How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

I’m really excited to share with you how to take better pictures of your kids today. I find sometimes it’s easier to take pictures of other peoples kids and then we get to our kids and…we just aren’t getting what we want. OR you are a newer photographer and find taking pictures of your kids frustrating. Whatever your story is for being here…I feel you.

My son hates to get his picture taken sometimes.

He’ll even go so far to tell me ‘No camera, mom!’ and will push the camera away.

He’s two.

So I feel you. I understand. And I’m here to help!

Let’s get started!

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How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

how to improve your photography

Before we dive into how to take better photos of your kids, let’s review how to improve your photography in general, with any subject.

have good gear

I’m a firm believer that you can become a great photographer with whatever gear you have. However, I do recommend having at least a DSLR. Or any camera that allows you to use manual mode.

turn off flash and use manual mode

First things first, turn off your flash, always and forever. Don’t ever use it. If you are still using auto mode, I highly recommend you switching to manual mode.

Learning manual mode was a game changer for me and I got 10 times better photos after learning it! I didn’t get a new camera or lens, I just simply learned how to use my camera and how to get the settings I wanted. Manual mode took time to learn. After learning it, it took a few months of practice for it to finally click and make sense. Keep that in mind. It’s OK to go your pace and to learn it as quickly or slowly as you need, just as long as you learn it!

what to have them wear

So sometimes, I get it, you can’t always get your kids to wear what you want them to wear. But I would recommend simple, plain shirts. I also would stay away from white and black, although sometimes it just can’t be helped. My husband wears those colors all the time and I still love the images I get with him.

Avoid shirts with graphics on them. Again, sometimes it can’t be helped. In those situations I will normally turn an image black and white, avoid the shirt by focusing on their face, or simply embrace the childhood shirts.

How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

type of light

The type of light you use in your photographs are really important. It depends on what type of mood you are going for in your images. But, from now on, I encourage you to use natural light. Using artificial light is very tricky when you are first starting out. So, turn off all lights in your house. Go outside. Avoid artificial lights while you are trying to improve your photography.

When you are first starting out, I would recommend photographing your children on overcast days. I personally love overcast days and find that I love the images I get when I photograph on those days.

If you want sunny images, I recommend photographing an hour before sunset for the best, warmest light. This is often called golden hour light and is the favorite type of light for most photographers. It can be a littler trickier to use than overcast light. I recommend blocking the light with trees or buildings. Let in a little bit of sun for just a little bit of haze. One last tip is to expose for your subject – it’s OK if some of your background is blown out.

how to take better pictures of your kids

Now that we got all of that out of the way, let’s get started on how to take better pictures of your kids! I know that if you implement these tips into your photography, you will start to love the images you get.

Just remember, it takes practice and it takes patience!

1. get on their level

While I’m taking pictures of kids, whether my own or clients, you will often see me squat down to get on their level. This creates a connection with your viewer. They will feel like they are toddler height! It will also give you a different perspective than your own. The image above was achieved by crouching down. If I had been standing at my full height, I wouldn’t have gotten such a nice reflection and you would have mostly seen his head instead of his face.

2. engage with them

And I’m not just talking about saying ‘cheese’. Please don’t tell your children to say cheese! Instead, ask them if they like peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. Ask them to tell you about their favorite super hero or cartoon character. Ask them if they can see a bunny in your lens. Ask them what their favorite ice cream is. Ask them to play peak-a-boo with you.

I find this works for literally any age group. If you want genuine smiles, you can’t just ask them to smile for you. You will get fake, no emotion smiles. But if you engage with them and give them prompts, you will create connection and get those smiles and laughs you so dream of photographing. Doesn’t matter if they’re 2 or 103! This trick works for all ages.

3. ask them if it’s ok to photograph them

This works best for older children, but I’m starting to do this with my son. His answer is usually ‘no’. Ha! But if I ask him and he says no, I respect that. I won’t photograph him. I will instead give him attention and love. If they are older, definitely ask them from time to time if it’s OK to photograph them. Tell them why photography and pictures of them are important to you.

