Photography for parents: Five tips to photographing your children inside your home

The other day I offered tips on where you can take your children outside of your home to capture memorable photographs of them. Today I want to assure you that you can also photograph your children inside your own home, no matter how dark or cluttered you think it is.

DSC_9625The key word in this post will be “light”, because no matter what your house offers in the way of light you will need light to make your photographs dynamic and interesting. Luckily you can almost always find a way to add more light to a situation and document the moment naturally unfolding before you.

Here are five ideas how to capture better photographs of your children inside your own home:

1) Move them to the light. If you can move them without ruining the moment that is even better. One idea is to encourage your child, or children, to move to an area of the house where there is more light before they begin their activity. This can be in a more lit room, near a window, by an open door or next to a lamp. Of course there is no need to share with them why you are asking them to move their activities elsewhere because, like most children, then they won’t do it.

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2) Get more light on the situation.

You can add more light to your scene in a variety of ways. A few ways include adding a speed light to your camera and bouncing the flash off a light colored surface (preferably white so you don’t pick up the hue of the wall or ceiling), increasing your ISO, widening your aperture, or simply opening some curtains or pointing a light in the direction of your scene or subject. Turning the lights on in a room won’t always provide flattering light, but this is an option. In some cases turning the light on in a room will actually cause your photos to look even worse because you will pick up what is called ambient light (the light in the room) and it could give your subject odd colored skin, either too orange or too blue depending on what kind of light is used to light the room.

DSC_1444-EditWhen it comes to flash, I rarely use the flash that came built into my camera as it often creates unflattering, blown out images of subjects with red, glowing eyes. Instead I use a speed light and bounce the flash off of a wall or ceiling to better light the scene. To learn more about using bounce flash you can read here or watch here.

Of course, if your skills are even more advanced you can use strobe lights or another form or off camera flash or lighting, but that is another post for another day.

3) Watch your backgrounds.

Don’t stop the action but if you can stealthy move the distracting element from behind your subjects then do it, even if you have to ninja roll to push the lamp out of the way. Of course, if you are like me and were born without the athletic gene it might be more distracting if you attempt to move the item and lock your back up in the middle of the ninja roll and start screaming in pain. In the instance where you can’t move the item try to move yourself so the object is out of the view of your camera. If you’re knowledgeable in Photoshop then you could also clone the object out of the background.

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5) Get in close or move further back and try different angles.

Don’t be afraid to move in closer to your subjects, but moving further back (if there is room where you are) can capture environmental portraits or show the viewer what is really happening around the subject. Trying different distances and angles can help add unique and eye catching images for the viewer but also help you to really remember the moment and the details around it.

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Bonus tip: let go of your expectations of perfection

This bonus tip is the most important of all the tips and is one you should keep in mind no matter where you are photographing your children. It is also the most difficult tip for me to put into practice, even though I know how important it is.

Children are never going to do exactly what we envision when it comes to photographs of them so we need to accept that our photographs won’t always come out the way we envisioned it in our mind. Sometimes the photo may be even better than what we imagined.

Letting go of my expectations is hard for me because as a photographer I see what I want to capture in my mind and if it doesn’t unfold the way I imagined then I may begin feel discouraged and disenchanted with the moment.

Unfortunately, if we focus too much on our concept of a perfect photo it can lead us to miss precious, camera worthy moments.

Approaching photographs with your children while having the mindset that you are there to document moments, no matter how they unfold, can help make photographing your children more relaxing, enjoyable and memorable for you and them.

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Five places to capture memorable photos of your children

DSC_3155You’re thinking to yourself right now – I’m sure you are – that your house is too dark for photos of your children and that your flash is unflattering and makes your children look albino (which isn’t bad if you are an actual albino, of course.)

So, where can you take photographs of your children that you will cherish for years to come if you don’t believe you can take them at home? (And actually you can take them at home and I’ll tell you how in my next post.)

There is nothing better than being able to distract your child, and maybe even you, with something fun so you can photograph them while they are in action and you are all relaxed. Here are five ideas where to take your children for some photographs of them that you will want to frame and put on your wall or print out to place in your scrapbooks.

1) A local playground. Here is the key about taking photographs of your children at the local playground: don’t try to pose them. In fact, not trying to pose them anywhere is probably the biggest key to child photography. Strict posing of young children often results in disaster and that disaster usually includes tears. Sometimes tears are acceptable for photographs, if you want to capture the emotion of the moment, but minimizing them is always desirable.

If you want photographs of your children as they really are, let them play and photograph them as they play, whether that’s getting messy in the mud or sliding down the slide. Are you looking for a photograph of them looking right at the camera? Well, then get that camera ready because without a doubt they’re going to need mommy or daddy at some point and they are going to turn and look for you and, consequently right at you. And if they don’t? Calling their name once or twice will, sometimes, result in them turning their face toward you. The moment they turn is when you snap the photo you want because as all parents know, asking for them to stop and pose for you may result in cheesy smiles or, worse yet, shakes of the head.

 

2) A hiking trail.

