I find myself at home, with my 3 children all doing their school classes online from our living room, and a husband who has taken over one of the children’s bedrooms as his office for the next few weeks at least. With the new social distancing regulations in place, and everyone’s anxiety about this terrible virus, I am finding myself for the 1st time in 6 years with no clients to shoot for the next few weeks.
I am sure there are many, many of you who are finding yourselves in the same situation. At home with our little treasures, with all our usual activities cancelled.
Whilst I definitely have my hands full with 3 kids homeschooling, and a few clients galleries to finish editing, I wanted to give you all a few tips that would help you to take great looking photos of your babies and children on your phones during this time. Any camera really, but your phone is also most likely to be the camera you have on you every single day… and that, after all, is the best camera you could wish for!
Now, I am not saying that the photos I take on my phone camera are at the same standard as my usual professional images, but they are still lovely & I still treasure the photos I snap of my own kids on my iPhone. In fact, when I edit my iPhone photos using Lightroom and Photoshop the end results are pretty beautiful. And I do make photo books of all the photos I take on my phone using Chatbooks (Click the link to get a $10 discount on the first album you purchase from them). Here is a little side by side of the same (ish) image on my “real camera” vs my iPhone camera.
I have compiled my top tips for taking great photos of your little ones at home with your phone and I thought it could be a lovely thing for you to do while we’re all staying inside to help stop the spread of this terrible pandemic.
1. Pick your time of day wisely & keep it short
With children, especially young ones, and especially when we are being confined to our homes with limited activities, we need to be specific when we pick our time to try to photograph them. I generally prefer to photograph young children early in the morning or straight after a nap, and when they have a full tummy.
Even when photographing my very compliant 7 year old for the purposes of this blog post today she was only really willing to help me out for about 10 minutes. And whilst I just said I prefer shooting in the mornings, we actually captured these photos in the afternoon because we had school work to get through in the morning. And even though the I asked her to stay exactly still when i was taking a photo on both the camera and then the phone, you can see there is always a wild card when working with children 🙂
2. Keep a clean lens for clearer photos
Most smartphones spend a very significant amount of time in our hands and that means they’re covered in fingerprints. Not to mention the amount of time my phone spends at the bottom of my handbag along with all the crumbs of life.
Very often those fingerprints and crumbs are found on the place where you want them the least: your lens! So give your lens a clean before taking a photo – that can ensure there will be no smudges, dust spots or blurry areas on your image.
It may sound like a really simple tip, but this one thing alone can have the biggest impact on getting a clear photo… and most people never bother wiping their phone’s lens (they usually wipe the screen!)
3. Keep it simple
You don’t need a studio, or perfect white room to create more professional looking images. The best place to start is on a bed, ideally with plain white bedding so that the focus of the image is on your kids. It is soft and familiar for them, and there are a range of different shots you can get, from simple portraits, to reading books, to jumping on the bed, to playing roly-poly’s.
If your bed is in a room with terrible light then why not create a fake bed by simply using the pillows and duvet against a wall in whichever room you have the prettiest light in. For the purposes of this blog post I didn’t set up my “studio” as I usually would for a client session. I grabbed my duvet off my bed, threw it on the ground with some cushions and pinned up a white curtain to cover the hideousness which is the home computer station at the moment.
Keeping the setting and the background simple, clean and light, makes your beautiful baby and children the focus of the shot.
By this I mean both your position as the photographer, and the position of your little subjects. You want to capture your babies genuine expressions while filling their eyes with light & capturing all of the beautiful details.
So I have baby/child parallel to the window and then I position myself to the other side of them, shooting from the shadows towards the window. When I am shooting for my clients I love to shoot with backlighting but the iPhone does not cope well with backlighting at all. Shooting with the window light coming in from the side is much better when shooting on your phone.
Lighting is key to photography & with my camera I find the lovely contrast of light in my studio works perfectly. However, a phone camera really struggles with this.
The phone camera can only capture extremes, so it finds it hard to handle contrast & tends to err on the side of darkening the image.
The best light for a phone camera is actually outside with brighter light, the contrast of light indoors can be a challenge for a phone camera. So open up those windows and let in the light. Often in my sessions I am trying to reduce the amount of light flooding into my little studio, but with my phone I need to pull back the window filters and let all that beautiful light flood in. I also move my children much closer to the window than I generally do in a session to maximise that light.
6. Blur & Focus
This tip applies to any kind of photography, but it’s not so apparent when using a smartphone to take a shot.
Simply get closer to your subject, and try tapping your finger on the screen to set the focus point. You’ll see that the closer you are, the blurrier the background will become. In the image below you can see that my daughters eyelashes furthest from the camera are not in focus and the curtains are quite blurry.
Alternatively, blurring the foreground is another way to create interest in a photo. Simply move close to your subject, then override the phone’s automatic focus (see tip below), and tap on the background element. This will throw the foreground out of focus.
Sometimes the photo might look a bit off. One possible reason for that could be that your phone didn’t focus on the right place.
So again, just like tapping on the screen to cause the background to blur, you can actually select your focus point manually on your phone by tapping on the screen where you want your focus point to be. You’ll be able to see the outlines of a yellow square when you tap, to show you that you’ve set the focus on the right place.
For portraits I always set my focus point on the face or, if possible, an eye. If the eyes are sharp in an image our brain will fill in the rest of the face even if some of it falls outside the focus plane and is a little blurry.
Now when we are shooting children, they are rarely still and quiet. If there is movement in the scene, the camera might be constantly readjusting the focus point to compensate for the subject’s new position.
To overcome this, did you know you can ‘lock’ your focus? Next time, just tap on your subject on the camera screen, and hold your finger down for a couple of seconds – you’ll see ‘AE/AF Lock’ appear.
The focus lock will remain until you exit the camera app, or turn off your phone.
If you’ve seen the yellow focus square, you’ve probably paid attention the icon right on its right hand-side. This little sun icon along with the slider will help you adjust the exposure of your image.
If you need it to be darker and underexposed, simply drag your finger down on the screen. If you want it to be brighter and overexposed, then you just drag it up.
There are a number of reasons why you would want to sacrifice a perfectly exposed image for a darker or for a brighter one – it all depends on what mood you want to convey.
Often when shooting a backlit subject, for example, the smartphone will underexpose the subject, due to all the light in the photo. This is when overexposing would be useful.
Even though the photos I took on my phone were dark and a bit flat, when I applied my usual editing workflow in Lightroom and Photoshop I was actually pretty pleased with the final image.
The challenge of course is that unless you’re a photographer or professional photo editor, then you’re unlikely to know your way around Photoshop or Lightroom. And I do not edit my phone snaps in lightroom or photoshop on my desktop. Actually I rarely edit them at all, but for those special ones I do tweak them a little to make them a little bit more light and give them a little more pop.
There are loads of apps out there that are pretty easy to get used to. Also it is always easy to edit in black and white if you are pressed for time or not sure you can get the right sort of look that you are after.
There are some brilliant filters that you apply with just one click on your phone & the results look really good. This edit for example was a super simple, one click black and white preset in the Lightroom app.
The Lightroom app that I mentioned above is by far my favourite phone editing app. It takes a bit of playing to get used to but there are loads of features and you can also purchase presets to apply to your photos. The edits I have used in this blog post are all using a set of presets I purchased from Modern Market and loaded into the Lightroom App. Literally one click and this is the result.
So those are my 8 tips to hopefully inspire you to take better photos of your kids over the time we have at home in the coming weeks/months.
Stay safe & thank you so much for reading x