how to : taking great photos of your kids

I’m a self proclaimed #momtog. The whole reason I got into photography was because I wanted to be able to take good photos of our boys. iPhones are fun, super handy and can take amazing photos, but I wanted to challenge myself with something better. There are so many little moments and details that I would never remember had I not decided to pick up the camera.

I definitely don’t know everything, but I know what works for me. Here are some tips to keep in mind if you want to start taking better photos of your kids.

  • Don’t worry about posing them.  C’mon mama, you’ve got enough on your plate. Do you really think you’re gonna be able to get your toddler and 7 month old to pose for you? If you do, kudos. Personally, I love the unposed. I love the candid moments – hands over their faces, wild hair, quirky grins. Just catch them as they are!
  • Don’t worry about cleaning them. In a couple of my favorite images I’ve taken of Neeson his face is covered in chocolate milk and dirt. I’m taking these photos so that years from now I can remember my boys exactly as they are now – not some idealized version of them. Are they ever clean or NOT covered in boogers or spit up? Not really.
  • Pay attention. I love catching them in the middle of a sweet, everyday moment. Like Neeson hiding behind the plants to poop or Copeland playing with his toys. I definitely don’t chase them around with the camera, but I try to keep it close, just to be sure I’m ready for those moments.
  • Don’t worry if they don’t want to smile. I rarely will ask Neeson to smile when I’m taking photos of him. Occasionally, I’ll ask him to look at the camera and show his “teethies”, but I don’t force it. If he doesn’t feel like smiling, who cares? I love the images of him looking away from the camera or just doing his thing. I’m grabbing highlights from all the normal, everyday moments here – he doesn’t need to always be smiling OR looking at the camera.
  • Focus on the details. Tiny toes. Dirt under the fingernails. A wild cowlick. Pursed little lips. I like to capture these seemingly insignificant details. Boys are dirty! Let’s celebrate that! I don’t want them to look back on their baby books and only see perfectly dressed and posed images of them fresh out of the bath. Sure – those are definitely cute, too, but far more often than not nothing matches and they’re covered in grime. Isn’t that what childhood is about?
  • Invest in a decent camera & don’t be afraid to use it. This one was easy for me, as I shoot on our Sonys that we use for our video work. We already owned them, so it didn’t feel like a scary leap to get my own. To be honest, I’m not sure I ever could’ve convinced myself to invest in a camera otherwise. BUT, I’m telling you it’s worth it. I love Sony as it has something called focus peaking – which is really just little yellow squiggly lines that show up over the part of your image that is currently in focus. This option isn’t available when you’re using an automatic lens like our 35mm, but I LOVE them for our manual lenses, which is honest what I prefer to use! My go to is our 50mm 1.4 manual and it’s what I use for 98% of my photos.
  • Learn a simple editing program. I edit using Lightroom and Rooke & Rover presets. I tend to shoot a bit brighter, as these presets can darken the image a bit, but I’ve been playing around with underexposing a little more. Lightroom is pretty user friendly, and while there is a ton more that I could do with it, I try to keep it simple. If you don’t want to take a leap to Lightroom right away, I also really like the VSCO & ColorStory apps. Even if you want to start out just using your phone, these apps can take a meh photo and turn it into something really beautiful! To quickly outline my Lightroom process, I:
  1. put the preset on the image
  2. take out all grain
  3. bump down the shadows
  4. bump up the whites
  5. add a smidge more warmth
  • Have fun! Seriously, don’t be hard on yourself. Most of the images of our boys are a little out of focus and by all “professional standards” definitely not perfect. I truly don’t care. I love that they’re not completely crisp, as its it’s indicative of real life. I love that they’re a little crooked and overexposed – Looooord knows we don’t do perfect around here. If ever the days comes when someone thinks about me and says “wow, that Shanna sure seems to have it together!” we’ll know something is seriously wrong and I need to post a blurry photo of something to set them straight again.
What other tips would you add to this list? Let me know!

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