Not only are you all exploring and experiencing nature but the natural backgrounds and soft lighting created on many hiking trails is the perfect setting for memorable images of your children. If you’re a homeschooling parent, and even if you’re not, you can also make the excursion an educational one by learning more about the plants and trees and animals you encounter.

A couple tips: make sure to protect yourselves from ticks (as Lyme Disease carrying ticks are very prevalent in many areas of the United States, especially Pennsylvania and especially in 2018.); wear protection from the sun; bring water, a snack and a first aid kit; and read up on what those poisonous plants, like poison ivy and oak, and poisonous snakes look like!

One other tip for hiking trails: expect a mess at some point so try to grab your photographs early in the hike if you’re looking for photographs of “clean” children. I have no concept of a “clean child” in my family so this one isn’t a concern for me, luckily, and I just roll with the mud and the wet moments that are sure to occur.

_DSC08493) Museums.

Your local, or even not so local, museum is a great place to learn about history or art and photograph your children. Not only can a museum provide dynamic and interesting backgrounds but it can also provide faces looking up at paintings (great lighting and a good look at the face for the scrapbooks), colorful backgrounds and children engaged in hands on learning experiences.

Visiting a local museum is also a great way to support local art, history, science, whatever the museum features. Tip: be sure to double check for any signs that might prohibit photography in certain areas and again, like other excursions, take snacks (if they are allowed) to be sure you aren’t stuck with photographing hunger-induced meltdowns.

 

4) Small fairs or art shows.

Almost everything about a small, community fair or art show lends itself to stellar photographs of your children that capture their true personalities. There are rides (laughing faces), games (winning faces), food (messy faces), and sometimes animals (sweet faces). Yes, you may have noticed a theme in that previous sentence because capturing the face of your child is what this is all about after all.

As is the case in other locations, be sure to watch your backgrounds so you don’t end up with the creepy looking dude at the fair standing in the background of the smiling image of your little one.

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5) Ice cream stand.

Nothing makes a kid happier than dairy and sugar, unless, of course they are lactose intolerant. Actually, in all seriousness, my son is lactose intolerant and he takes enzymes that allow him to digest dairy, so the lactose intolerant still can enjoy a trip to the ice cream stand and you can photograph your children while they are in one place, slightly confined and entranced by their frozen treat. Fun images to capture are their ice cream mustaches and their first few licks when the ice cream is bigger than their head.

Bonus: if the ice cream stand has a miniature golf course with it! Even more fun photos can be taken while they play through the course a couple of times.

A couple closing thoughts to keep in mind before you head out the door for photographs with your children:

– make sure your camera battery is not only charged, but in the camera.

– make sure your digital camera has a memory card.

– If you are using a phone, make sure you have a full battery charge or bring a car charger with you.

– try to get yourself in a couple of the photographs so your children know you were there too.

And last, don’t worry if your child doesn’t look at the camera in every photograph. Photographs of children not looking at a camera but still having a good time, laughing or loving each other will still provide great memories for them and their family as they grow.

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Tuesday tips for mom: Avoid saying ‘Look at the camera’

Every other Tuesday I will be offering practical photography tips for  moms who don’t consider themselves a photographer but still want to visually record the everyday lives of their children. These are merely tips or suggestions, not rules to follow. You should record your photographic memories for you in your own way and hopefully these suggestions will help give you ideas on how to do that.

For more photography tips see my What to Capture series. Other articles in the Tuesday Photography Tips for moms can be found in the Tips link at the top of the page or by clicking HERE.

If you are hoping to grab realistic, authentic images of your children, one tip I have is to avoid always asking them to look at the camera. 

I very rarely ask my children to look at the camera when I am photographing them. I prefer any image I take of a child to be as natural as possible, capturing their real personality. From my experience, children who are asked to look at a camera become self conscious or goofy, which sometimes is the enemy of authenticity.

Think about all the thoughts that race through your mind when someone suggests you look at a camera. Do you find your smiles and reaction forced? That reaction can be the same for children, though they might not think as much about what their hair looks like or how fat they look in their jeans. Instead, children think about putting on a show or being as silly as possible. Silly photographs and expressions are fun for a few photographs, but they won’t always show your child’s true personality.

You will actually find in most cases that a child will look at you even without you asking and that’s when you click the shutter.

Always be ready for the perfect photograph and perfect moment when you’re taking time to try to capture photographs of your children. 

Photographing them as they are engaged in an activity they enjoy, or interacting with someone they love, can create more authentic images of your children and also keep them more relaxed.  Their expressions when they do look at you will be less forced and more natural. 

Some ideas for activities to  help keep your child relaxed and capture authentic images,  maybe even a few looking at the camera, include:

  • Taking a walk in a park;
  • playing at a playground
  • jumping in the Fall leaves
  • interacting with their friends or a family member
  • place a loved one behind you as you photograph
  • swimming
  • hiking

 

 

 

Lisa R. Howeler is a wife and mom living in a small town located in northern Pennsylvania, less than a mile from the New York State border. She is a photographer, writer, chocolate lover, and one of those Jesus freaks your mama warned you about. Find her online at http://www.lisahoweler.com; www.instagram.com/lisahoweler; and Facebook, www.facebook.com/lisahoweler.

