Taking photos of my children everyday is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done for myself.
They are only little once, and I cherish all the images I have of messy hair, dirty faces, and naked baby bums.
Taking compelling photographs of everyday childhood isn’t rocket science. If you’re a mother, you know that just about everything they do is photo worthy in the early days. So make it a point to get the camera out regularly, and then follow these simple tips to help those day-to-day images really stand out.
1. Change your angle
Thinking outside the box with regard to composition is one of the easiest ways to enhance those everyday photographs. Acknowledge your comfort zone, and then step out of it. If you usually shoot at eye level, shoot from directly above. If you usually go for center compositions, compose to the far left or far right. Simple adjustments like this will make your photos more interesting, and you just may surprise yourself with the results.
2. Don’t be afraid of that high ISO number
ISO is your camera’s sensitivity to light. The higher the number, the more sensitive it is (meaning you can shoot in lower light situations and still get a good shot). Most cameras today have some pretty incredible capabilities with regard to ISO, and you should absolutely be taking advantage of that! Until recently, I thought my ISO needed to be as low as possible. I somehow had it in my head that the 100-200 range was this magical place to be, and anything outside of that was bordering on bad technique. Boy was I wrong! I LOVE all the opportunities that a higher ISO provides me. When I dial in that higher number, I’m able to adjust my other settings accordingly to allow for movement (smaller aperture and faster shutter speed). And lets face it; kids are ALWAYS moving! Those adjustments also help to add a bit of depth in the low end (shadows), and as it turns out, I’m obsessed with shadows.
Now, some would argue that a higher ISO results in unnecessary noise, and thus, poorer image quality. But if you’re exposing your image correctly, the noise should be minimal. Choosing NOT to crank up your ISO will more often than not result in motion blur from a moving kiddo because you’re forcing yourself to shoot with a wider aperture or slower shutter speed than is ideal for the situation. And in my opinion, that is more indicative of a poor quality image.
In the photograph below, I was shooting in full sun on a clear day. In the past, I would have set my ISO to 100 and opened my aperture as wide as I could have. Instead, I opted to bump that ISO number up to 400 and stick with an aperture of 3.2. As a result, this photograph has more depth in the low end and any blur from her being on the move is eliminated.
3. Play around with curves to add contrast to your images
A simple curves layer or two is often all you need to make your photos pop. Here’s how you do it:
- Open a curves layer, found in the adjustment layers menu.
- Adjust the curve on the RGB channel by dragging the shadows down (the left side of the curve) and the highlights up (the right side of the curve). The curve should start to take on an s-shape, but remember, a little bit goes a long way! You don’t want to clip your shadows or blow your highlights. Play around with it until you get it just right.
- Adjust the overall opacity of your curves layer in the layers pallet so that your image blends naturally. 100% isn’t always the best idea, so tone in down a little and see where that takes you. You can also create a mask for the curves layer and brush away some of the contrast on your subject’s skin.
4. Give simple directions
You want to document your REAL life, but there’s nothing wrong with giving a little direction, or tidying up your space before you bust out the camera. This doesn’t mean you’re being dishonest in your storytelling. If your child is doing something you love, but it’s too dark to get the shot you want, gently encourage them to move closer to a window (“Hey, I love the way you’re building that block tower, can we take the pieces over here by the window and build it even bigger?!”). If you know you’re going to be doing an activity together and you want to take a few shots, de-clutter the room before you start. In the image below, I knew I wanted to get a photo of my twins jumping together, so I straightened up all the books on the their nightstand and made the bed. Then I encouraged the activity by asking them who could jump the highest.
5. Frame your subject
Shooting through objects, or finding elements of the environment to frame your subject will naturally draw your viewer’s eyes exactly where you want them. Get creative! Back up a bit and shoot through a play tunnel at the park. Crouch down and frame your kiddo with the handle bar of a shopping cart. These are just a few examples, but there are opportunities all around you. Including the environment in your image adds another layer to the story, so be observant.
6. Don’t be afraid of a faceless image
Sometimes posture and body language will tell more of a story than a face will. Embrace it. We all love to photograph those adorable expressions our kiddos are famous for, but it’s okay to throw that concept out the window sometimes, too. Some of my all-time favorite images are shot from behind my children. In the photographs below, you can tell how connected they are to one another based solely on their body language. Had they been turned toward the camera, their facial expressions may have distracted you from that connection I was trying to capture.