At EverPresent, we spend all day looking at amateur and professional child photography. Whether we’re digitizing a family collection or de-duplicating a parent’s digital library – we see some amazing kid photos. We’re also a team composed of artists, photographers, and parents who make it our daily mission to help families enjoy their memories. We asked our team to pull from their experiences and share their child portrait photography tips that everyone can follow, no matter what their own photography experience may be.
1. Embrace the movement
Anna, our senior consultant and slideshow manager, is experienced in child photography and says that movement is inevitable. She recommends a fast shutter speed to freeze the perfect moment in time. Your camera’s or iPhone’s continuous shooting mode takes several photos split-seconds apart so you can capture the best and weed out the rest.
Hilary, another senior consultant and avid kid photo taker of ten-year-old son, Kurt, agrees wholeheartedly. (We’ve met him, he’s an energetic kid!)
When he was a toddler, it was really hard to get a decent photo of him since he never stopped moving. I’d take as many as I possibly could just to try to time it right, but I wound up with even more blurry photos. Eventually we played a “freeze” game, where I could say “freeze” and he would mostly stop moving for a hot second.
2. Make kid photos about playtime, for them and for you!
Child photography sometimes involves a whole lot of them doing everything except what you want them to do. Photo tech and photographer, Amanda, recommends making any photo session with children as easygoing as possible. The less stress and pressure they feel to do the right thing, the more authentic the photos will be.
If they’re super active, capture them in energetic play before sitting them down for the family portraits or any attempts at a posed kid photo. Make them feel more comfortable with you by playing games with them before you even bring out your camera.
Don’t be afraid of bribes. Everyone does it. If they do a great job, give them a prize!
3. Also, say anything but “cheese”
Is there any word that creates the same sense of panic and fake smiles as someone saying “cheese!” Kids usually feel the same, especially when you’re trying to coerce them into a group photo and they’re so over it. Make a game out of it and have them choose the photo word after the count to three. It will give them a sense of involvement and whatever they pick will probably elicit a good laugh from the whole group for a great shot.
You can also forego the countdown completely and focus on creating more natural, in-the-moment shots. You don’t have to ask them to pose, and you normally wouldn’t for casual day-to-day photography anyway.
4. Save the hard photos for last
When it comes to child photography, poses can be tough for kids to hold for too long; they’ll get bored and cranky, and there could even be a meltdown.
Kid photos are hard enough, but what about when you want a family portrait? Cute picture poses for siblings? Save the posed photos and family sessions for last. The less they have to stand still, the better. They’ll be more easygoing if they know the end is near.
Still having trouble getting them to focus? Or are they too shy around the camera? Roger, a photo team specialist and pro photographer with decades of experience, says the best lens for child photography is a longer one that lets you photograph your kids from a distance while they’re occupied and unaware of you and the camera. If you don’t have a professional lens on hand, you can always rent them.
5. Candid kid photos are key.
Usually, the best kid photos are candid shots. Capturing them engaged in an activity will always give you a better photo than something forced like child model poses. This idea is a big factor in our recommendations around photo selection. Inevitably, you’ll end up with more than enough photos, so keep the best ones and delete the rest. The criteria for “keepers” is pretty simple, but sometimes hard for parents:
Jenessa, our VP of Marketing and mom of three, embraces the idea of candids and says “take them all!”
I took photos of my son doing everything, and I’m glad I did. Sometimes as a parent you think you need all the pictures of the fancy days – preschool graduation, recitals, sports – when really, the favorite photos are of brushing his teeth, reading in bed, playing with dad, cleaning the house, etc. They capture his personality so much better.
If you’re already an avid photo taker and have folders full of child photography on your laptop or phone, you may be interested in our latest blog post about organizing in time for the holiday photo-palooza! It will be especially helpful for all those kid photos you have yet to take this year.
6. Child photography is not about being an expert
There are whole communities of parents who love to take absolutely gorgeous kid photos but have minimal professional training, just experience. In an Instagram- and Facebook-driven society, not everyone shoots with a professional camera, but there are some tips of the trade that will help you take better photos:
- Consider the rule of thirds, you don’t always have to center a photo
- Keep your horizon straight and everything will look more balanced
- Don’t be afraid to fill the frame for those gorgeous closeups and detail shots
- Remove all the clutter so the emphasis in your kid photos is your kid!
7. The eyes are the window.
Make sure the eyes of the subject are always in focus. This can be especially striking when combined with a shallow depth of field to make the background indistinguishable.
8. Get on their level.
Children are small, so if you really want your photographs to capture the world through their eyes, try to see it the same way. Ellen, one of our talented photo book designers, says:
I try to remember to take photos from different angles of my son and his friends, not just from me standing and looking down at him. I get down on his level, or below his level depending on the situation. Some of my favorite photos of him as a young kid are close-ups that are right at his level because it’s a perspective you don’t always get during day-to-day life.
9. Natural light will always help you.
Natural light gives you an edge over most child photography studios. Our marketing director, Vanessa, recommends taking any outside photos when the sun isn’t too high in the sky and creating a lot of shadows and harsh light.
A slightly overcast day or towards dusk when the light is so soft helps me take a great photo and natural light will enhance anything, especially with editing. Bring some light into interior shots by throwing open the curtains or the doors. A simple piece of poster board or even a white sheet can also help reflect some of that light to make it smoother.
10. Don’t forget to include yourself in the photos!
We can’t stress this enough. The best thing you can do for your children is to be a part of their memories. Turn the camera around on yourself for a fun selfie, or ask Dad to take the photos! One of our co-founders, Jennifer Niloff, says this is the most important tip she can provide.
11. There’s nothing wrong with editing photos after they’re taken.
Most photographers will probably tell you that it’s rare to get a the perfect photo right off the bat in its natural state. Of course you’ll capture that perfect shot, but there are so many ways to enhance your best kid photos. You can adjust the exposure to brighten up the whole image, or tweak the contrast to provide more emphasis between light and dark. If you captured something distracting in the background of your photo, crop it in for a better frame. Keep those photography tips like the rule of thirds in mind when editing as well! You can use online services like PicMonkey for easy editing.
If you do most of your photography on your iPhone or Android, there are hundreds of photo editing apps that can help you make the best of your kid photos. Apps like VSCO have a number of filters that come with it, and a whole community of people who share settings for custom filters they’ve created. You can even upload your photos to their community within the app. Instagram has similar filters that can do a lot for your photos when you share on social media. Consider hashtags when sharing your best kid photos so other people can enjoy them as well and follow popular child photography gallery Instagram accounts for inspiration. We love local photographer Stephanie Piscatelli’s amazing natural light child photography.
If you have more experience, bring your photos into Adobe Lightroom and edit them there. This tool is also ideal for sorting out the photos you don’t want. Remove them from your Lightroom catalog, edit the ones you have left and then export them to a “Selections” folder. Kid photos don’t have to be hard, embrace the challenge for your best photos! Need child photography ideas? We recommend Pinterest, naturally.
Pin our tips!