Last week, I was chatting with a friend who’d bought an expensive new DSLR Camera.  She was eager to road-test it, and planned a big day out with her children and husband, full of expectation of the wonderful memories she would capture.  On downloading the images, she was sadly disappointed that the photos were not as beautiful and magical as she’d hoped – despite the fancy new camera!

It’s not the first time I’ve heard this story.  So many parents ask me how they can take better pictures of their children so I thought I’d share some of my top tips for photographing your own kids.

1. Learn about your camera

First and foremost, get to know your DSLR camera.  Take it off automatic mode and learn about apertures, shutter speeds and ISO.  Its no good buying a top notch camera and expecting it to take better photos – its like buying a better oven and expecting it to cook better meals!  I recommend a book called ‘Understanding Exposure’ by Brian Peterson.  Its great at explaining all your camera settings in an easily digestible format so you can use them to take the pictures you want.

2. Never say ‘cheese’!

Never ask your children to ‘stand still, look at the camera and say cheese!’  Unless you have model children, this guarantees fake smiles and bored looking kids.  Instead, I always try to engage with my children whilst taking their picture.  Chat with them, joke with them, get them to look at Daddy behind you making funny faces – anything to get that real smile.

3. Go Low

Get down to their level.  A photo taken at their height is usually much better than one taken from above looking down on them.  Or try capturing them whilst they’re busy doing what they enjoy rather than making them stop and stand still for a photo.  Allowing them to carry on doing what they love will also guarantee real smiles!

4. Timing

You wouldn’t want to pose for photographs when you’re exhausted or feeling unwell and its the same for your kids.  Try to schedule photos after mealtimes and naps to make sure everybody is full of energy and feeling happy.

5. Light

Think about the light in your photo. Is it bright and sunny, is it too dark, is the light dappled over their faces casting shadows and bright patches?  Positioning them in the best light is key.  On a bright sunny day, facing kids towards the sun means they will squint and screw up their faces trying to look at the camera in bright sunlight.  Instead, try and find some open shade so they can easily look at you without squinting.  Turn off the flash when taking pictures inside and try to place them near a window that will light them naturally and give great ‘catchlights’ (the reflection you can see in people’s eyes that makes them look ‘alive’).

6. Look out behind you

Background is key – think about what’s behind the kids and visible in the frame of the image.  Do you really want the sunburnt bald man sitting next to you at the beach in your family photo or a pile of dirty dishes piled up near the sink??

7. What to wear?

If you know you’re going to be taking pictures of the children that are important, choose clothes that are quite plain, not too bright and avoid any big patterns, logos or images on t-shirts.  Think about the colours of your surroundings and what colours compliment them.  Here’s a link to a Pinterest board I send to potential clients about choosing what to wear for their photoshoot.

8. Quantity leads to quality

Lastly, take as many photos as you can!  Children never stay still for long so if you catch them at the right moment, take as many as you can! Expect to take around 50 shots to get that one great one when you’re first starting out…

Louisa Williams is a family and children’s photographer based near Cambridge and working throughout Cambridgeshire, Suffolk  and the surrounding areas.  You can see more of her current work and enquire about commissions here and can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.