You want to create trust with your children when it comes to photography. You don’t want them to roll their eyes every time you pull out the camera. Respect their space if they tell you they don’t want their picture taken.

Another take on this is to show them the finished projects when they are done! If you take on a project where you turn your kid into a superhero (don’t ask me how to do that, that is some advanced Photoshop voodoo! Haha!) and show them the finished project. You might find your children asking (or begging!) you to do a photoshoot of them. Especially when they see how beautiful or handsome they look.

4. avoid clutter

Or, in other words, clean up your clutter before taking a picture. An image that is clean and free of clutter is usually prettier. There are some rare occasions where you might want to include the clutter as part of the story. But for the most part, I always try to tidy up a bit before taking an image. This helps me focus on just my son and makes the focus point him. I want to draw my viewers straight to my subject: my kid!

Start training your eye on what else is in the frame besides your kids.

5. capture the story

Sometimes there are tears involved. Capture it, embrace it. It’s part of childhood. I want to remember the good and the bad. And right now, my toddler has lots of breakdowns that we have to work through each day. But, that’s OK. He’s learning how to use his emotions. And I know I will want to remember these days in the future.

Aside from capturing all ranges of emotion, you can also focus on a photograph series. This is when you capture a whole scene that tells a story in multiple shots.

6. search for the light

Out of all the tips I’ve given so far, this one might be the most important. Search for the light and use it. I often find that I love to photograph indoors when it’s an overcast day. This brings in nice, soft light into my apartment and makes for some dramatic images that I love.

One exercise I highly recommend you doing is to observe the light in your home. Make a light journal. Put what kind of day it is outside (sunny, cloudy, partly cloudy, rainy, etc) and watch the light throughout the day. Write down certain times and what the light looks like in your home. Use this to find the best light during the day for better images.

7. increase your shutter speed

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: shoot at a higher shutter speed for children. Of all ages, those young children and teenagers can move fast! I typically light to have my shutter speed at around 1/250. But honestly, that is sometimes too slow and will give my son blurry hands! When I’m capturing children, I tend to set my shutter speed around 1/400. This will ensure that the kids are sharp and in focus!

Out of all the settings on your camera, watching your shutter speed when photographing children is the most important. Set that first before you set any other setting.

If you have been having camera shake, you might be using a shutter speed that is even lower than 1/250. BUMP IT UP! Don’t be afraid of having a higher shutter speed. And it’s OK to have a high ISO (which could introduce more grain) as long as you expose properly in camera, you will reduce the amount of grain.

Letters to My Children | 23 Months + 24 Weeks (In My Belly)

Letters to My Children | 23 Months + 24 Weeks (In My Belly)

June 12, 2019

Dear Babies,

Summertime is officially here and I am loving every minute of it. The warm weather, the rainy days, the days at the beach, the days at the park, I’m excited for it all and to spend it with you. I feel as though time is flying by….but at the same time, I feel like it should already be Christmas time. I don’t want it to be Christmas time, I’m not ready to have to buy gifts for two kids yet! But I am ready to meet baby girl and for the two of you to play and laugh together. It’s going to be so cute!

To my oldest:

You are so talkative lately, it’s adorable! Sometimes you’ll say a recognizable word, followed by a bunch of gibberish, and then another recognizable word at the end. You are trying so hard to form sentences, and, I feel you! It’s hard sometimes! But, I know you’ll get there in your own time. I can communicate with you really easily. And you are starting to say actual sentences like “more yogurt please” or “thank you so much” but one of my favorites is “I love you mama”. I’m proud of you for all the things you’ve been learning lately. And for putting words together, you’re so smart.

Your loves right now include Lightening McQueen (you call him ‘a queen’), building blocks with mommy and daddy, Dora the Explorer, and eating non stop yogurt. You also love Spider-man and Hulk and watching any movies associated with those two.

