Thursday, January 30, 2014

5 Tips for Taking Better Pictures of Your Kids

Last week I had the opportunity to teach a class on photo journaling, which ended up being a lot of fun! 
I don't claim to know everything there is to know on the subject, but the truth is I take a ton of pictures of my kids and I have learned a few things along the way that I would be happy to share with you. 

My motto is
You only regret the pictures you don’t take.

Our children are literally growing up before our eyes. A photograph is the only thing in the world that can literally stop the hands of time.  At least once a day I find myself thinking, "This is one of those moments. I want to remember you forever, exactly how you are RIGHT NOW. " When someone leaves us, all we have left are our memories, which will eventually fade... and pictures.

Don't keep your camera in the closet. It won't do you any good there! Out of sight, out of mind.  And it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a great camera. ANY picture is better than no picture at all. 
Get out your camera. Learn to use it. And use it often.

Soap box over.
Let's jump in!

Tip #1- Change your perspective

Jump up and move around. At first you may feel a little silly, but eventually it becomes second nature and you won't even bat an eye before laying down in the wood chips at the park so you can nail the shot you're going for. :) 
Take risks! Shoot from above, from below, or through something.
Your perspective will completely change the emotion of your image. 
For example I love this shot of my son because it's taken from my own perspective. It captures my view of his darling little feet dangling off the edge of his stroller as we walk to the park. 

Take some shots from your subject’s perspective, like looking over their shoulder at what they are working on. Try to see the world through their eyes.

Tip #2- Details. 
My FAVORITE thing about lifestyle photography is capturing little details that are so often overlooked. 

The chubby knees of a toddler, a child holding their favorite toy, or teeny wrinkly newborn feet that just don't stay that way for long.

"Details" can also refer to the little moments in day to day life. 

The quiet moments that you may not usually get out the camera for... those are the moments that make up a life time. Why not document them?

Even the messy details create beautiful memories. Don’t be afraid of an unmade bed, a pile of laundry, or a messy house! 
That being said, if the mess isn’t part of the story, it’s okay to tidy up a little, or open up the curtains and let some light in. The other day I walked past my kids' room and found my oldest child reading to her little brother and sisters. It was so sweet, and I wanted to snap a picture but the room was pretty dark. I left the camera in the hall, walked in and quietly opened the blinds and then left. A few minutes later I was able to sneak back in and snap a few pictures without disturbing the moment. I always try to go unnoticed so that I can get real emotions and interactions in my pictures instead of the dreaded "CHEESE" smile. 

Tip #3- Tell the story
 When recording an event, like playtime, game night, building a snowman, or celebrating at a birthday party… tell the whole story. Don’t just take a picture of the end result. Think of what details you want to remember about the experience, and go from there. 

These pictures are priceless to me, and it really only took a few extra minutes of my time to document our afternoon together. Did you notice the playlist on my ipad? Peppy music is an absolute must while baking cookies, and now when I look back at these pictures in 40 years I'll be able to remember the days when we used to listen to the Frozen soundtrack on repeat for hours on end. I'll also remember the way Noelle used to get impatient waiting for the cookies to be done and start rolling around on the floor, warming up her cold little toes on the oven door. I'll remember our favorite chocolate cookie recipe, and the dance parties in the kitchen, and their little noses pressed up against the oven door.

Think of all the things you never want to forget about this phase in your life. Think about the moments that capture your heart and start there... 
Tell your story.

Tip #4- Capture emotions
And not just the smiley ones. 
 You don't need a smile in every shot. In fact your subject doesn't even need to be looking at you in every shot. 
This is life. It is beautiful and wonderful... but it's not always sunshine lollipops and rainbows. 
Our kids are just like us- they go through hundreds of emotions every day. From goofy to sullen, and ecstatic to thoughtful... I love to capture them all. 
There are a few tricks of the trade that will help you capture more natural expressions.

One of my favorite strategies is to just be a fly on the wall. Either hide out in the hallway, peeking into their bedroom (Sounds creepier than it really is. LoL.) or just sit quietly in the corner with your camera and let your kids go about their activities. Eventually they will forget you're there and you'll get some darling shots (Like the one from our backyard campout above)

Also, for the record- if you ask your kids to say "cheese" you will get exactly that- Cheese.

And last but not least
Tip #5- Embrace the imperfect

 Life does not always go as planned. In fact, in my case it NEVER does. 
There will be mistakes and messes.

Bad haircuts, crazy mornings, and never ending piles of dishes and laundry...

And no matter how many darling outfits you buy them, kids will always choose to wear the strangest thing in their closet. 
But skinned knees and sticky fingers are part of life.
And life is beautiful. 
 Embrace it. 

 photo Heart-Jamie_zps52d56181.jpg

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  1. Love this! Thanks for sharing!

  2. These are fabulous tips and pictures. If I may, I'd like to ask a question. I'm a budding photographer and try not to use flash, but then all my pictures end up blurry and the color tone is WAY too warm. I want to take more pictures, but if I'm not outside they just don't turn out. Any ideas? (Thanks for the reminder about keeping the camera out of the cabinet...big offender right here!)

    1. Thanks Rachel! And yes, getting just the right white balance indoors is tricky. I have a few off camera flashes, but I don't like to use them either. It's hard to really answer your question without knowing more about which settings you are using, but I will just say that light is EVERYTHING. I try to shoot near windows, and sometimes I'll even open the front door to let extra light in. However, that's not always possible. My best advice is to get to know your camera's manual settings. I always set a custom white balance, and then tweak it in Lightroom afterwards if I need to. Same thing goes for getting sharp images- you'll have to bump up your ISO in order to keep your shutter speed fast. (Which is a must when working with little ones who are constantly on the go!) There are a lot of great websites out there that can help you become more familiar with your camera, check out for some great tips! Good luck to you! Thanks for stopping by! :)

  3. I still don't have kids, but I love your comments about embracing the messy parts of life. As I look back on some of my favorite photos, they're of the piles of laundry and dusty corners because they remind me I was busy living. Thanks, Jamie!



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