Photography tips for moms and dads on how to take everyday portraits of children
Celebrated photographer and best-selling author Me Ra Koh provides step-by-step instruction on photographing your family and taking pictures of your child. As a companion book to Your Baby in Pictures, Your Child in Pictures helps you learn to capture your child's special moments with 40 beautiful “photo recipes” that anyone can do, with any camera.
From first haircuts to first days of school, from snuggly teddy bears to favorite dress-up clothes, the toddler and childhood years are full of precious days that disappear all too soon. What parent doesn’t yearn to freeze the memory of their 2-year-old’s chubby cheeks, or their 6-year-old’s toothless grin?
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Recipes from Your Child in Pictures
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There’s nothing like the love between a child and a pet—whether it’s a dog, cat, rabbit, or even a tiny hamster. How many times have you caught your child playfully rolling around on the floor with your puppy, intently serving tea to your disinterested cat, or nuzzling your family pet? When your pet responds, validating their special bond, magic fills the air. Why not capture these moments of pure affection? Here, Allison Gallagher, a former attendee and now a certified CONFIDENCE Workshop teacher in Virginia, captures Atticus midhowl, while Sammi squeals with laughter at his side.
When: Anytime your child shows prolonged interest in your pet and is calm enough to sit and focus on some puppy or kitty love.
Prep: Simplify your setting as much as possible. An indoor room flooded with window light or a covered outside porch is ideal. If your pet is high energy, take him to the park for a quick run so that he will be mellowed out for the photos. Have treats on hand for your pet (and child—better not leave him out!) as a reward for a job well done.
For P&S Users: Turn off your flash. Set your camera to Portrait mode to get that blurry background. If your child and pet are content to sit still, you probably won’t need Continuous Shooting mode, but it’s a good option to consider if there’s a chance one or the other might go mobile. .
For DSLR Users: Turn the flash off. Select Aperture Priority mode, and dial down the f-stop to ƒ/2.0 for a blurred background that doesn’t distract the viewer from the focal point of the image—your child and pet. Try to get an exposure with a fairly fast shutter speed, so you won’t get any blur on your subjects if they move. If the shutter speed is too low, try increasing the ISO until it speeds up, at least 1/125 sec. (125) or faster.
Compose: A horizontal format will best accommodate your child and pet if they’re side by side, but experiment with a vertical format if your child wants to hold your pet. If you’re shooting on a porch, use the floorboards as leading lines to draw the eye in toward the center of the frame. Squat down to shoot at your child’s eye level, and get in close, so your focus is on the expressions.
Capture: Focus on your child’s face. If it’s not in the center of the frame, re-frame the composition to center the face, and lock in your focus; then re-frame to your liking and snap the shot.
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Every year your child makes a wish and blows out the candles. And every year do you scramble around trying to capture that magical moment? As your child gets older, you can slow things down a little. The mad rush to blow out the candles and dive straight into the cake isn’t as intense, so take the time to capture the quiet anticipation—that precious pause full of promise and hope. It’s a fleeting breath that’s gone all too quickly. Monika McSweeney, a blog follower in California, decided to work with the dark background and convert the image to black and white, heightening the sentiment in this quiet window of childhood.
When: During a birthday celebration, just before your child makes a wish and blows out the candles.
Prep: Have someone else bring out the birthday cake so that you can be in position for the photo. Get in close with your camera, ready to fire. This is a very quick shot. But if you miss it, no one says you can’t relight the candles and have your child blow them out again!
For P&S Users: Turn off the flash. Set your camera to Portrait Mode for the lowest aperture to let in the most light. Turn on Continuous Shooting mode so that you can rapid-fire as your child blows out the candles. Experiment with Night mode for capturing moments in dark settings (but make sure the flash isn’t on). You can also try setting your camera to black-and- white mode for a more timeless look.
For DSLR Users: Turn the flash off. Set the camera to Aperture Priority mode, and dial down the f-stop to the lowest setting to allow in as much light as possible. Crank up the ISO to 3200 or even higher to get a faster shutter speed. The fast shutter speed is what freezes the flicker of the candle flames. Turn on Continuous Shooting mode so that you don’t miss a shot. Consider converting the image to black and white if the high ISO results in visible noise grain or distorted colors.
Compose: A vertical format will fill the frame with your child’s face, candles, and cake. Get in close, and have her face slightly off-center from the cake and in the frame.
Capture: If your child is game for relighting the candles a couple of times, experiment with different focus points—like the candles, her mouth blowing, or her eyes. Pick your focus, and if it is not at the center of the frame, adjust your framing to center it and lock in your focus; then reframe the original composition and shoot.About the Author:
Me Ra Koh loves cameras, kids, and parents, and spends her time bringing them together. Her work and photo recipes have been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Lifetime Television, Martha Stewart Living Radio, The New York Times, Parenting, and Babble.com. She was the regular guest photo expert on The Nate Berkus Show (NBC) for two years and currently hosts her own show, Capture Your Story with Me Ra Koh, on Disney Junior TV. You can find her at merakoh.com.
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