March 1, 2019

Tips for photographing your children

Creative photo tips, tutorials and before and after images for documenting your children in a storytelling type way.

A little look at my process and how I approach documenting my own children’s adventures

One of my passions as a photographer is memory keeping and teaching others how to preserve their own family story through creating beautiful keepsake images and getting a system in place to organise those images and turn them into tangible items. I have now launched a LEARN area on my website where i’ll be sharing more tips and tutorials like this one below.

If you find this helpful or have any questions at all, I would love to hear from you. Jump in and leave a comment below. I’m always happy to help!

My photography approach

I thought I would give you a little tutorial this week about how I photograph my own kids and what I look for and how I approach it. 

We’re currently shacked up in a little beachside holiday house on the Sunny Coast. We’ve been spending a ton of time exploring the beach and I wanted to document the kids seeing this new area of coastline for the first time. 

I’ve shared before that I always pick up my camera knowing what my final intention is with the images that I create. I make yearly photo books for my family and I have a general idea that I would likely include a two page spread from an afternoon at the beach like this. With that in mind, I want to create images that show –

  • The environment 
  • The kids fascination with a new place 
  • The way they explore the environment 
  • The things they find 
  • How they interact with each other 

As it’s an outdoor location, I photographed with the vision that I wanted to create images showing them exploring a new area and everything they found along the way. Everything was led by the children, I just become a silent observer with my camera. I don’t set up shots but just follow them around and let things unfold naturally. If there is some beautiful light I might ask them to come check out that area but generally I love to photograph them in a storytelling and documentary style.

Gear and settings used for this shoot: 

  • Shot on a Canon 5D Mark 3 
  • Lens used was a 35mm Canon L series 1.2 lens 
  • I shoot wide open using a 1.4 to 1.6 aperture 
  • 125 ISO 
  • Various shutter speeds but I always stay over 200 so I can capture movement well
  • Custom white balance set to 6000 – 6300. I prefer to shoot slightly warmer as I find I get nicer skin tones in editing when I do this. To set my white balance I simply take a few shots at the location and change it in camera until I’m happy with how the warmth looks.

It was a super stormy and windy day so my edits reflect that as that was part of the story of the afternoon as we ducked down to the beach in between rain showers. These images were created in the 15 minutes that we were there. 

Another thing I do is that I start photographing from the time we arrive until we leave, I want to tell the whole story of getting to and from the location as that’s a great part of the journey and I always do this in client sessions as well.

Before and after examples & my editing process

I try and get my settings as spot on in camera as I can so that there is less editing to do. I try and expose the image correctly and not blow out any of the highlights so that I can retain all of the detail in the image. If it’s a super bright day or there is a hot spot of light, I will expose for that bright area so that it doesn’t get blown out.

I have my own custom presets that I have developed over the past few years. I have purchased a bunch of presets but always ended up tweaking them into the same kind of look so I started from scratch and have created my own editing style for different locations and I have these saved as custom presets in Lightroom so they are super easy to apply.

If you need some help unravelling your photos & creating a simple memory keeping system, head over and grab yourself a free copy of my eBook –
Download The Story Keeper Ebook here

The final edited images

I love capturing things from a variety of angles to show what it looks like from my children’s perspective. I’ll often shoot down on top of them, looking up or at their level. I don’t often shoot at my own eye level if I can move into a lower or higher position to capture the moment.
The kids found this pool of stagnant water and the sun was coming from behind me and creating a really cool reflection on the water so instead of photographing the kids faces I captured their reflections.
I love detail shots and capturing the little parts of my kids that change so quickly over the years. Another thing I am always conscious of is placing the horizon of the water below or above a head and not cutting through it. Getting down low always helps with this and I always straighten a crooked horizon when I edit at they drive me nuts!
The kids had been running around non-stop and were all playing on this log so they were super happy to snuggle up for a quick two second photo together. This would never of worked at the start when we arrived but is much more likely to happen when they have burned off some energy and need a quick rest.
I’m always on the lookout for interesting light. The kids were walking back to the house and I took a few images (the bottom two) but then I saw the pocket of light on the path and set up quickly to capture that shot as the light adds a lot more interest. If this was for a client, I would choose the first image of them on the path as the light is the most interesting.