8 Tips for Great Family Photographs with A Smartphone
Imagine a perfect afternoon at a park. You are sipping a freshly brewed cup of coffee while listening to birds singing and your children play. The scene feels like a page of a fairytale is coming to life and you just want to capture the moment and remember it forever. You rush for your phone, get closer to the kids and with an eager voice and a big smile you say “CHEESE!”. That’s it, everything is lost as the children just froze and are staring back at you with a blank look in their eyes.
The image you actually captured is miles away from the image you intended to capture and treasure in a frame at home. When the moment is gone, it’s gone, but it doesn’t have to be. Below are my professional tips on capturing moments that tell a story, without carrying an actual camera, buying expensive editing software or hiring a professional photographer on a regular basis.
Use the Smartphone
Your smartphone is already good enough.
Not only the quality of the photos is good but it’s always available. Keeping the lens clean makes a difference. Before you click, just make sure the lens is clean of fingerprints, make up from the last phone call or dust from your handbag.
Forget finding a perfect moment
Take photos every day and shoot the “ordinary” situations. Yes. Every. Single. Day. When you look back on today, you will regret not having some moments captured. While it is a nice memory for the whole family, it also helps children build confidence in front of the camera. After a while, they’ll stop paying attention to you when you take out your smartphone and come close. They will just feel comfortable and you will have a situation and a time to capture the perfect moment you so longed for.
Extra tip: Google “Photo a Day” challenge.
Go for Spontaneity
Let the kids be themselves without having to look straight into the camera at every shot.
Spontaneous moments offer a lot of emotion and a story behind the image. Special Props are also not necessary. What is important is to capture expressions, their moods and pure emotions. Isn’t that what we’re witnessing and living day by day with them?
Utilize the natural light if you do have a chance to create a scene. By following the daylight, you can capture natural colors and shadows and the photos will require minimal to no editing. Position the face so that it is the brightest part of the photo. You can do so by going as closest to the window as possible. These photos are ideal when children are reading, sleeping or playing with a favorite toy.
Stay minimal keeping unnecessary background out of the scene. A busy background may distract the attention from the kids when someone is looking at the image. Go for the simple, minimalist and natural backgrounds. If your smartphone has a PORTRAIT function go ahead and experiment with it, as it helps fade out the busy background and brings clarity to the main character(s) in the photo. I like to experiment with the different lighting options, and often opt for STUDIO LIGHT to brighten up indoor as well as outdoor shots. Note that PORTRAIT is ideal when the children or adults are quite still.
Play and experiment with angles. Avoid to point and shoot. Follow the children’s play and even sit on the floor with them to get their perspective on what they are doing. For context take a photo through the toys. For photos in which they are lying on the bed shoot from above, but if they are on the floor sit down near them or place their favorite toy right in front of the lens and take the photo by playing with illusion of size. In both cases the kids will be the key theme in the photo and will fill the image. Play while you’re taking photos, they love it every time!
Use the timer function on your smartphone to have the whole family in the picture. It’s fun for the children to see their mom or dad running back from the phone to find their spot before the image is shot, and loudly counting the seconds backwards. One of the most precious memories captured might easily become this one where you’re blurry and running and they’re all laughing their hearts out.
It’s such a cliché but selfies capture so much emotion and facial expressions. Make yourself present in the photos. Engage your partner and friends to click every now and then and make photos of you and your kids together. As a fellow mom and as a photographer, I know how easily we tend to forget about ourselves and to include us in the photos. Forget perfection or finding the right moments. Be you and every moment will be perfect for your child. They really won’t care about our messy buns or eyebags or pyjamas, all they see is their mom together with them in a moment. They love us simply for being us and for the moments we make and spend together with them. The least we can all do is make sure they have some of those captured to take with themselves wherever they might end up in life. It’s the moments and emotions that matter. It’s family. It’s life as it is.
And for all those times you really don’t feel like clicking or thinking about it, please honor a photographer by hiring him/her to capture what’s the most precious of all in your life and just enjoy the process and the result.
About the Author
Ivana Matic is born and raised in Croatia. Her academic studies provided her the foundations of an Early Childhood Educator. While working with children in a kindergarten for 6 years and immersing in the Montessori school of thought, she also deepened her photography work which quickly turned into a business. She's been living in Rapperswil with her husband since 2019 and is in the middle of the move to Kilchberg, while raising their one-year old girl. Ivana’s journey has made her an expert in the field of photography and her on-going mission is to help families to capture and preserve life’s precious moments through her lens.
You can contact and follow Ivana here.
Note: All photo credits belong to Ivana Matic.
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