Behind the Scenes - Take Better Pictures of Your Kids By Knowing Your Style

There's no such thing as a bad picture of a child. There are only pictures that are taken with thought and those without thought. There are tons of websites out there to teach you the technical basics of photography, so I'm not going into that now. Today I'm going to talk to you about style.

Do you ever find yourself standing somewhere, holding your phone vertically, trying to get your kid to look at you and do (or re-do) that hilarious/adorable thing, or just smile? Of course! The result is usually your kid in the center, looking up (or not). Which is fine, but boring.

I spent no more than 5 minutes taking these unposed, unedited images, all with a different style. Style is when purpose, emotion, and composition all come together. If you can recognize what resonates with you, it's easier to reproduce it.

So let's take a look at how you can make purpose, emotion, and composition come together to make 3 different styles.

1. Photograph with Purpose. Let's back up a second. You probably didn't pull out the camera for a formal portrait, right? You pulled it out because there was something interesting going on. Capture what's interesting, and if your child's in it, capture how they're involved with whatever was interesting. In this post, my purpose was documenting my daughter playing with trucks.

2. Don't Just Stand There! Capture the emotion by meeting them where they are before you ask them to do anything different. If you're asking them to look up, look at you, look at the camera, and smile, you're distracting them from interacting with whatever interesting thing prompted you to get the camera out. Get the moment. Get down on their level. When I'm taking video or stills, I'm all over the place. I will drop down on the floor, even in adult company, if I see a good shot. Even if we're outside. Even if we're at the grocery store. I've been known to lie down in the playground sand and sit in wet snow. It's not for everyone. But the idea is the same. Get down on their level. In this post, I was kneeling on the floor, crawling forward and backward to take my shots.

3. Know Your Style. Now that you have your purpose and are maximizing your chance at capturing genuine emotion, line up your shot. This is all about framing your shot, composing it - how do your position your camera to include the important details and exclude the rest? Remember, my Purpose was to record her playing with trucks, not just her. I thought it was especially cute that she had on her "pretty shoes" all girly and pink and was playing trucks. It makes a nice and interesting contrast. It tells a good story. Plus it's just cute.

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This one is a Portrait style, meaning it's about her. This image is still about her playing with trucks, but the statement about trucks is secondary to her face, and is balanced by the subtle detail of her shoes. Portrait images are popular with parents, but keep in mind that a more powerful image is made by including some details about the child.

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This one is a Documentary style - it includes details of the surroundings, but in a purposeful way. In this case, she was ignoring her doll to play trucks. I thought it was a relevant piece of information to tell - she's not just interested in trucks; here, she's showing preference. It's part of the story. When you're framing your shot, exclude stuff that isn't relevant, but look for stuff that is.

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This one is fun, unposed, and natural. You might call it Lifestyle or just candid Family photography. This image is neither about her and how she looks (portrait) or her and her surroundings and interactions (documentary). It's just her being her, sticking something in her mouth like all 1-year-olds do. I liked the wide eyes and the crazy hair, brought to our attention by a colorful truck. But the difference between this and a snapshot is forethought and purpose. Thoughtfulness on things like what colors to include, thinking to get close enough to cut out clutter, which image to choose to express her during that moment, and lining the shot up evenly with the windowsill and the table.

Which style do you like best? To me, it entirely depends on the situation and what the kids are doing in that moment. I use them all. But as long as I have a purpose in mind, I can tell stories more effectively. And as long as I get down on their level, I'll be capturing their natural expressions because they won't be straining their necks to look at the camera. And that makes the images more personal and more relate-able regardless of style.