HOW TO TAKE GREAT PHOTOS OF YOUR CHILDREN | family photographer, wyckoff, nj

Erika Kao Photography | Bergen County Photographer | Wyckoff, New Jersey

Childhood happens fast. Babies are born, and it seems like the very next day we're sending them off to college.

OK, that's a big exaggeration, but still. The days may be long, but the years really are short. And sooner than we realize, photos and fuzzy memories of chubby fingers, filthy clothes, and a messy house are all we're going to have left once our children are grown.

Every parent wants and deserves great photos of their children. Full disclosure here: I am a professional photographer, so of course I'm going to advocate that you hire a professional photographer once or twice a year to capture some really beautiful and professional memories and free yourselves of being the one behind the camera. But outside of those times, there are lovely moments that take place every single day where you can make great photos of your children, no matter what kind of camera or phone you have.

How do you do that? It's ridiculously simple.

LET THEM BE.

And that is all. Just let them be. Let them be who they are. Let them be where they are. Let them wear what they want to wear, do what they want to do, feel whatever it is they're feeling. Just let them be children. 

Here are some ideas to help you get started.

Change your perspective.

little girl putting on her mother's socks

There's an inherent problem when adults take photos of children: adults are naturally taller than children. And so when we take photos of them from a standing position, we are capturing them from above. Get onto the floor. Sit down, or if you can, get down on your belly and prop yourself onto your elbows and shoot from that vantage point. From down there, you become part of their world and you see what they see from their perspective. Hop onto a stool and shoot from above. And this results in a much more accurate memory for them to reflect back on when they're older

Don't insist that they look at the camera.

This may be my most important recommendation. Childhood is a time of learning, largely through play and exploration. Watch your child the next time you find her playing. Or reading. Or building something. Or making art. Or writing her name. You might hear silence, or you might hear him talking to himself or to his imaginary playmates, or you might hear her making up a song about what she's doing. If you simply sit back and watch, you'll notice something amazing: children are usually very much at peace when they're in their own little world.

If you interrupt them to say "Hey, look at me for a picture," you're going to break their concentration and miss the moment. Don't interrupt them. Just let them be. And try to quietly capture them doing whatever it is they're doing.

You can also get some wonderful photos of them sleeping. Take advantage of natural window light before they give up that precious nap!

Don't insist that they smile.

Childhood is a seriously crazy roller coaster ride with ups and downs and twists and turns. Whatever your child is feeling is what they are feeling, and I'm a strong believer that feelings need to be honored. And when children are playing (or, in their minds, working), their focus is probably going to be pretty intense. Maybe you'll see moments of joy or frustration, anger or even calm. Don't ask them to smile.. Your photo will be much more natural and much more authentic if you simply observe them without asking them to produce a smile for you.

little girl going outside through a doorway

Be sneaky.

I often walk past a room to find my daughters inside, reading or playing quietly. Now and then, go on a hunt for your children and photograph them without even entering the room. This allows you to really be an observer and catch your child uninterrupted. Plus, shooting through doorways and windows produces some really neat results.

Shoot even if it seems like nothing is happening.

Rather, shoot especially if it seems like nothing is happening, Because something quite likely is happening. Maybe they'll soon grow out of those Crocs they've spent the entire summer in. Maybe she's riding the tricycle your husband rode as a child. Maybe she's reading a favorite book, or practicing putting on her own Band-Aid or using a crayon to deface your home.

To me, as their mother, all of these everyday moments are special moments. All of these are worthy of capture. And all of them are going to tug at my heart when my babies are no longer little.

The bottom line? Be authentic in how you photograph your children, and allow them to remain authentic before you press the shutter button. And don't underestimate the everyday.

Childhood passes quickly. Take pictures. Someday they're going to ask you about their childhood.

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Erika Kao

Erika Kao Photography, Wyckoff Avenue and Franklin Avenue, Wyckoff, NJ 07481, Wyckoff, NJ 07481, USA

Erika Kao is a natural light photographer, offering lifestyle and documentary photography for families, children, and newborns in Bergen County and Northern New Jersey. Her photography style is organic, natural, unposed, unscripted, and timeless.