What you’re learning this month is the alphabet and counting. You can count to six by yourself (sometimes you need a little help at 4) and you can sing along with mommy to the alphabet song. You are also learning some fun nursery rhymes like ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and you will sing along to those as well. You love singing and sometimes I catch you doing it all by yourself and I just sit there and smile! I really hope you keep it up because it is adorable.

Oh my adorable little son, I can’t tell you how blessed I am that you are in my life. You make everything fun and worth while. Even those days where you may be having a bad day, I still can’t help but feel so blessed. And I’m so excited to see you jump into the role of big brother, you’re going to do so great.

To my youngest:

You are moving around so much! And I’m starting to be able to feel your kicks when I place my hand on my stomach. However, you always stop kicking when I get daddy to feel. You’re already a little trickster!

At our appointment this past week, when the midwife was trying to find your heartbeat, you were kicking the doppler so much and moving away from it. It took so long to find your heartbeat! The midwife said, “I know you’re OK in there! I just need to find your heartbeat!!” You were also moving so much you were making my stomach move. I love it when that happens and I’m looking forward to it happening more as you get bigger and stronger.

As far as I’m feeling with this pregnancy, I’m feeling great! I’ve actually been working out more the past two weeks and I feel amazing. I may not lose any weight or get any skinnier, but at least I’ll be healthy to give birth to you. I think the only complaint I might have about this pregnancy so far (aside from the morning sickness in the first trimester) is trouble sleeping! I have been waking up at 3, 4, 5 am every day this past week and can’t go back to sleep! So….I wake up and blog. Haha. But really, other than that, I am feeling really great. On occasion I have some aches and pains, but that’s to be expected with my growing, beautiful belly. I’m really just so blessed to be pregnant with you.

We’re so excited to meet you!! This next week daddy and I are going to buy you and your brother chest of drawers and toy organizer to set up your room. I’m excited for you two to have your toy room that you can play in together. I can’t wait to get it all set up in the next week or two!

I can’t wait to meet you, but you keep growing and being healthy. We love you so much already. And, although your brother might not know it, he’s going to love being your big brother, too!

I love you both so much. You have both taught me how to love more and how to be more selfless. I am forever grateful and blessed to be your mama.

I love you both.

Love, Mama

9 Photography Tips for Mom’s

9 Photography Tips for Mom’s

When I first started photography, I knew that one day I would want good images of my kids. I got into photography about two years before I had my son. Most mom’s start photography because they had a child and then decided to learn photography. Whatever the reason, photography is a great creative outlook for mom’s. It’s something that will help them have their own special time to be creative and learn new things. Be careful, though, it’s very addicting to continue learning photography!!

There is a lot of information out there to help improve your photography. One piece of advice is just take it one day at a time. Another thing to remember is to practice what you read. I could tell you a bunch of information and it mean absolutely nothing if you don’t practice what you read!

check out my 5 Tips to Getting Better Pictures of Your Infant post

9 Photography Tips for Moms

This post contains affiliate links.  Thank you in advance for supporting Aly Dawn Photography!

what gear should I use

Some mom’s buy a new camera at the birth of their first born child. Other mom’s just wing it with what they have. I will tell you what gear I use and what gear I recommend for beginner photographers/mom photographers. I don’t want you to spend a fortune getting new gear though. I am 100% for using whatever gear you have to the fullest.

When I was in high school, I bought myself a nice point and shoot camera – it was a fantastic purchase and I got a lot of good shots using that camera. I also realized that I really liked photography. So if you’re not sure about spending a ton of money on a camera you might not use, use any camera you have at your disposal! Or you could even borrow a camera from a friend or family member. Us mom’s gotta stick together. 😉

The gear that I use for photographing my toddler are as follows:

  • The Nikon D610 full frame camera – I really love this camera and it’s a great first full frame camera. I will eventually upgrade this, but for now this gets the job done for what I need in a camera.
  • Sigma 24mm 1.4 ART lens – this lens is amazing. I love how sharp it is and that I can get in nice and close but also backup to get the full scene. It’s a great lens to use for indoor photography – which is what most mom’s would be taking pictures of.

