If you doubt that statement just check out Chase Jarvis‘ latest art book where he shot (and processed) all of the pictures entirely on his iPhone.
Natural emotion – Say “No” to saying “Cheese”. Your best bet to get a natural looking smile is to get them to laugh or smile without thinking about it. Acting goofy or asking them about something that they really enjoy. Young children like to talk about a favorite toy or character and you can see the joy through their eyes as they think about it. Play a game with them, for babies peek-a-boo or silly sounds work really well. Use this time as an opportunity to create natural un-posed pictures of your child, building with blocks, reading a book, on the swings or even making a sand castle, that you will cherish.
Find the light – Look for soft glowing light wherever you are. The best time to take pictures are about an hour before sunset. Of course as a parent we cannot always schedule our children’s activities or spontaneous cuteness around that time. If you find yourself in the middle of the day try to find some good “open shade” without patches of sunlight peeking through. If possible turn the flash off and use the natural light as much as possible. One sign of good light is to look in their eyes and if you can see the “catch lights” or sparkle of light in their eyes. Also when you are indoors, get close to the windows and use the natural light it will make their skin look softer.
Change your perspective – Getting down on their level makes a huge difference. I like to lay in the sand when I have kids at the beach or lay in the grass when they are sitting. Also getting close up and above them so that the light fills their eyes makes for a great portrait.
Be aware of the surroundings – Keep in mind the cars on the street behind, the mess of the room or the tree that looks like it may be sprouting out of their head. If you move a few steps in one direction or another you will be surprised at how you much you can improve your backdrop. Don’t be afraid to get up close and personal, it’s a great opportunity to capture your child eyes and the detail of their features. Keep in mind those hands and feet, you want to make sure your not cutting them off unless it is an intentional composition.
Editing – There are a lot of simple editing software products that do not require you to be an expert in Photoshop. My favorite is Adobe Lightroom because it is extremely user friendly and you can use custom presets to create an artistic look or change a photo to a classic black and white.
Probably the most important tip is when you find yourself witnessing a moment where you wish you had your camera just sit back and enjoy it.
Have fun journaling your children’s memories!
iPhone photo of our kiddos.