Everyone's got a camera today, and that means lots and lots of photos are being taken at all times. How does your family capture memories? Are Instagram and your mobile device your go-to? Or, do you have a top-of-the-line DSLR? No matter which end of the spectrum you're on, I'll bet you've got the same photography challenges as every other parent: how to catch one not blurry moment of your kiddos as they run around, or how to manage that one shot without the tongue sticking out!
My name is Alexis Buatti-Ramos, and I am the staff photographer for The New Victory Theater. My father was a professional photographer so growing up, I was always modeling for this, that and the other thing. Once I began working at the New Vic, I was able to hone my photography skills and found my passion for photographing kids. My ultimate goal is to give kids and families the same joy that I feel when I see the portraits my father took of me, my sister and my family.
Today, I'll share some tricks I picked up along the way, which should come in handy whether you've got a young kid who can't sit still or you've got a natural poser in the family! I hope my advice will help you not only avoid tons of blurry photos, but will help you have beautiful images to last a lifetime (even those shot with an iPhone*)!
1. WITHOUT LIGHT THERE IS ONLY DARK: Photography does not exist without light. I see so many parents trying to photograph their children at indoor events with minimal lighting. Remember: non-stop kids + low light = A dark, blurry, grainy photo. If you do have to photograph indoors, try using either a built in/external flash or a tripod if your subject is able to sit still. A flash will help minimize movement in the photo, decreasing motion blur. Conversely, if you are playing outside with the kids, the absolute best times to try and grab that special moment are either early in the morning or just before sunset. The sun is nice and low in the sky during both of those times, eliminating harsh shadows, especially on the face!
2. NOT ALL RULES WERE MEANT TO BE BROKEN: Following the rule of thirds will give your photos greater impact every time. Of course breaking the rules can be fun and artistic, but every artist needs to know the rules before they begin to experiment. To the left is an image that explains the essential "rule of thirds." You can see what looks like a tic-tac-toe board, or the trusty rule of thirds grid. By placing the subject at any of the intersecting points, your composition becomes much more interesting. Composition is not only about where your subject is placed but also what is placed around them. Take time to observe your background and avoid pieces that might look like they're poking out of someone's head, including but not limited to: tree branches, telephone poles, body parts of other humans. A cleaner background will result in a photograph focused on the subject(s).
3. PLAY THE ANGLES: Children are always jumping off things, hanging from branches or rolling around on the ground. So, the best thing you can do is grab the right angle. Here are a few ideas for capturing photos that play with unique angles.
Birds Eye View: Have your kids lay on the grass and stand above them for a fun and silly portrait.
This will also freeze those non-stop kids for a few seconds. Tickling works wonders here... even the thought of mom or dad about to launch into a tickle attack brings on the laughter and, as a result, the natural smiles.
From below: This is great for kids because it makes them look big and powerful. Lay on your stomach or squat down and angle the camera up at your kiddo. (Warning: this will not go over so well with adults.) Have the kids run straight toward you, but make sure you get out of the way before they stomp on your lens! The excitement of
knowing they may crash into you will bring pure joy, which again, means smiles.
Little Subjects, Big World: Don't be afraid to step way back and photograph your child in their environment. Of course, you be the judge as to whether it's safe to step back away from them given your location.
4. DON’T SAY "SMILE," JUST LET KIDS BE KIDS! One of the worst things you can say to a child, especially when they are in the moment is, "Charlie, look here, smile." There will be plenty of opportunities when they are going to pose for you and cheese it up to the camera. Try instead to capture those real, genuine moments and don't worry about your kid looking right at the camera. Even a temper tantrum can turn out cute, organic photos that will remind you of all aspects of your kids' personality in years to come. If you try to get your kid to smile when they are in a funk, I can promise that things will go down-hill faster. Try to naturally get them into a better mood.
(Psst! You didn't hear it from me, but an ice cream bribe never hurts when bringing on the smiles.)
5. PRINT YOUR IMAGES: I feel very strongly about this last tip. Nowadays, everything is digital and photos are just being stored on hard drives, never to be seen again. There are a few services that allow you to make albums out of your iPhone photos-- I like this one. Print those photos, frame them, make photo books... your grandchildren will thank you later.
* Don’t worry about having an expensive camera, you can achieve beautiful photos with your mobile phone. You don’t need photoshop either to get quality editing results. I personally recommend Snapseed for editing your photos. The app is user-friendly and will help you to better understand photo editing terminology!