Now, if you are a beginner photographer and looking for a starting camera then I would recommend the following camera and lens:

  • The Nikon D5300 crop frame camera – I had the Nikon D5100 when I first started, and this is just a newer version of that same camera. You won’t break the bank by buying this. I recommend buying the body frame only. DO not get any kit lenses. Instead, save your money for the lens recommended below!
  • Nikon 35mm 1.8 lens – this lens is absolutely great for beginner photographers! It’s wide enough for indoor photography (it’s even wider on a full frame camera, but it does the job on a crop frame) and you are able to use it on a full frame when you eventually upgrade (which you will if you’re serious about photography).

The camera body and lens mentioned above are one of the cheaper cameras out there. So keep that in mind when starting your photography journey: photography is expensive!

If you don’t have the money for a camera quite yet, you can practice good photography skills on just your phone! You won’t be able to use manual exposure, but you will be in charge of light, composition, and the moment. Use whatever camera you have and by the time you buy your first DSLR, you’ll be ready for a full frame!

8 photography tips for mom’s

9 Photography Tips for Moms

1. learn manual mode

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend learning manual mode. I am writing a course about it, be sure to sign up for announcements and early bird pricing! You won’t want to miss the early bird pricing. 😉

Manual mode can seem intimidating if you learn by yourself, but it can dramatically improve your images over night. It takes a lot of work and practice, but once you get it, it will become second nature to you. If you have a camera that allows you to use manual mode, then learn it as soon as possible! I promise that your photography with change overnight. Mine did when I took a class!

If you haven’t already learned about manual mode, it’s essential! Especially when photographing in tricky light and photographing those fast toddlers! I have a new class –  LEARN MANUAL: how to take control of your camera (by clicking on this link and signing up, you’ll get updates on anything new to this course). It’s not complete yet, but by signing up for updates you’ll be the first to know when it is ready! Plus some early bird pricing (yes, please!).

9 Photography Tips for Moms

2. higher shutter speed

This will only benefit you if you know manual mode – keep your shutter speed way up! Kids are fast and you’re going to want to freeze their movements (there might be a few times when you’ll want to show motion – like maybe showing them speed by on a bike) so get those shutter speeds up! As a rule of thumb, I tend to use a starting point of 1/250 – but keep in mind that if you have a longer focal length (say 85mm) you will need a higher starting point. I start at 1/250 but I sometimes see movement, especially when photographing my son. I find that 1/400 is a good shutter speed as well. I start there but usually go up. I never go below 1/250 though!

By using a higher shutter speed, it helps to not only freeze their movements, but also get sharper images. So if you feel like you aren’t getting sharp images, one thing that might be the problem is your shutter speed. I would test out how low you could go before introducing camera shake. Start at 1/250 and take a picture. Zoom in and see if there is any noticeable shake. Then lower your shutter speed by a few clicks (adjust other settings to have proper exposure) and then take another picture. Zoom in and see if there is any noticeable shake. Once you figure out how low you can go, you can be sure to never go that low. You don’t want to have any camera shake in your images – they will not appear sharp and your images will seem amateur.


3. use natural light

This is probably my favorite tip out there – use natural light. What do I mean by natural light? I mean light produced by the sun. In other words – turn of ALL the lights. Artificial light is really hard to work with. It’s possible to make this type of like look good, bu your images will look so much better if you turn off the lights and use natural light.

Pro tip: Look for catchlights in the eyes. What do I mean by catchlights? Catchlights refer to the sparkle you sometimes see in someone’s eyes. Look at my son’s eyes in the image above – do you see the ‘light in his eyes’? Those are catchlights. Now that I’ve pointed them out, you’ll see them everywhere. You’re welcome.

