As moms, we want to document our children’s childhoods – not just for them, but for us to look back on (and if you’re me, maybe cry over) one day.
Photography (with a DSLR or a phone) can also be a super fun way to be creative. Photographing my kids started out as a hobby I loved and became the business I have now!
These are things I wish I knew when I started trying to improve my photography when Rose was little. I wanted to improve my photography skills, whether it was with my phone or my camera, and these tips allow you do to that.
Obviously, with kids, sometimes you just want to take a snapshot of the moment! These tips are more geared to when you want to add a bit of intentionality to have your photos look better. I take both, the quick snapshots and the more intentional photos I’m so proud of and want to hang in my home. I love both equally!
1. Turn off your lights!
Switching off your artificial lights and using natural light from your window make such a huge difference in the quality of your photos.
When the “yellow” light from your artificial lights mixes with the more “blue” light from outside, the result isn’t pleasing.
Artificial light can also give your photos a yellowy haze, and since the light is coming from above it can cast weird shadows.
Taking a second to quickly switch off lights and use window light instead is one of the best things you can do to improve your indoor photos!
2. Illuminate your kids’ faces
Understanding light is the best thing you can do to improve your photos.
It should be the main thing you think about when you’re taking a photo that you want to turn out beautifully!
Have the light from a window illuminate your kiddo’s face. This isn’t a rule by any means, but it’s a great go-to.
You want their face to be the focus, and you want them to have beautifully illuminated skin tones rather than shadows under their eyes and muddy looking skin tones.
Some exceptions to this are purposefully creative shots, golden hour photos where you want to capture a rim of light around them, or when you can’t see their face because they’re looking away from you. But in general, having the window light shining to illuminate their beautiful faces and give you great light is something that will help you so much with your photos!
Tips for using window light:
- If your home is dark, get closer to the window!
- If harsh midday sun is too bright, move farther away from the window or filter your light with curtains.
One way you can demonstrate the way light affects the way the skintones of your subject will look, is to put your phone on selfie mode and have it facing towards you. Stand in front of the window, and then slowly turn until you are facing directly away from the window. Notice what happens to your skin as you turn. Pay attention to the way it goes from illuminated and bright when you’re facing the window, to muddy with more unflattering shadows when you face away from the window.
3. Figure out the light in YOUR home
A lot of moms feel they don’t have nice enough lighting in their homes or they don’t like how their homes are decorated enough to love their photos.
This isn’t true! You can create beautiful photos in ANY home!
Find the windows that let in the most light, and realize: windows will let light in differently at different times of the day.
The light will be different in the room depending on the way a room lets in harsh midday sun, or whether it’s a window that lets in golden hour light at sunrise or at sunset.
Observe the light in your home at different times of the day and in different rooms and pay attention to the way it affects your photos.
Rooms with bigger windows let in more light. This sounds obvious, but sometimes we forget to think about it! Putting some thought into which rooms have the best light, and which times of day give the best light in that room, will allow you to take really intentional and beautiful photos.
Taking account of whether it’s overcast or sunny out will help you a lot too! Overcast days let much less light in than sunny days, so if you don’t have great windows – it may be a struggle to get bright photos on an overcast day. But if you have large windows that let in lots of sun, you may love the more soft effect of an overcast day!
Giving this all some thought will allow you to take really beautiful photos in your home whether your home is dark or you’re a lucky duck who has a bunch of natural window light!
4. Take photos with catchlights in your kid’s eyes
Catchlights are the little reflections of light in your subjects eyes.
Catchlights add life and magic to the eyes, they add depth and dimension to them.
Without catchlights, your kid’s eyes will look more dark and not as full of sparkle and life.
If you have your cuties facing towards the window you’ll be able to get beautiful catchlights in their eyes.
5. Don’t worry about blown highlights in windows
When the highlights of your photos are so bright that they are like a white blob (they don’t have any detail in them) that mean you’ve “blown the highlights.” Usually in photography, we try not to blow the highlights.
In indoor photography though, you can purposefully blow the highlights to hide details outside that aren’t pretty if they aren’t part of the story you’re telling.
You can use it as white space to have your subject stand out, and can take those beautiful silhouette images by blowing the highlights in windows!
6. Quickly clear distracting clutter
Okay, this tip is simple but it’s a game changer.
Any home with kids is going to have distracting clutter that may not add to the story we are trying to tell with the photo, and instead distracts our eyes from our subject and what it is we want to capture (their concentrated face, their big eyes looking up at us, their little hands at work).
Before taking your photo, look at what will be in your frame and quickly clear any clutter. This can be as simple as swiping clutter just outside of what will be in the frame.
Photos are much stronger when there aren’t distracting elements pulling your eye away from your subject and the story you’re trying to tell.
This is a quick thing you can do to really make your photos so much more powerful.
Sometimes clutter is part of that story though! That’s up to you as the photographer.
It’s up to you as the documentor of your children’s childhood to choose what you let into the photos in order to capture what you want to capture with that specific image. You can have authentic photos while also being creative and artistic in telling the story of their lives!
You can have both, you can have “real” and documentary style images, and you can have creative images where you are artistic, and you can mix the two!
You can take beautiful photos of your family!
I hope these help you to feel empowered as the documentor of your children’s days. You can take photos you feel excited about and that you’re so proud to hang on your walls!