7 Tips for Fantastic Photos

Sometimes it takes more than a cute smile to make a great picture. Here's how to take your best shots.

By Matt Law

1) Know Your Camera

If you have family coming over for a visit, take some time beforehand to read the camera’s manual, charge its battery, and make sure to have an empty memory card on hand. Take a few test shots to become well-acquainted with the camera so you’ll be a pro by the time the little ones arrive.

2) Get on Their Level

One of the most common mistakes adults make when photographing kids is to shoot while standing. Since adults are typically taller than children, this approach results in pictures with odd angles that look down on the child. If you’re shooting babies or toddlers, get right down on the floor with them. If you’re taking pictures of grade-schoolers, bending down or getting on one knee should do the trick. This will create a better angle from which to shoot, and it could also put the child at ease, resulting in better smiles.

3) Don’t Pose Them for Every Shot

The family mug shots: Grandparents, parents, and kids lined up against a wall smiling. These sorts of pictures have been a part of family functions for years, and it’s okay to do a couple of them. But if you want really great shots, focus on moments when your grandchild is being him- or herself. That could be anything from playing, napping, hugging, or eating. Just about any “-ing” will do, except for posing.

4) Think About Composition

There’s a general rule in photography that the best pictures can be divided into three equal areas. This division can happen vertically or horizontally. Think of some of your favorite landscape photos, and chances are the sky, horizon, and foreground make up three equal parts of the picture. How does this translate to you? Put in the simplest terms, don’t center your subject in the frame. Put your grandchild off to the side, and fill the rest of the frame with whatever else will be in the picture. Your photo’s composition will create a sense of balance between your grandchild and the other elements of the photo (a Christmas tree, a pony, a pile of presents, etc.).

While we’re on the subject of framing, think before you snap. Avoid including items in the background of pictures that you wouldn’t want to see in a final product.

5) Get Help

To capture the energetic kids, you might need some help. Recruit a wrangler (Mom, Dad, Grandpa, etc.) to keep the children entertained while you try to snap some pictures. Use a toy as a sort of visual bait, or just have the adults dance around behind you as you take pictures. This will get your grandchildren focused on the diversion while you focus on the fun they’re having. Some new digital cameras have a setting for pictures of children. This adjusts the camera’s shutter speed to accommodate the quick movements of the little ones.

6) Avoid Using Flash

If at all possible, avoid using your camera’s flash. Step outside on a nice day, pull back the curtains, or turn on all the lights. Despite constant advancements in camera flash technology, red eye is still a big problem, and pictures taken with flash rarely look as nice as pictures taken with natural light.

7) Take a Lot of Pictures

If you’re using a digital camera, your best bet is to take a lot of pictures. Since there’s no film, you’re only limited by battery life and memory-card space. Shoot away, and don’t worry about deleting pictures as you go along. You can take care of that after the family leaves. You don’t want to miss the sweetest moments while you’re fiddling around reviewing your shots.

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