21 July 2014

5 tips for great pics of your children this summer

I'm often asked by friends to give them tips for taking great pictures of their children when they go on holiday, so with the summer holidays approaching I thought I'd write a short, hopefully simple tutorial to get the best out of your holiday snaps this summer. 

1. Understand your DSLR

2. Understand and choose the best lighting

3. Use the appropriate settings

4. Get the most from your children

5. Get in the picture!

Understand Your DSLR

The first step before you go on your hols is to get to know your dslr or what ever camera you have for that matter! 

Work out how to change the ISO (thats the equivalent of film speed for anyone thats my age or older), the darker the location the higher the ISO speed! Generally 100 for a bright sunny day and 200-400 for an overcast day. If you're taking photos indoors or in the evening you may have to push the ISO much higher. 

Find out where the settings for the shutter speed and aperture priority are (usually Tv and Av on a canon, S and A on a Nikon). You can set your camera to work on either shutter speed or Aperture Priorities (I'll talk more about these later) and as a general rule if you're in a 'point and shoot' situation having fun with your children I'd say these are the best settings to use. 

Also make sure you choose the right lens, or at least know what lens you're using and what it can do I use the Canon 50mm 1.4 for the majority of shots during my family sessions (I've also used the cheaper 1.8 and found that to be great too) and I personally feel the results can't be matched. Its not a zoom lens but a fixed focus, which does mean you need to be fairly close to your subject and really get involved in the action - but when you're on a family holiday I'd say thats part of the fun anyway! 

Understand and Choose the best lighting

Lighting is key to getting great shots of your children, and great shots in general for that matter. Early in the morning and late in the afternoon is the absolute optimal time of day for beautiful, warm, soft, illuminating light, so if you are purposefully planning to go out and take pictures of your children then time it right, take an evening walk down to the beach when everyone else has gone home you really won't regret it.  

This was taken at 6am, so not only was the 
light soft and warm but the beach was empty!

Mid-day is really not ideal for getting beautiful shots of your family, the shadows are very harsh and everyone ends up squinting, if occasionally however you want to get great shots when the sun is at its strongest there are a few rules to stick to when working with difficult, bright mid-day light… make sure your subjects (or children) are in the shade, under a tree with patches of light shining through is ideal… Also make sure you're not positioning them so that they are looking towards the sun, they will be squinting and will soon get fed up, and the pictures will look forced and uncomfortable. But like I said before if you are after really beautiful images of your family do try to avoid that mid day sun. 

Use the appropriate settings

Now on to the bit that everyone seems to find slightly more confusing… of course if you know how to use fully manual settings on your DSLR and are comfortable using them then thats great, but as a general rule most people when on holiday just want to get the best results without to much effort and even more importantly without missing the moment. In which case I'd recommend focusing on one of two settings, either Aperture priority (Av on canon and A on Nikon) or shutter speed priority (Tv on canon S on Nikon). 

Shutter speed priority - In this mode the camera allows you to set the desired shutter speed and the camera then selects the appropriate aperture for a correct exposure. This is best used for fast action shots, when your child is shooting down a slide or running through the park. I'd recommend at least 1/500 if you want no blurring of the subject. on this setting be careful not to select a speed any slower than 1/60 for a handheld shot, if you go slower than this you will likely experience camera shake and your images are unlikely to be sharp. 

This photo of Alfie zooming on his scooter was taken with 
a 50mm lens, shutter speed 1/1,250 f3.2 - here its the 
shutter speed that is of primary importance to 
capture the movement without the blur

Aperture Priority - This setting is best used when you want to control what is in focus/ the main focus of the image, I'd say for most photos of your children this is the best setting to use, it allows you to get photos of your children with background blur which helps get rid of the messy background. But even on this setting keep an eye on the shutter speed that the camera chooses, anything below 1/60 may cause you child to look a bit blurry so you may need to adjust the aperture/ f number or change the ISO. 

This photo of Ollie however was all about aperture,
making sure the foreground and background were nicely 
blurred, therefore not distracting from the main focus Ollie.
The settings used here were f3.2 shutter speed 1/250.

All of this sounds a bit complicated but its really quite simple, just have a play around with your camera before you go away so that you're confident with all of the settings.

Get the Most from Your Children

This should be the easy bit, you're on holiday after all - one of the key elements here though is to let your children have fun, one or two posed smiling shots is nice for the album but photographing your children having fun, and doing what they do are the memories you'll really treasure - capture the details and let your photos tell the story of your family.

Get in the Picture!

So many mums and dads forget to get photographs of themselves with their children and its so important for you and for them that you do. Set up the camera, try a test shot and then pass it to hubby or a passer by for that all important family shot. 

Of course the most important thing is to have fun and take pictures you can treasure, weather that means a snap on your smart phone or a beautifully well thought out family photograph, enjoy the moment and the pictures will be perfect :)

I hope this post has been helpful and not to confusing. If you want to find out a bit more about getting great photos of your family please feel free to get in touch about family photography work shops.

Enjoy your holidays,

Lianne xox

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