Hannah Nielsen » Documentary Family Photographer Seattle Portland and Worldwide

8 Tips for Better Pictures of Your Kids!

Today I ran into a mom with a camera asking for tips on taking great photos of her little man.  I was thinking about what to tell her, and also about how often I get this question, and decided it would make an excellent topic for one of my 30 days of blogging.

And so below are my top 8 tips for improving your images of your kids.  Most all of them can be useful whether you’re using a DSLR, point and shoot, or the good ol’ iPhone.  Feel free to ask questions if you have them!

Now without further ado:

1. Get down on the level of your subject. Shoot at your subject’s eye level rather than your own. This will give you variety of shots, better/more eye contact, and a point of view different than your own. Once you get used to that, mess with it! If your daughter is dressed like a superhero and you want her to look big and powerful, shoot from below her.  If she’s asleep on your big bed and you want her to look tiny, shoot from straight above.  Think about why you’re choosing your point of view.


This image wouldn't have been the same if I was shooting at any different angle. It looks like she's gazing right into your eyes.

2.  Avoid the “cheese”!! Asking your child to say cheese or saying, “1, 2, 3 smile!” just begs for an unnatural awkward photo. (Think about your own “cheese” face.)  Try for genuine interactions. Work that joke that always gets your kids going! Or just sit back quietly and let them do their thing.


You can't get smiles like this one by saying "cheese"!

3.  And on that note, wait for the action to come to you. Candids really are the king of capturing your family’s personalities! Don’t pose moments, wait for moments to happen naturally, then shoot away!


They were throwing leaves in the air and she paused to give him a squeeze. He thought it was hysterical. How cute! I couldn't have posed it better.

4. Turn OFF your flash!   (That means turning off Auto for you DSLR users.  Give P mode a go to start.)  Look for some nice soft natural light and put your kiddo there (or wait for him to run into it).  Here in Seattle our sky is generally one nice big soft light.  Grey skies make it easy.  But when the sun is out be careful to avoid harsh light and odd shadows.  Unless you’re going for moody, avoid a big difference between the shadows and the highlights.  If you can pick out the line where the shadow stops and the highlight begins, chances are your light isn’t soft.  For great natural light try just inside a window, in open shade (shaded areas that are still lit by the sun: under a big tree, in the shadow of a building, etc.) or even in the garage.


Left: harsh light. Notice the shadow lines on his cheek and near his nose. Right: soft light. Notice the catch lights in his eyes (a great indicator of good light!)

5.  Think about the story you’re telling with your image. Your kid’s messy face is adorable. Is the fact that he’s in the kitchen important? If not, move in closer. Do you need to see the high chair to know what’s going on? Again, move in closer. Is his mess from his 1st birthday cake and he’s surrounded by friends and family? Then scoot back. Only keep elements in your images that have a purpose.


Playing with perspective: zoom out for the whole story, or in to capture just what is most important.

6.  Don’t forget the details. Documenting a birthday party, project, or play date? You don’t have to get everything in one photo. Don’t be afraid to zoom in close on busy hands working on a painting or the balloons at the party. Think like you’re telling the whole story of what is happening. Details help bring it all together.


The image on the left is cute. It shows where she is and what she's doing and draws your eye in. But the image on the right is equally powerful drawing attention to the expression on her face and her beautiful eyelashes! Here I'm showing both sides of the story.

7.  Feeling adventurous?  Give AV mode a try.  This will allow you to select you’re aperture (I often shoot wide open at 1.8).  Opening up wide will give you a sense that your child is the only important thing in the image and everything else will get that beautiful blurred look (bokeh) I’m so obsessed with.  Feel like I’m speaking Chinese?  Feel free to ask questions or just ignore this one.


Love how that blurred background makes him really pop out of the image!

8. Have fun.  No seriously.  Have fun.  If you’re worried about getting the perfect shot, chances are you’re missing the moment.   And if you start to get stressed about it, your kid will notice.  The best tip I can give you is to enjoy the process and your kids will too.


A silly moment.

Happy shooting!!


  • March 23, 2012 - 10:57 am

    sarah olive - This is great Hannah! Thanks for the tips, they will come in very handy as i start shooting pics of the new baby girl!ReplyCancel

    • April 11, 2012 - 2:53 pm

      Hannah - Thanks for reading, Sarah! Can’t wait to meet Little Miss!ReplyCancel

  • March 25, 2012 - 10:46 pm

    Aria - Some great tips! Some I usually do anyway, and I had no idea what AV mode is! And my love of getting up close and cropping in closer has been validated. 🙂 Have you thought about a post on tips for various settings for those of us who have good cameras (I’ve got a Canon T2i) who basically waste them because of knowing nothing?ReplyCancel

    • March 26, 2012 - 8:55 am

      Hannah - Thanks for reading! Hmm I like your thinking. Let me see what I can pull together. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • July 11, 2012 - 7:37 pm

    Teresa Anderson - Gonna try AV mode more often!ReplyCancel

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *