Photography is so much more than snap and shoot. Sometimes you can be lucky and capture the perfect moment without even trying. Sometimes the perfect shot is completely imperfect. Rules are meant to be broken after all! But to help you know what things to be looking out for to improve your family photographs I’ve written a list of a few things to try out.

1. Practice.
As with most things the best way to improve is get out and there and give it a go. Look closely at the photographs you have taken and see what things you like and what you don’t. Then have another go and see if you can improve on them! Follow some of our tips below and see what changes you can find.

2. See the light.
The definition of photograph is “a picture made using a camera, in which an image is focused on to light-sensitive material and then made visible and permanent by chemical treatment, or stored digitally.”
Light is key to all photography. Not only for the literal capturing of an image but because light can dramatically change the look and feel of a photograph. It can also be key in being able to capture movement.

3. Shade
I used to think in Northern Ireland we didn’t have many bright sunny days, until I started avoiding them whilst photographing my children.
Ideally on a bright sunny day you will be able to seek out some open shade. So what is open shade? It is when your subject is out of direct sunlight, but they are looking out of the shade towards the bright sky. This will allow for the harsh shadows to even out and eliminate very bright patches.

There is also closed shade which involves your subject looking into the shade. This is not ideal as the background will be brighter than your subject. There is also dappled shade which allows for the sun to break through like patches through something like trees. This does not often make for the nicest photographs.

 

Another great option is to use a reflector to reflect light back onto your subjects faces to help eliminate harsh shadows. It can also help create beautiful catch lights in their eyes. Or a reflector can be used to create open shade.
Alternatively you can use flash on bright sunny days to fill harsh shadows.
It seems a shame to miss out on the good weather so if you can’t find any shade to take your photos try using your flash (preferably not a harsh pop up flash).

4. Manual
Cameras are getting so smart and in many cases setting your camera to auto can produce quality photos without the need for further education. However, your camera can not always see what you are seeing and often it makes adjustments that you wouldn’t choose. So if you want to get out of auto look out for our future post on this topic where I will discuss ISO, shutter speed, aperture and finding the perfect exposure in detail.

5. Ways to make smile
When photographing your family try looking for natural, unposed moments. If you are seeking a “money shot” smile photograph try to not ask your child(ren) to say “cheese” or whatever phrase you choose as an alternative. You know your child best and will know what will bring out the best in them. Some love to give high fives and laugh when you shake your hand in pain. Some love to jump around and will smile when ask them to “freeze”. Some are just plain chatter boxes and can’t help but light up when they talk about a pet, family member, best friend or beloved toy. Try playing games, singing songs and acting silly to see if you can bring out a genuine smile or giggle.

6. Slow down
I get it, kids are fast moving. They always have somewhere to be. They rarely have time to stand still for a photograph, never mind give you the chance to catch your breath. But you will find you have more sharp images if you take the time to focus on your subject (the eye closest to you if you’re taking a portrait), adjust your composition and settings if you are using manual. Composing your image instead of “pointing and shooting” will improve your photos dramatically.

7. Framing
Framing is a great composition tool. Used correctly it draws your eye into a photograph. Try using archways, doorways, open curtains, trees or fences to highlight your subject by framing them.

8. Move around
This is something I have found easier since changing from a zoom lens to a prime lens. You really get more involved with your subject when you need to move in close. For the most part family photographs are best taken at eye level with your subjects, but to add variety to your images try different angles. Try shooting from above, below and 360 degrees and see what you like best. This works well if you are using manual mode as the lighting will be completely different depending on where you are compared to your subject and can result in some great silhouette images.

 

9. Golden hour
Golden hour is the time shortly after sunrise or before sunset when daylight is warmer and softer, and the sun is lower in the sky. This creates beautiful lighting for your subjects that is more diffused and won’t cast dark shadows on their faces or harsh blown out highlights. The sun can also create beautiful backdrop with warm colours.

10. Simple
Keep things simple. You want photographs of your family and not complicated backgrounds or props. You want their features to stand out and their emotional connection to shine through.

 

11. Check background
As I’m sure you’ve seen not checking your background can result in some very funny outtakes! Check for anything going on the background that might distract from your subject. Try to make the Horizon straight and things like repeated patterns of a fence. Make sure you don’t have any objects growing out of your subject’s head like a tree. In the home you could also remove any clutter that is sitting around.

12.Rule of thirds
The rule of thirds is a guideline for composing your photographs. It works by dividing your image into 9 equal parts with two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines. Key features of your image that you wish to draw attention to should be placed along these lines or at a point of intersection. This can achieved whilst taking the photograph or during editing.

13.Stable camera.
To avoid camera shake you can either use a tripod or increase your own stability. You can achieve this by tucking in your arms close to your body, holding your camera grip with your right hand and using e your left hand to cup under your lens. You can also increase the stability of your upper body by placing one foot a step in front of you.

14. Break the rules
Rules are most definitely made to be broken. If your photographs are showing genuine moments of your family then you can be forgiven for not following the rules!

15. Have fun
Most important I believe is to enjoy yourself and make your photographs an experience with your family. If you’re having fun you will have more genuine interactions that will create beautiful photographs.