5 Tips for Capturing Great Photos of Kids

The holiday offers for photo cards are flooding our mailbox and inbox, making me feel the pressure to capture the perfect shot to describe our kids and year in a single image. We’ve hired professional photographers from time to time to capture family shots but this year we’ll be taking our own pictures. The ritual of dressing up, going to an unfamiliar place, and trying to relax for someone you don’t know so well can be especially trying on kids and parents who know that the clock is ticking and need that perfect shot. This year take the pressure off you and your kids by taking your own photos with tips from the pros.

Well known for gorgeous images in each issue, National Geographic is always eye candy for the soul and the very talented Dan Westergren, Director of Photography for National Geographic Travel, and National Geographic Kids Photo Editor, Kelley Miller, are here to provide the following tips to help you capture the most stunning images.

Take photos of kids in an environment that they’re comfortable in. Miller often shoots photos of animals and feels that the landscape shows a sense of space that provides scale and dimension. The same can be said for growing kids. With your couch or favorite playthings around them, it’s easy to see how big they’ve grown but how little they were when you look back at your photos from year to year.

Take pictures in a place where there’s something to capture kids’ interest. Westergren says that a common mistake is to document children in front of recognizable landmarks that can be the “recipe for boring pictures.” It makes it easier to get children together if they find something of interest that keeps them actively engaged.

Prevent awkward smiles and posed photos. Westergren often asks his subjects to “to relax their mouths, then close their eyes and open them when I count to three.” Or he suggests a fake out by framing the scene and just waiting. While you may not get the most perfect smiles, “the photos that emerge will be a more meaningful expression of their personality.” Miller likes to “pursue the personality” of the subject she’s shotting.

Go for motion. Some of my personal favorite photos of our kids involve them jumping or running. It’s so fun to look back at pictures where they’re giving it their all with their feet off the ground. It’s playful and fun and captures their personality but taking action shots can be tricky. Miller suggests “get as close as you can to action. Timing is everything” and a slower shutter speed can also help.

Be creative with your shot. Different angles, zooming in for that closeup, changing the color to black and white, and making the individual stand out by using a simple background or a shallow depth of field are ways that Miller says will help your kids leap out of the printed photo.

For more tips on taking great family photos, visit Dan Westergren’s How to Photograph Kids piece on National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel.

Couple and children taking family picture via Shutterstock

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