sun dips below the horizon, use that creamy golden light to front-light your subjects.



FLASH

Whatever you do, DON'T TURN ON YOUR FLASH - unless you have the ability to bounce your flash or use off-camera flash equipment. It doesn't matter if you're using your iPhone or DSLR, the flash is just going to flatten your image.


4. ENGAGE YOUR KIDS WITH THESE TIPS & IDEAS


Do something they love.

Have them put on costumes or bust out their favorite game - then snap away!


Give them something to do.

And capture them while they are doing it! Sidewalk chalk, blowing bubbles, taking a bath or mixing batter for cookies. The candid shots will be priceless!


Be playful with them while you're behind the camera.

Play peek-a-boo. Make silly faces. Tell them there is a ladybug inside your camera and if you look for her, she'll sing! Caveat with this one - you actually have to sing if they look :) The energy and vibe that YOU give off will 100% be reflected in the photos, so just remember that as you're snapping!



Shoot when your kids are at their happiest.

For most, this is after a nap AND a snack.


Let THEM be the photographer for a few shots.

Hand the camera/phone over (or have them look through the viewfinder while you hold it) and let them snap a couple of photos! Not only will they love the clicking sound, but they'll start to warm up to the idea of photography and hopefully not be so intimidated by the scary contraption that is the camera.


5. ALTER YOUR PERSPECTIVE


This is the EASIEST way to get unique photos. Start by taking a step back and capturing the whole scene aka "the big picture". Then get closer. And then closer again. Focus on the details. This can be hands, feet, eyes, eyelashes, curls, etc. The little things are what you'll want to remember!



Next, try shooting from above. Have the kids lay down on their backs and look up at you. Snap a shot from above as they reach for a cookie. Take a shot of their toes in the grass.



Finally - and MOST IMPORTANTLY - get down on their level. After all, that's where the action is! This simple trick will instantly improve your photos. Pro-tip: when you're photographing a toddler, squat. Don't sit. That way when your toddler moves, you can quickly move with them!



6. KEEP IT MOVING


Some of my FAVORITE shots I've ever taken of kids are action shots. Running, dancing, twirling, jumping. You name it. Motion breathes LIFE into an image. Let your kids get wild! Let them jump on the bed or couch, let them hang upside down off a chair. Have them perform for you! They can sing, dance, twirl, or flip their hair.



And always always always shoot in burst or continuous mode with action shots. And turn off Live Photo if you're using an iPhone!


7. TAKE MORE PHOTOS THAN YOU NEED


And then delete most of them. This is the KEY when photographing children - especially toddlers. You may need to take ten photos for every ONE good photo. And that's okay! Just be sure to delete the majority of them. You'll treasure one or two of your best photos much more than ten or twenty of the same image.


8. AND WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS...


Be flexible. Don't force it. Kids are going to do things on their own terms. Document life AS IS. Catch them sleeping. Catch them pouting. Capture them being their TRUEST selves. Those are the shots you're going to cherish most in the future!


Oh - and just so all of you know, I'm 100% ON BOARD with bribery. It's amazing what a kid will do for a goldfish ;)



© 2020 by Mary Catherine Photography.