10 Tips for Taking Your Own Photos at Home
Updated: Apr 26, 2020
It's been so hard for many of you who have special milestones happening while we are all sheltered in place. Births, sitter and birthday sessions all cancelled. But there's still hope and I know you can quickly learn a few basic tips to still be able to capture these special moments yourself!
So here we go...
Pick a simple background. The number 1 thing that makes a professional photo miles a head of a snapshot at home is the elimination of distraction. It can be a plain wall or a hung sheet or blanket. It doesn't really matter as long as its simple.
Plan ahead and pick the time of day you know your child is happiest. This tends to be mornings for most children. Make sure they are well fed and diaper changed etc.
Choose outfits. I always prefer simple soft colored clothing without any busy or bright patterns. A pattern is fine as long as it's small and not too bold. This is for two reasons: 1. You want your child to stand out, not their cute outfit and 2. Patterns largely date a photo and what you loved at this moment, might be despised years down the road. Keep it classic.
Find a prop. Now a prop can be something as simple as a basket, a little chair or a box to sit on. Find something that suits the abilities of your child and shows off their milestones. If your child is 3-6 months and not sitting, then they might be happiest on their tummies or on their backs with you looking down on them. All you need is a soft cozy blanket with some texture for them to lay on. If they are sitting, then placing them in that cute woven basket that holds all your blankets in the corner of your living room might be fun. If it's their first birthday there are lots of fun things you can do from simple to elaborate. Use a wall or sheet and simply place a few balloons around them and see what fun they have with them. If you want a theme, then collect items that suit that theme (or make some!) and create a little display around them.
Don't be afraid to get close to them. If you take a look at the photo you've just taken and it doesn't elicit an emotion of some kind, then you might just be too far away. Get a little closer and on eye level with them.
Try different angles. Eye level is always great, but try from different angles. When photographing babies you can play with so many angles. Wrap them up in a cute simple swaddle, place them in a basket with a soft blanket under them and try different angles. From above looking straight down, from the side looking towards your light etc. All angles are fun...except one: up the nose. Keep in mind that no one wants to see into your child's nostrils. Keep the angles always slightly from above, especially for babies.
Lighting. Natural lighting is not only the best but also the easiest! If you are indoors, pick a spot next to a large window, open up the blinds completely and turn off any lights in your room. The best is to angle your child 45 degrees to the window (so sit them beside the window with the light coming at one side of them and then slightly turn them more toward the window and watch the light fall across their face so it's not just on one side of them). If you are outside, early morning or the golden hour which is one hour before sunset is best. You want to position them in a slightly shaded spot with the light coming from behind them and towards you.
Focus. Whether you are using your phone or a SLR camera, you always have control on where to focus. Make sure it's on your child's eyes. On your iphone you can simply do this by tapping on your child's face or eyes on your screen before taking the photo.
Exposure. Whether you are using your phone or SLR camera you need to control the amount of light you are letting into your photo. On an iphone you can tap on the screen once and a box will appear with a sun then slide your finger up or down to make your image lighter or darker. On your SLR camera you can use manual mode to change your aperture or shutter speed to balance the light on your internal light meter.
Blurring that background. The last tip, probably because it's the most important is being able to blur out your background to really make your child stand out. Sometimes you want to take a photo where you can't alter the background to make it simpler. In this case being able to blur your background is done two ways: on your iphone you can use portrait mode (if you haven't tried it yet, I highly recommend using it on all your child's photos). This automatically blurs the backgrounds and even after you take the image you can edit it and change the amount of blurriness you like. On your SLR camera you will control this by changing your aperture to the smallest number your lens allows.
This might seem like a lot to remember but my advice is to start with one tip at a time and play with it and see what differences you can spot by implementing them - do a before and after.
Photo left: Photo taken with my iphone on Portrait setting. Photo right: Photo taken with my iphone on Portrait setting after I edited the amount of blurriness to the background.
If you have any questions about this process, please feel free to reach out and ask!
Have fun and take care!