If you want to learn more about catchlights, this is an excellent article.

9 Photography Tips for Moms

4. don’t over edit

Seriously. There is nothing worse than an over edited image. When I first started in photography, I totally over edited each image. I made my images blue. I went crazy on the eyes. I put too much contrast on my images, I just went crazy. Don’t do that. Don’t be like beginner me. Be better! A simple edit will go a long way. For me, when it comes to editing, a little can go a long way. I am often not a fan of images you can tell are extremely edited. I love the real life, honest edits.

If you’re interested to see how I edit, check out this post I wrote about how I edit my b&w images.

Simple is better – not always for everyone, but when you’re first starting out, yes. Simple is better. I do want to encourage finding your own editing style and experiment. Experiment until you find that style. But you don’t have to share your experiments with everyone. Keep them secret. 😉


5. don’t say ‘cheese’

Now that we have all the technical aspects out of the way – on to the fun parts!

I beg of you – don’t tell your child to say ‘cheese’. I have a few problems with this. Number one is if your kid is old enough to understand what this means, they are probably old enough to decide they don’t want to participate in photos. Instead of getting a good image of your child smiling, you get a disgusted look, or even them looking away from the camera.

Pro tip: Instead of telling your kids to say ‘cheese’, you could simply say ‘look’ to get some nice eye contact. If the child is young enough, you could also tell them to look for the rainbow in your lens.

If you’re looking for a laughing image or a smile at the camera image, you could say something silly like ‘poop’ or even make silly noises! The key to this is to make photography fun for your children.


6. capture your kids naturally

This goes with the previous tip. Capture your children doing what they naturally do. This is what you want to remember in your photos – what your kids naturally do! If you stumble upon your children playing nicely together, try to sneak in some shots without your kids noticing.

Pro tip: Give your kid a prompt and then photograph their natural reaction. It could be something simple like ‘dance’ or it could be something like ‘go swing on the swing’! It just depends on what ind of shot you want.

Toddlers are so easy because they don’t really care too much for the camera, so you can just photograph them running around being them. Older kids can decide they don’t want you to photograph them. Be respectful of their feelings. If they don’t want to be photographed, focus on something else until they are ok with it. Be sure to say thank you for any image they do let you take of them.

9 Photography Tips for Moms

7. have the camera handy

You never know when a magical moment is going to happen. I try to keep my camera in the center of my home. That way, it’s easy to get to. I also strive to take my camera everywhere. You never know when a special moment will unfurl and you want to be prepared to capture it!

Pro tip: I believe the best camera you have is the one you have with you – and sometimes it’s not a fancy DSLR camera. It’s your phone! Just remember to follow the same rules you’d follow with your DSLR.


8. clean the scene

One of the simplest ways to get better images of your children is to declutter the scene. Of course unless it adds to the story, then you might want to include the mess. But, simple images can add impact. Be aware of what is in your frame. Take a shot and look to see if it looks cluttered. If it does, quickly clean the scene.

Now I’m not saying you have to live in a spotless house 24/7. Nope! I know how busy mom’s are – I am one! I know you don’t always have time to clean my house, especially not for images! I’m just saying to be mindful of what’s in your frame and if it adds to your story or not. Simple scenes can add impact to your photography and make your images 10 times better.

9 Photography Tips for Moms

9. get in the frame

I love hopping in the frame with my son. I know I won’t regret it when he’s older. Mama’s, hope in that frame with your kids! You could capture you doing something together. Like cooking or reading books. Make it fun. And it doesn’t even matter if they are technically right or not – the most important thing is that you are getting in the frame with your littles.

If you need some help with taking self portraits, check out my self portraits post.

With these tips, you are all set to taking better images of your children. Remember to practice, practice, practice! Do you have any mom photography tips? Share below!

Also, if you have any questions at all about the information covered in this article, please don’t hesitate to ask!