How to photography: tips for taking family pictures

December 17, 2012

I am very excited to introduce you our guest blogger,  Erin of Erin Carlyle Photography!  Erin is an amazing photographer, and was voted Houston’s best children’s photographer.  Erin is going to share her top 10 tips for taking your own Christmas card photos.

I’m not a writer, but I am a great list maker. When I was asked to make a list of my top 10 tips for photographing your own children, I was thrilled!  This is all of my favorite things rolled in to one…lists, children, photography, and Christmas.  So here it goes – my top 10 tips for photographing your own children…

  1. It is really important to start planning your shoot in advance.  If you wait until the last minute you will be stressed and it will cause the kids to be frantic and will create not so great pictures.   I usually start with the clothes.  When picking out clothes for your session stay away from solid white, as it tends to wash your skin out.   Mix up colors, textures, patterns and plaids.  Keep in mind that you want your kids to be comfortable in their clothes, so picking out their Sunday best might not be the optimal choice.
  2. The next step in planning is to pick a location.  Look for a pretty location that has open shade.  Try to avoid spots that have distractions in the background, such as trashcans, signs and such.  You will want the picture to be about the children and not draw people in to the distractions in the background.  You want to make sure they have enough light on their faces.  I usually hold up my hand and turn in a circle and watch my hand to see when the light brightens up my hand…then that is where I put my subject.
  3. The third step is to pick the time of the location.  I prefer evening light about an hour or two before sunset.   But I understand that little ones don’t necessarily do as well at night.  But if you want to try for evening light and you are worried about how your little one will do the next step might be helpful.
  4. Make sure to feed your children before the session.  This sounds silly but full bellies will be happy longer!  And if dinner is taken care of then maybe you can go out for ice cream after your session.
  5. Do you prefer the candid approach, posed approach  or both?  For candid pictures, get them busy doing something they enjoy and just start shooting.  For the posed approach, don’t expect to keep their attention for too long, so shoot quickly!  If you want some of each, start with the posed approach and let them play at the end.  It will be hard for them to go from fun and silly to serious and posed.  It is much more natural to go the other way.
  6. Assuming your children are smaller than you, get on their level and have your camera even with their eyes.  This makes for a much more interesting and intimate shot.
  7. Think about your angle.  I prefer close ups for cards especially, so don’t be afraid to get close.  If you can choose a focal point on your camera, choose the eyes!  Eye contact is how we connect with each other, so photographers use the subject’s eyes to make a connection with the viewer.
  8. Stay calm and don’t fuss! This step is always hard for me when I’m photographing my own children.  Make it fun and interact with them.  Ask them silly questions (Do you like to eat worm spaghetti?  Do you think we should take a bath in peanut butter tonight?).  Bring someone along who makes them laugh.  I usually bring my husband along who makes silly faces behind me and dances.  If you prefer camera aware pictures (where they are looking at the camera) then that person needs to be standing directly behind you while you are shooting so they will look at the camera.
  9. Show them the back of the camera after you’ve taken a few pictures.  Once they see pictures of themselves and know they are doing great, they will want to continue to do a good job.
  10. I usually tell my children that if they listen and follow instructions then I will let them pose themselves at the end.  I let them each make 5 funny faces for the camera.  Thank goodness for digital!

I hope this helps some of you.  I haven’t always loved taking pictures of my own children.  I thought that it was too stressful and I wanted that “perfect” picture.  I’ve learned to relax and enjoy them and their silliness. When I look back at the pictures from the past I always appreciate the silly ones the most!  So have fun capturing your little ones and making memories that you will treasure!

Note from Simply Swanky:  Please checkout Erin’s website and blog.  She is such a talented photographer.  If you are in the Houston area, I strongly recommend you put your family and photos in her hands – and see the magic she can bring to life.

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