I really want to take better pictures of my kids but I’m terrible at using the camera.
Today I’m sharing 3 easy ways you can improve your photographs of your family. So dust off that DSLR and get inspired to capture the moments and people that matter in your life
1. CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE
Shoot from vantage points other than “adult standing height”. We’re all guilty of this one. We whip out our phone, point it in the general direction of the action and snap - with no thought to whether our current perspective is the best way to convey the scene.
To create impactful photos think about how your vantage point could affect the final image.
If you crouch down could you shoot straight on, level with your child’s face? This will better capture their expression and make a more authentic portrait that doesn’t distort their features.
Would the whole scene look cooler and more grand if you stood up on the furniture and shot straight down using an overhead “bird’s eye view”?
How would the subject look if you lay flat on your tummy to take the picture across the floor? This is especially good for photographing a toddler crawling towards you for example.
Shoot across things (like table surfaces, grass, and blankets) or through things (like leaves, doorways and architectural elements) to create framing features and draw the viewer into your photo.
2. MOVE YOUR SUBJECT CLOSER TO A NATURAL LIGHT SOURCE WHEN SHOOTING INDOORS
Taking photos indoors is generally harder than shooting outside. The light is less abundant and the result is often gloomy, grainy or blurry.
Instead of trying to photograph someone right in the middle of the room, bring them next to a big window or open doorway.
The light by the window is brighter and you’ll have more contrast between light and shadow. The result will be more dimensionality in your image and nicer skin tones.
Depending on your approach to documenting your days you may want to deliberately set up activities where the light is best, or move them there when they start to happen elsewhere. Sometimes this means uprooting a whole activity to move it closer to the window light, which can be a big ask. If that’s too much for an engaged child then shoot the scene as and where it is, and then ask the child to bring their favourite part of whatever they’re playing with over to the window for a better look. Take their portrait as they explore that object in the light.
3. NAIL YOUR FOCUS
Struggling with blurry images? If you’re shooting exclusively on your phone skip down to the “Phone tips” section below. Otherwise, there’s a list of things that could be causing that problem if you’re shooting with a DSLR.
Here are the usual suspects: shutter speed, aperture, focus mode and focus method.
Shutter speed. The slower your shutter speed the more motion blur will be evident in your image. The general rule of thumb for setting a minimum shutter speed is to stay at “1/double your focal length”, e.g. if you’re shooting with a 35mm lens don’t shoot below 1/70 sec.
But this rule will only help you if you have a very still subject. And kids usually aren’t that. So here are my “capture my moving child” shutter speed go-to’s:
Child engaged in quiet play - SS >1/200sec
Child walking - SS>1/400
Child running, spinning or otherwise causing may-hem - SS>1/800
Child jumping on a bed or trampoline - SS>1/1000
Another common culprit is your aperture. Are you trying to shoot wide open? We all love the dreamy bokeh that a wide aperture creates, but the wider the aperture (a small f-stop number like f/2) the narrower the plane in which things will appear acceptably sharp. So if you want to minimise your chances of missing focus, use a higher f-stop number (like f/4 or f/5.6)
In terms of focus modes and methods, there is a lot to understand, so these are just a few quick tips:
Set your camera to Auto Focus.
Use Continuous Focus mode on a Nikon (Servo on Canon) when photographing a moving subject.
Using Single Point focus will give you the most precision when selecting your focus point.
When selecting a focus point your camera likes contrast. Focusing on a random patch of skin doesn’t give it enough visual contrast to “lock on to”. So when taking portraits place your focal point over the corner of the eye that is nearest to you.
I prefer the Toggle method for moving my focus point as I find the “focus and recompose” method leaves too much margin for error.
TIPS FOR NAILING FOCUS ON YOUR PHONE
Hold your phone as steady as possible. Keep your elbows as close to your sides as you can and hold the phone using your whole hand (not just two fingers). For a landscape orientation shot hold you hand sideways as if your were about to make a shadow puppet dog. Place your landscape oriented phone on your palm with your index, middle and ring finger flat against the back of the phone and your thumb and pinky stabilising it on either edge. Use your other hand to press the shutter button.
For additional stabilisation stand with your feet wider apart, or stand with your hip or shoulder against a wall.
Once you have composed your shot, tap on the screen where you want the camera to focus. A yellow box will indicate your selected focus point.
After you have tapped the screen to select a focal point you can also swipe your finger up or down to adjust your exposure, making it brighter or darker. This will also help you to see if you’re missing focus.
Use Burst mode on an iPhone to capture fast moving action. To shoot in Burst Mode simply hold down the shutter button while you take your picture (instead of just taping it once). Your iPhone will take around 10 frames per second until you release pressure on the shutter button. Then go into your camera roll, find and select the burst images, scroll through to select the best one and delete the rest.
There you have it. Three simple things you can do today to improve the pictures you’re taking. But there’s plenty more where that came from.
Would you like more actionable tips and tricks?
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