10 Tips to Take Better Photos of Your Kids with an iPhone or DSLR
We have a lot of roles as moms. We’re the comforters, the protectors, the teachers, and often times, the one’s tasked with photographing and documenting our family’s memories. Taking pictures of our kids is important. Telling our family’s story is important.
Photography provides us a way to revisit a single moment in time and relive it over and over again. It allows us to remember the small details that we never want to forget and provides us with the opportunity for us to document our children’s childhood. It gives us physical reminders of who we are, where we’ve come from, and what’s important.
So what happens when all you have is a smart phone or maybe an beginner level craigslist DSLR camera? Can you still do the job justice?
I honestly believe you can. I think it’s absolutely doable to take better photos, regardless of your photography gear. It’s really important to be intentional about learning HOW to document your family in a beautiful way. It’s not just going to happen. Even the most expensive DSLR camera on the market isn’t going to magically just take great pictures. I believe if you’re willing to be intentional and put in a little bit of time, you can learn to take incredible photos of your family and make photography a natural part of your everyday life.
Here are 10 tips you can use to take better pictures of your kids - even if you don’t have a fancy camera!
1. Find the magic in your everyday
Sometimes, when we’re knee deep in diapers and sleep deprivation, we can lose sight of how incredible these days are. We can’t help but put our heads down and push through – constantly looking towards the next season, thinking it will be easier and better. Photography does something to you, though. It causes you to dig deep. To slow down. It causes you to see.
Let photography help you slow down. Let it help you see the magic of your everyday. Think of the things your kids do that make your heart burst. Think of the everyday family routines you never want to end. These things are the magic of your everyday. The little details. The seemingly ordinary moments that make up your days and eventually your years.
If you want to know how and why I see the magic in my everyday, you can read my ‘Why,’ here: How Losing our baby changed my life, my motherhood, and my lens.”
Pick a day and make a list of all the things you are thankful for. Don’t just include broad things like “family.” Get specific. What things throughout your day are you really truly thankful for that maybe tend to go unnoticed? These are the things that you should be taking pictures of.
2. Make photography a part of your everyday
Taking better pictures doesn’t have to be some huge unrealistic time commitment. Photography can be incorporated throughout your day in a natural, unburdened way with a few simple habits.
Keep your phone memory uncluttered so that you always have enough storage to take pictures when the time comes. Back up your photos often and then delete them off your phone. Google photos is an amazing tool – It offers a ton of free storage and after you use it once, you can set it to automatically back up your photos for you.
Keep your phone (or your camera) somewhere nearby and easily accessible. This will probably already be your habit if your phone is your main camera, but keeping it close will alleviate missing photo opportunities. I keep my camera hanging by the door with a clean memory card and a fully charged battery at all times so that I can quickly grab it if I notice a photo opportunity.
Start picking 2-3 things each week that you want to document about your family. An example may be that you really want to take a picture of the way your baby looks when they’re asleep. Keep this in mind throughout the week and when a good opportunity arises, take the picture. Having an idea of what pictures you may want to take will help you be more intentional.
My heart is for you to have images of your everyday that you take yourself, with whatever camera you have available to you, whether it’s an old iPhone or an entry level DSLR camera.
If you love taking pictures of your kids but don’t have this whole photography thing totally figured out – I created a free course just for you!
3. Understand your camera and use what you have to it’s full potential
The basic difference between a phone camera and a DSLR camera is the amount of control you have over the settings. In really simple terms, a DSLR allows you to control how fast the picture is taken, how much light you allow into the photo, and how sensitive the camera is to light. You have to understand these settings and how they interact with each other to be able to take a good photo with a DSLR. It can be pretty tricky and takes a lot of practice to master.
A smartphone camera gives you less control over the settings but significantly simplifies the process. Most smartphones have pretty incredible built-in settings and features that make the photo capabilities rival that of many DSLRs. The trick is knowing how to use the camera you have to it’s full potential.
There is a saying among photographers – the camera doesn’t make the photographer, the photographer makes the photographer.
You could have the most expensive camera on the market, but if you don’t know how to use it or use the light around you, your pictures will be awful. On the flip side, if you understand basic photography techniques, you can make beautiful images with just your phone camera.
Don’t feel sorry for yourself because you don’t have a $3000 camera. Change your mindset. Be intentional and learn how to use the camera you do have. Become an expert at taking pictures with the gear you have available to you and I promise you’ll be ecstatic with your photos.
I wrote a post with 10 ways to take a better iPhone photo that you can see HERE.
4. Get Creative with your Composition
Composition is the way you arrange your photo. It’s being intentional and thoughtful with the way you take your picture and where your subject is in the frame. You may hear photographers refer to the ‘Rules of Composition.’ They are basically just guidelines for taking creative photos that draw the viewers eye to the subject. Composition is an easy way to take better photos.
One of the easiest rules of composition is called the rule of thirds. If you’ve never heard of this, do a quick google search and you’ll find a ton of quick explanations.
A Few Easy Tricks:
Always make sure your photos are straight. Pick a vertical or horizontal line within the image and use it as a guide. It’s much easier to do this before you take the picture, but if you forget, you can always correct this while you edit.
Think of ways to make your photos more creative. Get closer or further away from your subject. Take pictures at your subjects eye level. Take pictures from above or below.
5. Understand Light
Lighting is one of the most important elements of photography. It can make or break your photo, so it’s important to understand it.
There are different types of light, the most well-known is during the early morning or evening when the sun is just coming up or just starting to go down. This is called /Golden Hour,’ because the sun is casting a golden glow onto everything. This is one of the prettiest types of lighting.
The easiest type of lighting to use as a beginner and especially if you’re using your smartphone, is even light. Get out of the sunlight and take your photo in the shade. This alleviates having to worry about the sun or your angles.
Don’t only shoot in shade though. Start there, but once you feel like you’ve mastered the easy light, move on to more challenging lighting situations.
As moms, we are often taking pictures in our homes. Indoor photography tends to be more challenging than outdoor photography because the lighting isn’t as bright inside. It’s really important to study the lighting in your home.
Pick a day and walk through every room of your home each hour throughout the day. Take note of the lighting in each room. Don’t exclude places like bathrooms with windows or the garage. These are two of my favorite places to find beautiful light.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to take pictures with artificial light. Artificial light casts a yellow glow onto everything and causes photos to look unnatural. One of the easiest ways to transform your photos is to turn off all of the artificial lights and open the curtains to let natural light in.
6. Learn How to Edit
The ability to edit your photos gives you so much creative freedom. A good edit can transform a photo and bring out so much life to an otherwise uninteresting picture. Editing is a skill. It takes a while to get a good eye for it. Practice makes perfect ?
My favorite editing apps are VSCO, Lightroom, and Snapseed. Go download one or all of these and play around with them. If you’re new to editing apps, start with VSCO and play around with the free filters and adjustments.
Everyone edits differently, but I personally try to edit as true to life as possible. My goal as I edit is to enhance the photo, but to do so honestly.
Many big time Instagrammers use the A6 filter in VSCO. It’s a beautiful filter and has a film look to it. Personally, I tend to use HB2 because I think it fits my photography style better.
Lightroom gives you a lot of control over the colors in your photo. It’s a really powerful editing app and you can do a ton with it.
Snapseed has a feature called ‘draw’ where you can select specific parts of the photo to edit while leaving the remaining parts of the photo untouched. This is such a useful tool and I use it often.
If you ever need editing help, I frequently do editing tutorials over on Instagram! I also sell editing presets, which is what I used to edit the photo below :) Presets are basically one click edits that streamline your editing process and give your photos a cohesive feel. You can get them HERE.
7. Get in the Frame
If you’ve spent any time with me here or on Instagram, you know that I am a big promoter of getting in pictures with your kids.
I know how easy it is to feel self-conscious in photos. I know it’s much easier to hide behind the camera.
Don’t let the insecurities get in the way of taking pictures with your kids.
It may surprise you that the more often you get in pictures, the more confident you’ll become. You’ll start to see yourself differently – and you should. Mama, you are so beautiful. You are strong and you are loved. Your kids adore you. You deserve to have pictures that capture that. Don’t shy away from the camera. Get in there!
I’ve written an entire tutorial to make this less daunting for you. You can read it HERE.
8. Develop a Consistent Photography Style
Have you ever been scrolling Instagram, seen a photo, and without looking at the name you know exactly who took the picture? This is because this person has developed their own personal photography ‘style.’
This is an example of a really beautiful photography style + cohesive Instagram feed by my friend Elyse.
A few popular photography styles are bright and airy, dark and moody, minimalist or busy etc. There isn’t a right or wrong and you shouldn’t feel pressured to fit into anyone else’s mold. Some of my favorite photographers are the one’s who go completely wild with their styles and create images that are like none other.
Start a Pinterest board with photos, colors, and tones that stand out to you. Take note of the way you decorate your home or the colors you choose to wear. These things can tell you a lot about your ‘style’ and will help you develop an honest photography style that is true to who you are. You can see my Inspiration board HERE as an example.
It takes time to develop your own style and there is a lot of trial and error. Don’t be discouraged if you try something for a few weeks and then decide you don’t really care for it anymore. You’ll find yourself continually tweaking and improving upon your style. You’ll continue to get better and feel more confident in your ability to create.
I wrote an entire post to help you figure out what your photography style is and how to make your photos look consistent. You can read it HERE.
9. Don’t make your kids pose every time
Every kid is going to be different and their age needs to be considered. My biggest tip for cooperation is to make taking pictures as easy going as possible. Letting your kids just be themselves will allow you to capture their true personalities. If you let them be, you will be able to capture so many of their different emotions and their true personalities.
Because my camera is always easily accessible, if I see something picture worthy or the lighting is really beautiful, I can grab it real quick and snap a few pictures.
Try to limit yourself to just a few minutes and then put it away.
For babies and toddlers, I don’t recommend trying to pose them in any specific way. Try placing a few toys in a spot that is getting good light. Let your baby do their own thing with their toys and take pictures while they play. When I do this with my son, I usually walk away with several pictures that I LOVE. While he plays I’ll occasionally make him giggle by singing a funny song or making a silly noise. For the majority of the time though, I try to just leave him alone and take pictures as he plays.
A common issue with little kids is getting them to hold still long enough to get an in-focus picture. Try putting them in something that contains them a little more, like their highchair or the bathtub. One of my favorite places is our kitchen sink! I have taken some of my favorite photos while my son is playing during a sink bath.
For older kids, you can make a game out of taking pictures. Another great trick is to let them do something that is usually against the rules, like jumping on the bed. When you do ask them to pose or do something specific, just be quick and don’t make them take pictures with you for too long.
10. DO something with your photos
Don’t just leave your photos on your phone or computer. Do something with them! Have them printed and hang them throughout your home. I love making photo books using Artifact Uprising. I try to make a big book at the end of every year with all of my favorite photos. Another great option is to use Chatbooks. You can set up an account and link your social media accounts. It will automatically add your photos to an album and turn it into a book once you reach 60 pictures. You can edit them or just have them sent as is. Easy peasy!
Bonus: Know When to Put the Camera Down:
When my son was born, I was terrified that I was going to miss an opportunity to capture a moment with him. He was growing so quickly and changing everyday. I was terrified that I was going to miss something or forget something. I read this quote by Ann Voskamp and I have been so thankful for these words, because I think it has saved me so much mom-guilt.
“All the moments a mother never captured on film – isn’t perhaps a failing, but a relaxing into fully being in that moment. They say that you can tell as much about a life by the photographs that weren’t taken as those that were. There doesn’t have to be fear of missing. Moments don’t need to be captured as much as they need to be enjoyed. There’s ridiculous freedom and glory in courage like this.”
Be encouraged mama. Pick up your camera and capture your babies. Be intentional and practice taking good photos so that the time you do use your camera is worthwhile. Spend the rest of your time living in the moments with your family. Don’t ever be afraid to put your camera down and just plain love on your babies. You won’t ever regret being fully immersed in moments with them.
Wanna go all in?
You don’t have to be a professional to take beautiful, story-telling photos. The Portraits of Us course will show you how.
Portraits of Us is a comprehensive online course that will walk you through every step of how to take pictures and equip you to take beautiful photos.