 

Tuesday photography tips for moms: Get on their level | Athens, PA photographer

Every other Tuesday I will be offering practical photography tips for  moms who don’t consider themselves a photographer but still want to visually record the everyday lives of their children. These are merely tips or suggestions, not rules to follow. You should record your photographic memories for you in your own way and hopefully these suggestions will help give you ideas on how to do that.

For more photography tips see my What to Capture series. Other articles in the Tuesday Photography Tips for moms can be found in the Tips link at the top of the page or by clicking HERE.

This week my photography tips for moms (and dads for that matter) is to “get on their level.” In other words, when you photograph your child try to take less photos looking down on them, unless it is for an artistic reason. We’ve all done it – snapped a cellphone photo from our level and our child’s head looks huge and their feet small. This perspective can be used artistically but when used all the time it isn’t visually interesting ad doesn’t accurately portray your child for you future memories.

The looking down angle is great if you want to convey how small your child is in the big world or in comparison to the size of something or someone, for example, but it isn’t great when you miss out on a great expression your child has or an interesting activity your child is involved in.

 

My challenge to you is when you start to photograph your child as they are engaged in play or an activity, kneel or sit down or even lay down so your eye level is close to your child’s. Not only will this create a more compelling image that will bring viewers of your image into your child’s world,  it will also literally bring you into your child’s world. You will not only be on your child’s level with photography as a goal but with personal interaction being a result. 

Have you ever imagined what it is like for a child who has to always look up to see his or her parents? Not only is it probably bad for their spine alignment (don’t quote me on that, of course, instead ask your chiropractor) it creates an emotional distance between child and parent. Children are often delighted when Mom or Dad kneels down and looks them in the eye and actually converses with them instead of talking at them. 

In relation to photography, an image which creates eye contact with the viewer helps the viewer to see more of the subject’s true personality and see not only a pretty face but also, maybe, a little of the child’s soul.

I’m not a fan of asking a child to look at a camera because I find that causes them to either fake a smile or put on a show and not reveal their true selves. I catch most of my eye-contact photos when the child looks toward me or someone behind me.

Even if the child isn’t looking right into the camera, being down at the child’s level can create layers within your photograph that tell a story about what activity your child was engaged in.

Photographs taken from above, looking down, or from above, even looking up, have their place as well, so I’m not saying never take them (especially since I do all the time). We will discuss how different angles and perspectives in photographs tell a story in future posts. 

 

If you have any questions or comments,  feel free to comment below, contact me via the contact page or email me at lisahoweler@gmail.com.


Lisa R. Howeler is a wife and mom living in a small town located in northern Pennsylvania, less than a mile from the New York State border. She is a photographer, writer, chocolate lover, and one of those Jesus freaks your mama warned you about. Find her online at http://www.lisahoweler.com; www.instagram.com/lisahoweler; and Facebook, www.facebook.com/lisahoweler.
 

What to Capture: Tips for photographing birthday parties

This is the debut of a new feature on my blog called What to Capture. This feature will offer tips to moms who want to document their child or children’s life through photography.

I am aiming these posts at moms because often it is the mom who enjoys capturing the everyday life of her children but these tips, of course, can be for dads as well.

My main message behind each of these posts can easily be described in four words: 
don’t forget the details, or if you are into non-catchy acronyms: DFTD.

This week’s What to Capture focus is birthday parties.

When photographing your child’s next birthday party don’t forget the details you might want to remember later. Will you want to remember him or her blowing out the candles on the cake? Certainly! Opening gifts? Yes! Playing with his friends? Of course! 
But don’t forget to get in close too. Capture her smile as she sees the cake. Photograph her hands unwrapping a gift so you never forget how little she was. Document him laughing with his friends so he and his friends have memories of their friendships.
Do you want photos of the streamers or balloons or other decorations? Probably not, unless they have some sort of emotional connection to that time in your child’s life – for example he loved batman and the piñata was a huge Batmobile
Of course you don’t want to miss out on experiencing the day yourself so if you want to live more in the moment hire a professional photographer to photograph those moments or ask an extended family member or friend to help you document the day. If you do hire a photographer don’t be afraid to jot down the checklist of images you are interested in and politely ask the photographer to capture those specific moments or items. Many photographers will not mind if you offer them your ideas for what moments are important because they understand these are your memories.
If you are the photographer for the day, making a checklist for yourself is always helpful to ensure you don’t forget any important moments.
And, remember, if you take the photos yourself, don’t forget to put the camera down periodically and remember to live in the moment, soaking in the feelings you have as you watch your child celebrate turning a year older.

Birthday party photo checklist suggestions:

  • The guests arriving;
  • The children playing;
  • Your child blowing out the candle;
  • Wider photo of your child preparing to blow out candles so you can capture faces of the guests;
  • The decorations, if they have an emotional significance for that particular time in your child’s life. 
  • Your child opening a few gifts;
  • Your child’s reaction to gifts;
  • Your child playing games;
  • A group photo of your child and their guests
  • You and your spouse and any siblings with the birthday child.’