I love Instagram. It’s my social media platform of choice because it’s not in your face or shouty – you can just go for a nice gentle scroll without feeling like you’re being sucked on by a time vampire. I follow all sorts of accounts – friends, companies making awesome kids clothing and toys, other photographers – and I’m always interested to see what they’ve been up to.
If Instagram proves anything, it’s what you can do with the camera on your phone. Phone photography is a booming genre because, not only is everyone a phone photographer, but the cameras available on phones are really bloody good! If you have a current iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. But while we’re snapping away at our daily lives, I have some basic photography tips to help you get the best out of your smartphone camera.
This is my number one tip when photographing kids. If you’re photographing young children from your regular height you’ll just see your ordinary perspective. You might not see so much of their features, because of the height difference. However, if you get down on your knees, or even lay on the ground, you’ll start to see the world from their perspective.
Don’t ask them to pose!
Even as a professional photographer this is something I rarely do. I am not a poser, and I am not a people poser either. I prefer unposed photographs because they show real life, and with kids that means all the wonderful expressions and silly moments can be preserved by you and your camera. Those natural, spontaneous facial expressions don’t happen when you’re ordering them to stand still and smile, so do something different.
Engage them in an activity
This is my go to plan for successful family photography sessions. Whether it’s kicking a ball around outside, playing clapping games or telling jokes, there are lots of things you can do that get kids giggling and keep them in a good mood for long enough to take some beautiful family photos. This tactic ensures ample opportunity for funny moments and lovely expressions, and avoids the above point – problematic posing.
Pay attention to the light
It’s important to have enough light to illuminate your subject – particularly their face. There’s little point to setting up a good shot if your kid’s face is in shadow! There are few things you can do to alleviate this problem. You could get them to shift a few degrees, or find a better spot, or you could find something reflective to bounce natural light back on to them. A large piece of card wrapped in tin foil does the trick, as does a piece of plain white paper. But the difference between a properly lit photo and an shadowy subject is phenomenal.
Don’t use flash
This is personal preference, but I just find flash far too directional. Whenever I accidentally use it my kids’ play gets interrupted because it’s so bright! If you must use the flash on your phone, try covering it with a small piece of baking parchment or masking tape to help diffuse it a bit. Some on board cameras are so sophisticated that you can manually adapt the settings. It’s worth exploring this if you find your photos are coming out quite dark, as increasing the ISO number will help inject some light. Otherwise, you’re better off waiting until the natural light is good, or using something reflecting in conjunction with whatever lighting is available where you are.
Use the focus ring!
Forget blurry pictures, they’re a throwback to the analogue age. This is really simple, and you’re probably already doing it. But in case you don’t know, you can direct your phone to focus on a particular area by tapping the screen. It’s simple, but seriously effective.
The main thing to remember when you’re taking photos of your kids is why you’re taking the photo. By all means, you’re free experiment and get artsy with light, but if you follow the tips above you’ll be well on your way to some awesome family photos. Photos that show the details that we’re apt to forget with the passage of time, the feelings we get from being with our kids, and the moments we never want to forget.
If you want to get more adventurous there are some great options for tripods and clip on lenses, all built especially for smartphones. Any photos you take with your phone can be printed, but I wouldn’t go bigger than a 10×8 inch print. And, as always, try to source prints from bonafide print labs (the quality difference is incredible).