Well, I have some good news for you that will save you all thousands of dollars. You DON’T need a fancy camera or expensive editing software to take decent pictures of your children.
Although I DO own the fancy camera and all of the expensive editing software, I often don’t feel like using it when I’m, say, with my kids at the zoo. When I’m not working, I just want to be a mom, not necessarily a mama-razzi crazy photographer. So, I bring my iPhone. On vacation often too.
I have learned much about improving my mobile-phone pictures, and with these simple tips, hopefully you will, too! On to the first tip…
1. Use natural light.
Here’s a little glimpse into the mind of photographers: they are OBSESSED with LIGHT. They dream about it, think about it, get distracted by it, feel the itch to grab their camera whenever they see it.
The use of natural light is the first and most important aspect of good photography. So, the first thing you need to do is to turn off your flash. The ONLY time I use the flash on my camera-phone is when I want to take a picture with some friends in a dark restaurant, for example. Other than that, I NEVER use the flash on my iPhone.
Now, I know what you are thinking – what if it’s dark?! That is a really great question. If you can learn to think like a photographer, you will snap the shot you want BEFORE it gets dark. This can be inconvenient at times and does take a little bit of planning. But trust me. It’s absolutely, totally worth it.
Diffused, even light is best. If you’re outside, try taking pictures in the shade of a tree or roof. Or, even better – go outside right before sunset – the lighting is just magical. If you’re inside, take pictures in the brightest room in the house. Often this is the master bedroom, kitchen or family room.
I love taking pictures of food because, well, I love good food. I am known to carry my plate around the house and take a picture of my food right near the window. My husband has graciously learned to live with this. Eating outside is always a good option too.
2. Don’t Over-Process.
Ladies, I can’t stress this enough. Applying a creative filter to your picture might make it more interesting, but believe me when I say that over-processed images will quickly look dreary and outdated. A clean, bright edit will never go out of style. Either will leggings, I hope. 🙂
Yes, I’ve been guilty of applying too drastic editing via old Instgram images. Just scroll down to the very bottom of my feed and you will see it. Sorry to break it to you, but applying a good filter to a bad image NEVER makes a GOOD image.
One little hack, however, that I sometimes do is to use the filter at a very low opacity. To do this with Instagram, just choose the filter that you like and click on it twice. This will give you the option of applying the filter from 1 to 100% (start with 20% and then follow my steps below.
Personally, when using Instagram on my iPhone, I usually just add a small account of contrast and increase both the brightness (a lot) and shadows. And THAT’S IT.
3. Nail the Focus
Another tip that is oh-so-important. There’s nothing worse than seeing a pictures on Facebook of a really cute baby and that baby is really out of focus (and the background sharp). I just saw one of these images the other day. It was sad. Don’t post a blurry picture, but take another.
How do you nail the focus, you ask? Another little hack — simply click on the SCREEN of your iPhone. Focus on the eyes, if you are photographing a person. Or focus on somewhere in the center third of the image if you are taking a picture of something else.
Side note: you may notice when you focus by tapping the screen that your image slightly brightens or darkens. There is a reason for this: when you click on something dark, the whole image lightens. Likewise, when you click on something light, the whole photo darkens. This is your camera trying to guess the best exposure. I use this to my advantage and will experiment by clicking around different parts of the image to get the perfect light. It only takes a few seconds.
4. Tell A Story
There are a million ways to tell a story in your photographs. A few of my favorite tips:
Don’t take EVERY picture with your kids looking at the camera saying “cheese.” There is, of course, a time and place for this. However, some of the most interesting and expressive images are action shots. Start with your kids playing ring-around-the-rosie in the grass or your baby crawling away from you or your daughter flipping pancakes. These moments – the moments of life – are the BEST moments.
Also, try shooting a variety of perspectives. Stand up on a chair and shoot down while your kids color. Get on your hands and knees and shoot eye-level with your toddler. Stand back and take a shot of the whole scene – your kids at the park with the giant maple trees looming over them. And then, take a extra close-up shot of your kids’ hands holding the acorns that they found (and make sure to tap the screen to “focus” on the right part of your image from tip #3). Get creative. It’s fun!
Hopefully you have found these tips to be helpful. As basic as they sound, they can make a world of difference. Enjoy! And feel free to tag me in your pictures on Instagram (@nealylanzen for my “mom life” pictures and @photographybynealy for my photography) – I would LOVE to see what you capture!