How to Take Great iPhone Photos of Your Kids: Part 2

Mechanics of Good iPhone Photos


This part covers all the technical sides of great phone photography! Head back over to Part 1 if you need a crash course or refresher on how to use your phone's camera effectively.

1. Find killer light. This deserves it’s own blog post (someday!) but the short version is this- you’re looking for soft, even, natural light when you take phone photos. Dramatic, strong light is gorgeous but hard to work with. What does that look like? A good place to start is a big window or covered porch. The light should be streaming in but won’t be super bright. Stand with your back against to the light and your subject facing the light (you can practice with a stuffed animal). There shouldn’t be any strong shadows on their face. It should create a really soft light all over.

However, when you’re inside, don’t put your subject in front of the window and you facing both them and the window. That’s called backlighting and it’ll be a really strong, bright background and dark subject. Phones don’t really do well with this so you’ll just get silhouettes (which are cool! but not all the time)

Badly backlit iphone photo inside. It's super fuzzy and pixelated because the main source of light is coming from behind the kids' heads.

The photo on the left was taken in indirect natural light under an awning. The photo on the right was taken with a window nearby, lamps on, and overhead lights so the shadows on their face are severe and the photo quality is more fuzzy.

From there you can experiment. Find a big area of shade outside where it isn’t super speckled with bright spots of light (under an awning, beside a building, under a tree with a big shadow, etc.) Put your child in the shade with their back to the sun and you facing the sun. There you go! Even, pretty lighting.

Cloudy day? This is super easy light for you to get fun photos where everyone is perfectly lit.

Both of these photos were taken on porches. (Left- high noon, Right- about 2 hours before sunset)

2. Turn off the lights. Okay so you’re inside with a big window nearby and it looks good. I want you to take a second and turn off all the extra lights just while you take the photo. Overhead lights and lamps are the big offenders. The light from outside is usually blue/green in tone and the light inside is usually yellow/pink. Whether or not you realize it, the photo will look a little weird with the competing light sources. Besides that, overhead lights and lamps are at unflattering angles that create shadows under eyes/chins.

The photo on the left is mixed lighting with a large window to the right and overhead lamp. You can see the lamp's reflected yellow glow in the left of the photo and in the weird green glow in the berry box. The one on the right is lit only by natural light from the left since the lamp was turned off.

3. Different angles. The adult eye level angle is just not the best for kid photos. Either get down to their eye level or experiment with other interesting heights (overhead while they color, below while they’re swinging, etc.)

The success of this image is the direction I'm shooting from. Rarely do I take photos of kids at my eye level.

4. Composition. You need to learn 2 things with composition. How to center the subject in the photo in camera (meaning not relying heavily on cropping later). And the rule of thirds. It’s super simple and just takes some practice! After you’ve learned those two things you can get creative compositions.

A quick google search for "rule of thirds" should give you all you need to know. This is a prime example of one way it works.

5. Thoughtful background. Simple is always best for phone pictures, especially as you’re starting out. Making the subject the star of the photo is the goal so pick a background that isn’t busy. The best part about this is that if you’re looking for good, soft light, it usually comes with a simple background (large murals, under big trees, the swing on your porch, etc.)

Both are iphone photos, but because the photo on the left has a lot of different lights coming in from the background and a very cluttered set, it's a visually messier and less compelling photo than the one on the right.

6. Plan ahead. As you are going about your day, take note of pretty spaces in your house or in your regular life. Notice if there’s good light at a certain time of day in a certain room. Watch for big spaces of shade near your kids’ favorite park. It’s not being *extra* it’s just being observant so that when the opportunity strikes, you know what looks good! If you know that in the evening there’s really beautiful light on your deck under all the trees, run out and hide the clutter during your kids’ nap so your background is simple (or clean it up if you have the time.. you do you! ;) Perfect! Now you have a space and plan to take the pre-recital photos to send to grandma!


7. Get them where you want them. You’re ready! You know where the light is. Your photo space is clutter free. Set them up with a favorite activity or snack in the spot you made. Whatever it is that you want to document. It’s not cheating to have them in a more photogenic location. It may feel very *instagram mom* to be making a “set” for your kids to photograph them in but your desire to document their days and activities is absolutely valid. So why not do it in a thoughtful way?

In the second photo, I moved her over about a foot and changed my angle so I was shooting from the same height as the table lamp. That little adjustment made all the difference since she is evenly lit all over in the photo on the right..

8. Step in closer or farther away. Your camera’s zoom is NOT something to rely on. The quality of the photograph goes down significantly the more you zoom in. That’s totally cool if you want to grab a quick shot of the bird hanging out on your roof or your child taking a seat in the outfield of their t-ball game. But by and large, try and walk closer to your subject when you can instead of zooming. It’s also a good way to try a more creative photo. If your child picked a flower, take the standard photo and then step in closer and focus in on the flower with their little face blurred out in the background. Then take a few steps back. Get them in context of everything else. Show how small they are comparatively. Get creative!

The detail photo is the one I really love, but the photo on the right gives needed context. This would be ESPECIALLY true if the photo included a child ;)

Keep an eye out for Part 3, which covers the wild world of specifically photographing kids!

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