Taking photos of children can be a real challenge. I love taking photos of my girls but it’s always handy to know a few tricks. I met Katrina Campbell at one of the Mama Meets at Olive Loves Alfie East. She captured some beautiful photos of me and my girls which you may have spotted on Lucky Things Instagram. Katrina is a family photographer based in North London. She used to work in advertising, but left to be at home full time when her children were small, and promptly took up photography to keep her sane. Today she is talking about how to take great photographs of your children, whether you use a camera or a phone. Over to Katrina…
Top tips on taking photos of children by Katrina Campbell
We all want to have beautiful, natural photographs of our children as they grow up, don’t we? It’s almost a natural instinct as parents – we want to capture the precious memories of, little details of the everyday , to essentially freeze time. However sometimes the simple act of photographing them only serves to remind us how fleeting their childhood is.
Here are a few tips that I find essential when photographing children:
Let them play – I prefer to photograph young children when they are lost in the moment. If they are content in what they’re doing, whether blowing bubbles or jumping in the sprinkler, you are free to experiment a little with the shot you want. So, get involved, chat with them, make them laugh but then take a step back. You can snap away, and all it takes is a little gentle direction to get them to look at each other, or glance up at the camera. Don’t ask them to smile for the camera – sometimes ‘quick, I need a photo of this’ is all it takes to interrupt the magic of the moment. With older children you can do the opposite – get them involved in the creation of the photograph and make that an activity in itself.
Look for the light – Stunning photos require beautiful light, and in my opinion natural is best. So turn off your flash and start observing light and the way it falls on your children’s faces. Direct sunlight is not great as it can cause harsh shadows or overexposure, so on a sunny day, you’re best to seek shade. For these reasons, overcast weather is easier – just make sure their faces are well lit (sun behind you), not in shadow. Or, and this works beautifully in late afternoon when the sun is low in the sky, photograph directly into the sun so that the children are backlit – with hazy light shining through their hair. Window light can also create beautiful conditions for a more expressive portrait that just lights one side of their face. So, keep looking for how the light falls on your subjects and move around so as to get the best effect.
Get down with the kids – Really, crouch down very low or lie on your stomach to alter your perspective. I find photos taken from this angle can really emphasise their size in relation to the world around them. Get way up high; or take a few steps back. Sometimes it’s hard to stop and think about perspective when you’re focused on fast moving children, but pulling back will allow you to frame the image in a more interesting way, resulting in more striking photographs.
Get to know your camera – If you have a ‘proper’ camera (DSLR, bridge or mirrorless), don’t be wary of it. Try getting off ‘auto’, and at least start with ‘aperture priority’ . From there you are free to experiment and the beauty of digital lets you see the results immediately.
Adjust the aperture – If you want to particularly highlight a certain detail whether it be hair at the nape of a neck, piercing blue eyes – get in close and set a wide aperture (small ‘f’ number). This will create a shallow depth of field, so that the object you focus on is sharp while the background is blurry. This effect can also add emotion to otherwise simple portraits.
Capture the movement – Setting a fast shutter speed ( above 250 ) will allow you
Use your eyes. So, yes improving your technical understanding of your camera will help you to get better results, but the most powerful tool you have is your eyes. The real skill is in recognising the scene that is worth photographing. So, go out and practice seeing.
“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” Annie Liebovitz
Thanks for Katrina for sharing these cool tips. Katrina is currently taking bookings for family photography sessions and photography workshops for parents, in Winchmore Hill North London. More details can be found on her website katrinacampbell.co.uk
I’m doing a talk on Confidence, Career and Motherhood at the OLA MAMA event at the lovely family lifestyle store Olive Loves Alfie East in Stratford, London on Thursday 2 March 11am-1pm. Babies and young children are welcome and only grown-ups need to pick up a ticket. Please pop over to this link for tickets.
All photos in this blog post are Katrina’s work and they have been published with permission by Katrina Campbell.
You can also follow Katrina on Instagram over at @katrinacampbellphotographs