I am pretty good at taking pictures of my kids in everyday situations, if you want to see a gorgeous picture of them eating breakfast on a Wednesday (not sure why you would) then you’re in luck, but finding a beautiful picture of my children on Christmas day is another story.
I think it’s because there is so much hectic, you know? Mess and movement and quick-get-a-photo-ness, it’s hard to focus – pun intended.
Even though I have honed my snap-ography skills (do you like that one?) I totally forget to apply them when it comes to special events so I have put together a list of things to help parents get the great shots this Christmas whether we’re using a phone camera or a super fancy DSLR.
1. Look for the light
If you’re only going to read one of these tips then it needs to be this one. Light is your friend. Correction; soft natural light is your friend. What does this mean? Well basically when it comes to taking portraits, unless you’re a profesh photographer, stay away from synthetic light and flashes. And when it comes to natural light you want to aim for the type of light that doesn’t cast a harsh shadow. So for outside pictures; cloudy days, early morning and late afternoons are going to give you the best results and for inside ones it really is as simple as opening all the curtains when fun stuff like present unwrapping is happening.
If you want to get really fancy you could also consider the light levels where you set the kids up for craft or to put together their new toys. Could the table be moved a little closer to the window so you can get a well-lit concentration-face portrait?
2. Use your phone camera carefully
Camera phones are awesome, seriously, some of my favourite pictures ever are taken on my phone but there are some simple things you’re probably doing wrong if your pictures are coming out badly.
Firstly, read the first point again and stop using your phone’s flash or trying to take pictures in the dark. Good light is essential.
Next clean the lens. That’s right, get all the sand and lip balm and whatever else is banging around the bottom of your handbag out of it. You will be amazed at the difference.
Finally, you are going to need to hold the camera still while you’re taking the picture. (I’m talking to you, Mum.) You know when the image looks blurry and you blame the kids for moving too much? Look at the background, is the shelf behind them also blurry? If so the problem could actually lie in the stabby motion you’re using to press the button. Try a more gentle approach and see what happens.
3. Clear the background
If you want a gorgeous group picture of the cousins or one of your little person holding their new toy, think about the background. Is there a couch that is against a plain wall for the kids to sit? Can you park your kid and bike in front of a plain-coloured fence? This will draw attention to the focal point of the picture.
For the more spontaneous portraits just take a second to sweep the area (not literally) behind the action to make sure that there aren’t any random shoes or packets of wet wipes. Wrapping paper and toys will add to an opening presents portrait, but last night’s bath towel may subtract.
4. Explore less traditional framing
That’s right, get a bit arty and try some different things. Go crazy, we don’t have to preserve film anymore.
Think aerial shots, get behind them or frame a portrait so it has lots of sky in it and only shows the top half of the child. Zoom in on some chubby toes standing in crinkled wrapping paper or a little hand touching a tree ornament. An amazing photographer once told me to either get up really close for the details or get really far away and take in the whole scene, but avoid the boring middle. I thought it was great advice.
5. Set it up and break the rules
There are lots of beautiful pictures that are taken in the moment but others are amazing because there has been a bit of thought put into them. The above portrait of my lady was totally orchestrated. She fell asleep in the car with face paint on so I carried her into my room, pulled the blue doona off the bed so the white sheet could be the background, pulled open all the curtains for light, (yes I’m aware not many kids would sleep through this) and took the pic with my phone. Sure I ended up with face paint all over my bed and she woke up soon after but it is one of my favourite pictures of her ever and it was so worth it.
If she falls asleep on Christmas day (snow would be more likely) I want to recreate this one but with her new toys all around her. Breaking rules makes for great pictures so let them jump on the bed or stand on the counter and get snapping!
Plus! Congratulations for reading all the way to the end – here are your bonus tips!
- Beautiful moments outshine any sort of photography prowess so just get snapping even if the light is crap, the background is messy and you’ve had too many champagnes to keep still.
- If you’re trying to get young kids to line up for a picture it is never going to work so just say, “hey guys, lets have a race to see how quickly you can line up in front of this fence.” You should be able to get a few good shots if you suddenly yell “smile!”
- If you are a fan of the filter, download VSCO Cam photography app. Beautiful (and not at all tacky) filters galore.
Make a list of the shots you want to take on Christmas day and tell us how you go!
More Tips for Taking Pictures:
- How to Have a Great Family Photo Session
- 23 Tips On How to Take Photos of Fast-Moving Children
- How To Be a Sharp Shooter
Images: Barbara O’Reilly