Tips to Take Better Pictures
Memory-making relies heavily on taking pictures because these photos help us to remember! At BabyPage, we want you to be able to quickly capture each special moment through both text and imagery. Here are our tips for capturing photos that will make your BabyPage book a beautiful collection of memories:
1. Check your light:
Lighting is the first thing to check when taking a photograph, whether by a professional camera or a smartphone camera. Natural light is always best. If you’re outside, have your subject facing the sunlight, so that the glow lights up their face. Otherwise, if the sun is behind them, they’ll look like a dark silhouette. Similarly, if you are taking a photo indoors, it’s best to have your subject facing the light that is streaming in through the window. If your source of light–the window–is behind them, they’ll appear dark. It takes some practice to become mindful of this, but if you keep this one step in the forefront of your mind, you’ll instantly see better-quality photos.
Also, most cameras and smartphones today have a light sensor on the touch screen (on an iPhone this appears as a thin yellow box. On other devices, it may look like a small cross or target). Try dragging your finger to a different location, and see how this changes the lighting. If you touch or drag the light sensor to the brightest part of your screen, the image is suddenly darker, and the focus is on that light area. If you drag the light sensor to the darkest part of your screen, the light area is blown-out, but the darker area is now well-lit. If you drag it a little more toward the middle area, the camera will find a balance that tones down the bright area and lightens the dark area. Experiment with this and you’ll become very quick at balancing the light.
If shooting outside, the “golden hour” of sunrise and sunset is where some of the best photos will be taken. The lighting can be just perfect! At other times, embrace the shade. Find a big tree and shoot where the light is most even.
2. Check your background:
Often, we are so wrapped up in our subject that we fail to see the background that we are also capturing. Sometimes, a great candid moment just needs to be snapped and the background is what it is. But most of the time, we do have a few seconds to adjust in order to make a photo much better. Look behind the subject and make sure there are no plants, poles, or other objects that could look like they are growing out of your child’s head. If you are sitting at a table, push the brightly colored mustard bottle out of the way and the dirty napkins for a moment. Sometimes, you just need to move over an inch to change what is showing on the screen.
If you can stage a background, neutral colors and nature are usually winners. Lay a white sheet over the couch and set your child in the corner, or have them wander past your flower bed in the backyard. Your background will be clean and not distract the eye from your precious child.
3. Throw in a prop:
If you are trying to capture your child in a cute outfit, for example, simply setting them down and saying “Cheese” is probably not going to get you anywhere at certain ages. Hand them an appropriate prop (a small pumpkin or big leaf during the fall, for example), that will capture their interest and keep them still for a moment, hopefully. Props can help tell a story or make an image more visually interesting, as well.
4. Be a joker:
Nothing gives us parents a rush of oxytocin like a big, genuine smile from our children. As portrait photographer Dean Bottrell said: “A well-timed joke will always yield a more natural smile, than simply saying “smile.” Keep some good “dad-jokes” in your arsenal for the older kids, and for the younger ones, try making dolphin sounds or jumping up & down and waving your arms like a crazy person. It takes some really weird stuff to get some really good grins on camera.
5. Get to your camera ASAP:
Learn the shortcuts to get to your camera. Most of us are taking photos on our smartphones, but there are ways to get to your camera without having to wait on thumbprint recognition or entering in a 6-digit passcode. On an iPhone, for example, you can swipe up or swipe right to click the camera button without the need to unlock your phone. If you’re not already familiar with your shortcuts, find out what they are and practice them. Sometimes, the most precious moments only last for three seconds, so you need to be able to whip out your camera in one-second flat! Keep your camera in a side pocket on your purse or on the outer pocket of your jacket. You won’t have time to be digging for it when that perfect moment arises.
6. Stay eye-level and get close:
Look your children in the eye (and with the eye of the lens) when you are taking photos. This means you’ll have to stoop down to their level. Your child does not have to be looking at the camera, but this eye-level angle will produce better-quality photos.
While you’re down there, move in a little closer. Fill the photo with your subject to get a great portrait. But don’t get too close or the image will get blurry. Most cameras focus best around three feet.
On the flipside, try backing up and thinking of the “rule of thirds”: Where your subject fills ⅓ of the screen and ⅔ is the background. If you prefer this type of photo, you may want to turn your “grid lines” on in Settings to help you visualize this.
7. Take more than one photo:
We know that having children as your subject matter is the hardest thing to capture, as your babies and kids are always on-the-move. Get your “trigger finger” ready and take rapid-fire photos, in order to capture that one perfect image. Too often, I see parents waiting-waiting-waiting for that perfect moment and then missing it altogether, because they are still ‘trained’ by the older technology of our past to take just one single snapshot. These days, we’ve got lots of memory and a very fast shutter. Kids are moving as fast as a blur, so the more photos you take during a moment, the more likely you will be able to select the one great photo afterward. On an iPhone, there is a “Live” feature that will capture the movement that occurred during that entire shutter. Later, you can go back and click “Edit” and select the precise millisecond that you want.
Also, it’s a bad habit to constantly go back and check on the photos you just took. Photographers call this “chimping.” Take a ton of photos and then look at them later, long after the event/moment is over. There will be plenty of time to edit then. If you are too busy pausing to check on the photo you just took, you will miss the really good moments!
8. Capture the moment, but LIVE it, too:
On a similar note, don’t get so caught up in your picture taking that you are no longer present as a parent. There’s a balance to everything, so take your rapid-fire photos and then put the phone away (in an easy-to-reach place, in case another heart-throb moment occurs). Snap photos, but make eye contact with your child. You don’t have to always view them through the screen. Be discreet about the photo-taking. Don’t look at your photos during the moment, or stop to edit and upload them. They are safe and sound in your camera roll until bedtime when you can browse and select your favorites to upload on social media and your BabyPage book. When you look back at your BabyPage books years from now, you want to remember the memories you made together. So, while we encourage photo-taking, we really want to encourage memory-making.
Top feature photo source: Adorama