Quick Guide: 10 Easy Steps to Take Better Portraits of your Little Ones
Did you know I started out as a portrait photographer? I still do sessions whenever I can - I just love portraits! Here are some steps to easily and quickly take better portraits of those little ones yourself.
1. Dig out that DSLR. Yes, that big girl camera everyone owns but never uses.
2. Set it to [Aperture Priority]. That's the A or Av on the spinny wheel at the top of the camera body.
3. Set the [Aperture] to the lowest number it will go. This will blur the background and make your subject the focus. Your camera will take care of the rest of the settings.
For a deep dive into Aperture Priority check out this article.
PRO TIP: If you really want to take your portraits up a notch, upgrade your kit lens (the one the camera came with) to a 50mm lens. This lens doesn't zoom, so you have to zoom with your feet, but it will instantly improve your portraits, even if you only ever keep your camera in [Aperture Priority].
4. Get shooting! For portraits, always, always, always, focus on the eyes. If nothing else is in focus, at least make sure the eyes are sharp and you'll look like a pro.
5. If you're indoors, forget the flash. Turn off any artificial lighting to avoid weird orange or yellow color casts, and instead place your subject near a window. Put your back to the light and face them toward you. This will illuminate their beautiful face and create pretty [catchlights], aka magical sparkly highlights, in your subject's eyes.
6. If you're outdoors, the best time to shoot is during golden hour. Golden hour is roughly one hour before sunset (and one hour after sunrise but no way I'm dragging my kids out for portraits that early). The light during sunset at golden hour is warm and diffused and you'll get soft tones that really make for gorgeous portraits.
7. You can still take great portraits in full sun! My rule of thumb is to place the subject's back to the sun, and face them toward a [secondary light source]. Stick with me here, this is actually really easy! A secondary light source is anything that will reflect softer, less harsh light back into the subject's face, such as the open sky, a white wall, sand, or a gravel driveway.
8. Avoid overcast if you can. Overcast days are kinda meh for portraits honestly. The eyes sink in, the face looks flat and the photo generally lacks contrast. If you can find the sun, face them toward it and hope for the best.
9. Create candid moments. Asking your kids to say cheese will usually create a strained and unnatural smile. Instead, ask them about their favorite stuffy, or superhero, or whatever you know they're really into, and try catch their delighted reaction as they tell you about it. Goofy Dads just off camera are also excellent at generating genuine smiles!
Bonus tip: Every few shots let your kids do a silly one to keep them engaged and having fun. You'll double their attention span and get happier expressions too!
10. Get in the picture. Whenever you can, hand that camera off to someone else and get in there with them. A pristine album of perfect pictures is nice, but your kids want to see the moments and memories that you wove together as a family that make up their childhood, so don't forget to document that you were present.
Was this quick guide helpful for you? What else would you like to see? Let me know in the comments below!