| Posted by My Super Nanny
Today we welcome Lutty Moreira to 'Chew The Fat' to teach us a thing or two about capturing our most prized possessions on the one thing that everyone has...a smart phone.
Lutty is an award winning photographer and founder of Keep 'em Little - Family Photo Artwork. Experienced in the US, Spain, Brazil and Australia, specialized in kids and family portraiture, with personal projects including travel, fashion and editorial photography.
Obviously we don't expect to be taking Lutty's quality photos with these simple steps, but hopefully his tips will give us a couple of shots that can go, straight to the pool room!
6 Ways to Take Better Family Photos With Your Phone
If you're anything like me, you probably have a nice phone with a more-than-decent camera. You take thousands of pictures of your kids everyday, but you find the results are hit-or-miss at best. You want to become more consistent and minimize the frustration of botching shots of precious moments.
I'm going to go over some tips on how to get better photos using your phone's camera, and hopefully I won't get too technical, so that you actually feel encouraged to shoot better, rather than more. I'm not going to say it's simple (ok, I probably will), but just keep in mind that if you focus on one element at a time, it will be easier and soon it will become your second nature.
As usual, let me preface this by saying everything here is not a rule. Some are principles and definitions, some are guidelines, some are common sense, and some are just my personal opinion. Now let's get started!
1. Look for Natural, Soft Light
Natural light is just the best. Ever. Period. See the importance of the last paragraph? Jokes aside, we truly are conditioned to be pleased by natural looking light, after all, our very existence depends on the Sun!
With that said, the harsh sun on a clear day hitting your kids directly in the face isn't a flattering look. It's harsh and they will definitely squint. That's why we go for soft light. Soft light is characterized by the shadows, which are very gradient - blurred, if you will.
Where to find it? If you're at home, the best idea is to open the windows and flood the house with light, turning off any artificial light to avoid color casts and multiple shadows. Even if your house isn't very bright, the cameras today still do a good job. Also, get the kids closer to the windows!
Outside…a little trickier, but achievable nonetheless! Firstly you want to look for open shades – This is when your subject is in the shade, with the open sky above them. For example, in the shadow of a building.
The next option is to be in the shade, and right next to a surface that bounces the light back to your subject. If you’re at the park this could be under a tree with the sun hitting the ground right in front of it. Beware of weird color casts, as the bounced light will be the color of the surface where it's bouncing from!
Window light is soft and beautiful
2. Avoid the Flash
The flash coming right from the camera just doesn't look good. It's that flat look with harsh shadows that we all know and most of us learned to associate with bad snapshots. It doesn't look natural, it's what causes red eyes, and it can be just plain annoying!
Of course, if we were talking about properly placed flashes or strobes, the situation could be completely different, but using your phone camera flash to take pictures of your kids, in general, is a big no-no. Stick with natural light.
And if you just want to brighten the dark areas a little bit, try turning on the HDR option on your phone. That tends to help when the lighting is harsh and there's nothing you can do about it. It may not solve the problem, but it can help.
3. Eliminate Clutter
If you're at home and just want to take some pictures of your kids while they're playing, sometimes it's difficult to go and tidy up the place, just so you can take a couple of shots to remember that moment. When that isn't a possibility, try changing your angles. Shoot from above, go around them, get a tighter shot. Or just embrace the mess!
Same thing when you're outside. If you don't want that garbage can to be in your frame, just take a couple of steps to the side, and it's out. Cars in the background distracting from your kids? Change your angle. Ugly scenery behind your subjects? Shoot from down below and include more sky! The more you experiment, the more equipped you will be to deal with these situations.
Interesting angles can tell different stories
4. Think about the Composition
Composition is very personal, and it can change the whole story of an image. Still there are basic guidelines that you can try to understand and follow, and once you feel comfortable with them, you can decide to break those "rules" or not. Your choice.
One of the biggest "mistakes" amateur photographers make is placing the subject in the center of the frame. That makes the image static, boring at times. To make the photo more dynamic, try placing them off center. If they are looking somewhere other than into the lens, maybe leave that side empty, so that we can see or imagine what is there. To find more info on this type of composition google "rule of thirds” it has some great info on what I am referring to.
Also, pay attention to natural frames like door frames, windows, trees or branches surrounding your kids. They make very interesting compositions and help to direct our eye where it matters, to the important part of the image: your family.
The "rule of thirds" is a good guide to make compositions more interesting
5. Say no to Unnatural Posing
We are all conditioned from a young age to look a certain way when there's a camera pointed at us. That look is so unnatural and most of the times, awkward! During the first days of photography, an exposure took minutes, and that's why people were so stiff and serious in photos, they had to stay still the whole time! We carried that to the modern days and even though we added smiles to the mix, it still looks forced and uncomfortable most of the times.
Why not just let people be themselves and capture that? When you think about it, I’m sure your favorite family photos aren’t posed at all. These are the images where you can see - and feel - personality, affection, and the real moments that you want to remember. Of course, you still love some posed pictures because they take you back to a special moment, but you would probably love them more if they were more spontaneous.
The trick here? Suggesting instead of directing. Interacting instead of giving orders. It's as simple as asking a kid to show you something - anything, really: "do you want to show me how you can count to 10?", or "show me how you play with your lego!" - Or literally just talking to them and making them laugh instead of asking for a smile.
There's a place for posing, but spontaneity can be gold
6. Get down to their level
One of the main things when photographing kids - and animals for that matter, is to get down to their level. The shot from above can work sometimes, but we get a better feeling of being part of their world when we can see things as they do.
Just sit, kneel, or even lie on the ground and get some interesting angles. If you're shooting a close up, especially if they're looking at the camera, try to be just a bit above their eye level, this way the eyes are wide open and will look better.
But even though that's a nice angle, make sure to experiment. The bird's eye view when kids are sleeping or playing with their toys can be very interesting. Also, the opposite, when you have the camera as close to the ground as possible, can give a feeling of grandeur to your composition.
Bonus: Don't feel limited and enjoy the moments
I know trying to pay attention to all of these details can be a bit overwhelming but like I said before, just try one element at a time, and then start incorporating the others. You will certainly start to get better images of your family, with more consistent results and a more natural and spontaneous feeling.
But also: Consider hiring a professional photographer
With all of that said, I can't not mention the value of hiring a professional photographer. You may take amazing pictures of your family - heck, you may even be a professional photographer yourself! But there are still advantages to having a pro family photographer come and photograph your family.
One of them is that you can be in more of the shots. Even if you are camera shy, the pro should know how to take care of it, and you know you will cherish having pictures where you are with you family, instead of always behind the camera. Also, you can be more spontaneous and worry only about having a good time with your kids, instead of everything I mentioned in this article (and a hundred other things!).
And then there's the fact that another person will always have a different point of view, interpretation and style, and you can have a fresh outsider's look of your loved ones. And last but not least, a professional photographer can provide you with an experience and products that you just can't get by yourself.
Thanks so much for these tips Lutty, we are running the kids outside now to put them to practise!
MSN and Keep em' Little
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