Getting great shots of your children can be a challenge, but oh so rewarding when you get “that shot”. These ten tips will get you started.
1. Keep your camera out and ready. When shooting moving kids, you don’t have time to get your camera out of your backpack. It needs to be front and center. I swear by the Black Rapid Sport camera strap to make this task easier. It is strong enough to support my DSLR with my 70-200 zoom on it–which is pretty heavy yet sleek enough to wear under my backpack. It is designed for women’s more narrow shoulders and stays in place while I’m hiking or skiing–a feature most sling straps can’t report. My neighbor Cara caught me in action shooting my son’s little league game.
2. Follow the light. Photographers talk about the “golden hour”–that magical time when lighting is at its finest during sunrise and sunset. And yes, there is an app for that–a website too. Of course capturing great moments does not have to be limited to the golden hour. You can still follow the light though. When your children are playing on the neighborhood playground, walk around look for a great spot where the sun seems to shine more and position yourself. As the kids run around, practice shooting them. Gosh, that really sounds bad! But you know what I mean. Playgrounds are great for practice as the equipment creates lots of shadows and opportunities for interesting framing of shots.
3. Candid shots are the best. My favorite pictures of my children are the ones where they didn’t know I was taking their picture. They are natural, full of life and emotion. To capture these great images, you have to be quiet and patient. Move around the perimeter of their play and avoid calling attention to yourself. Don’t shout out “smile”! My good friend and amazing photographer Tom Twigg caught this moment of his daughter. Don’t you want to know what she is thinking?
4. Avoid posers. Most young children don’t appreciate being posed and told to sit still for periods of time–especially when they are outside playing. That being said, you can get some fun silhouette shots when the light is just right. I captured this moment around 10:00 at night on the Dalton Hwy just outside of Deadhorse, Alaska. (if you look closely at the horizon, you can see the oil pipeline) Shooting from the back creates interest and avoids the one kid with a weird look on his face or his eyes closed. Try it. And for days when the kids aren’t cooperating at all, try getting just the feet like I did on the beach here.
5. Pack extra batteries and memory cards. This may seem like a no brainer, until you run out of either one. In the winter, be sure to carry batteries close to your body so they last longer.
6. Practice, practice, practice. Getting action shots that aren’t a total blur takes practice. Turn your kids loose in the backyard and just start shooting. Again, that sounds really bad… Don’t worry about the bad shots, you can always delete them. To capture this image of my kids doing flying side kicks, I have a series of about 15 misses! The thing about jumping pictures is that kids love to do them. I’ve spent hours shooting kids jumping. Bonus, it really wears them out too!
7. Get down! Or maybe get really high up. Play around with angles of shots. I like to sit or lie down on the ground to capture very young children at their level. Playgrounds have lots of opportunities to play with this. I grabbed this one at Joshua Tree National Park, CA.
8. Rapid fire. Don’t be afraid to take a bunch of pictures in high speed. Most cameras have a sports mode or a manual setting for high speed shots. You can use Photoshop or other post processing software to merge successions of shots into one image. Cool effect.
9. Use the hood. That plastic thing that screws onto the front of your camera lens. Yes, use it. It protects your lens and shields from the sun. I can’t tell how many times a kid has almost crashed into my lens not to mention hiking in rocky and brushy places. It makes your camera look fully dressed too.
10. Celebrate your work. Costco, iPhoto, Shutterfly, and more all have great options for creating high quality photo books. These serve as a great memory and awesome gift for the grandparents.