Use Natural Light – In photography lighting is key. I am a lover of natural light and when photographing lifestyle photos it is always my primary light source. Indoors it is important to choose rooms with lot’s of natural light. Open blinds and doors to brighten up the room as much as possible. For creative shadows, subjects in direct light can be fun, but for the most part you’ll want to stay out of the direct light coming in through the window. Instead, position your subject outside the beams where the light is softer. Lastly, be sure to put your back towards the light source so your child is always facing it.
Outdoors – Cloudy days are great for beautiful soft light or time your shoot when shadows are less harsh either in the early morning or right before sunset. If you only have bright daytime light to work with, then try photographing in open shade (under a patio cover or in the shade of a building). This is going to give you the best results. If there is no open shade available you can place your child with his back to the sun and use a sidewalk, light colored building or wall to reflect light back into their face. Or bring a piece of cardboard covered in tin foil or a large piece of white poster board to reflect light back into your child's face.
Clear Out the Clutter – Pick up toys, the newspaper on the coffee table, and the box of pampers next to the couch. Remove everything in the surrounding area that you don’t want in the finished image. Using a solid wall or a field of grass can also limit having objects that can take attention away from the image of your beautiful child.
Know what you want ahead of time – You should always go into a photoshoot prepared! Plan ahead of time what kind of story you want to tell, the lighting you want, What your child will wear, where will they sit or stand, what tricks you will you use to get their attention, what direction will you shoot from, etc. You will want to mentally set the scene because the clock is ticking, and young children don’t have long attention spans. You will need to be efficient and quick!
Timing is everything – Time your photoshoot when your toddler is the most cooperative. If they are the happiest during the morning then plan your shoot after breakfast, or if after nap they are at their best, plan for the afternoon.
Recruit help – Having an assistant will make things go easier. I personally don’t always work with an assistant, but when I have one, I am always grateful for the help. Assistants can help to keep the younger children’s attention. They can also straighten clothing, help clean faces, catch details you may have missed and help hold reflectors when you need them.
Take pictures of things other than their faces – Sometimes it’s the details that really tell the story! Come in close for shots of your little one’s hands, shoes, tummy or those big brown eyes.
Get creative with perspective- Get on their level. Most portraits are taken with the camera at eye level. Full body images are usually at chest level but getting creative with angles can tell a whole different story! Take some shots from above while your child is playing or try tilting the camera for variety. Taking a shot or two from ground level looking up will make your child look bigger than life. And don’t shot just vertical images, mix it up with some horizontals too.
Don’t be afraid to get messy – If it’s raining or snowing outside that doesn’t mean that you can’t go outside for a photoshoot. Children splashing in puddles or making snow angels in the snow can also be great. I once was on a photoshoot where my two year old subject slipped in the mud (this could have ruined our photoshoot), but instead of giving up we went with it, and got some really cute photos of him and his brother getting dirty!
Contain them – Use a highchair to contain them for a picture of their cute little face. Or set them in a basket or a wagon. For older children using a bucket or chair to sit on will keep them still long enough for a few good images.
Give them an activity -Giving them an activity to do can keep them focused and still. Sidewalk chalk or popping bubbles are great ones for outside. Inside you might try having them work on a puzzle or point out the animals in their book.
Let them be kids – You can get some great images just by letting them play, run around and just do what kids do. Most of the time it’s those candid moments in between posing, when they are just being themselves, that make the best pictures.
Capture the meltdown – We all know that all kids get tired and there will be meltdowns. Although they might not be welcome when they happen, these photos can sometimes be the funniest.
Remember it only takes one - No one frames and displays every picture from a photoshoot. Chances are you just need one or two for framing.
Learn to Edit - I know, I know, you aren’t a professional. That’s okay! Knowing how to edit your photos will help tremendously when it comes to photographing your kids. You can crop out little imperfections like distractions in the background or crop in for a tighter shot. You can bump up the exposure, so the image looks brighter or even darken the background some so your subject stands out. And if the color just isn’t right, you can turn it into black and white for the perfect moody shot.
Practice – Getting good at photography takes practice. Practice with your camera settings, cropping and angles, and getting those great expressions. And remember, even a professional makes mistakes. Most children are much more interested in playing then taking pictures and you won’t always get your toddler to look directly in the camera, but that’s okay. With a little practice you’ll see that capturing those beautiful candid moments of childhood can be very rewarding.