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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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.
 

How to help your photographer capture natural images of your kids | Athens, PA Child Photographer

This is part of my feature called Tiny Tips Tuesday, where I offer you tiny tips related to photography.
Today I’m going to offer you tips to help your photographer capture the most natural images of your children. I’m sure you’re wondering why I would suggest you “help” your photographer when your paying them to capture the images, but you can make their job easier, which in turn will make the final product worth your money.

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First, two DON’Ts.

DON’T say things like “Timmy, look at the camera…” or “Smile for the camera.” Nothing tenses a child up more than being told to do something and nothing makes them more unlikely to smile than being told to do so. Not  to mention, posed smiles often look forced and uncomfortable. Let the photographer handle capturing that “looking right at the camera” moment, if that’s what you want. Some of the best photos, though, are those where the subject isn’t even looking at the camera. Photographs where a child or person is simply “in the moment,” can mean the most in the future.

DON’T fix their hair and tell them it looks awful right before the photographer takes the photo. Nothing wilts the spirit of a child faster than their parent suggesting they don’t look good enough for their photos. If you must fix their hair, do it with a smile and remind them they are beautiful and you love them. But I’d recommend not even fixing their hair. Let their hair do whatever naturally comes to it, just as your child should be allowed whatever comes to them naturally during a photo session. Letting them be natural will produce the best, most authentic images that will capture your child’s personality, but also your memories of them when you look back on the images years down the road.

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Now three DOs:

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DO laugh with your children. Like Donald O’Connor said in “Singin’ In The Rain” make ’em laugh. Tell them a funny story while your walking or playing and the photographer will capture the result. The laughter will help them relax and a relaxed child is what you most likely want to remember as they grow. The best images are often  those where the subject isn’t paying attention to the camera. What is better for them to pay attention to than their own parent?

DO let your child be a child. Let them climb a tree (if it’s safe) or even stomp in a mud puddle or roll down a hill. If you want your child’s true spirit to be captured then you want to let them be themselves as much as possible.  Let the photographer harness that energy to bring you the best images of your child during that time in their life

DO stay relaxed because children feed off the emotions of their parents and if you are stressed they will feel it and reveal that stress in their images.

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Bottom line: trust your photographer to get the best possible images of your child. If you can’t trust your photographer then you shouldn’t hire them, which brings me to the topic for a future Tiny Tips Tuesday: “How to Choose A Photographer.”

For more Tuesday tips:

Five tips for capturing authentic images of your children