A common question asked by people purchasing cameras and lenses is ‘How do I take a good shot of my kids?’ Believe it or not, good portrait photography is easy when you know a few basic tricks. You don’t need a fancy studio set up to take natural, fun portrait photographs.
The first priority is location and lighting. While the prettier location the better, good results can be achieved with a plain white or coloured wall, colourful toys or in a garden.
Make sure that your subject (ie, your child) is well lit. The main light source should be behind you (the photographer) and illuminating the subjects face. Do not shoot with your subject in shadow or with the light source behind them, as this tends to confuse the camera and you end up with either a very dark or very bright picture.
Secondly; never underestimate the importance of framing. Do you want a full-body picture, or just the face? Side on, from the front or even from the top? It’s always a good idea to try a variety of different camera angles, as they can achieve entirely different results. Regardless of the angle, you should generally attempt to abide by the Rule of Thirds; a basic rule of art and particularly photography. When looking through your viewfinder or on the LCD display, imagine it is divided into thirds horizontally and vertically (Many cameras have the option to show these lines on their displays. Check your cameras instructions for details on how to operate these features). When photographing, try and make sure that the subject’s eyes are on the top third line. This can be difficult to achieve when photographing children as they tend to move around a lot, but this framing can be achieved later when cropping the image.
Thirdly, familiarise yourself with your cameras utilities and features. If you are shooting with a basic compact camera, check some of the settings options you can play around with. Most cameras will come with a pre-set ‘Portrait Mode,’ which will usually give you the best results for this style of photography. However if the subject is moving the ‘Sports Mode’ might be a better option. Some camera brands also include a ‘Kids and Pets’ setting, which are ideally suited for moving subjects.
Alternatively, if you are using an SLR, Digital Hybrid camera or an advanced compact camera, you might be utilising the Manual settings. In this case you should play with the different settings for different results. Use the Shutter Priority mode for fast moving subjects, or Aperture Priority to achieve a shallow depth of field. If you really want to achieve a shallow depth of field, set your aperture on its smallest f stop. Most lenses that come standard with SLR cameras have a maximum aperture of f3.5 (remembering that the smaller the number the wider the opening). If you want a greater effect, look into purchasing a prime lens. Prime lenses do not zoom, but have an aperture of f1.8 or wider. The easiest Prime Lenses to find and generally the cheapest are 50mm lenses, which have an aperture of f1.8. You can then focus on your subjects eyes and have the background nicely blurred.
Remember above all to have fun with your photography! By keeping a few of the above tips in mind, you can take beautiful portrait photos of your loved ones and special occasions which you will be proud to put on display.