two little boys standing by the christmas tree laughing

Simple tips to take amazing pics on your smartphone…

Home » Photographing Children

As a parting gift for this year, here’s some useful tips for taking pics on your smartphone over the Christmas period. All the pictures you’ll see here have been taken on a very dodgy old Google Pixel 3 phone (no amazing smartphone with lots of features). They have had no digital retouching or special in-phone effects added.

I am going to demonstrate some basic photography skills to show you how to compose the best pics to share with family and friends.

Briefer than my usual blogs as your time is precious more than ever in the run up to Christmas, hopefully you can scan and grab a few nuggets.

I have focused on kids as I have kids. But same rules apply for shooting husbands (not literally), guinea pigs, newborns, you get the idea…..

1/ Fill the frame

Boring backgrounds really distract from gorgeous people. Don’t be afraid to get up closer (there’s a social distance joke there, I can’t bear to make) and make your subject the prime focus. In the examples below I have got one of my sons to stand about 1.5 metres in front of the tree so you have a bit of a blurry background rather than everything in sharper focus. Again, you get more attention on the person your photographing and the backdrop looks a bit more pro 😉.

2/ Make your backgrounds look more professional

Bokeh is the beautiful blur that appears when you distance your subject from the background. Perfect at xmas when you have lots of fairy lights, it creates lots of circular blurry dots.

Here’s me taking a selfie right next to the tree. Not very atmospheric and quite flat:

Victoria Green looking unimpressed by the christmas tree demonstrating if you are too close, you don't get good bokeh
Directly in front of tree, there is little bokeh and everything in focus. Could do better! 😐

Alternatively, here’s a selfie below taken 2.5 metres away from the tree. Look at that dreamy tree! You can see the lights look stunning and there’s more bokeh. Have a play. If you get people to stand 1-3 metres away from the tree (space permitting!) you’ll see the different effect this has in your pictures and you can work out what works best for you:

Victoria Green standing in front of the christmas tree
2.5 metres from the tree. We have a lovely bokeh effect and as the subject, I’m in sharper focus 😁

3/ Get kids to go on their tummies!

Fidgety kids don’t look comfortable and like themselves – so get them on their tummies and close together, ideally with the tree in the background. If you’re hip and cool you’ll call this picture ‘so instagrammable!’ I am not. So I will say, that’s the hero shot to send the old fashioned way to everyone you know on email.

two little boys sitting on their tummies in front of the christmas tree

4/ Photograph the tree when it’s dark outside

So Christmas is all about the beautiful lights and reflections from shiny objects. If the picture you want to send to everyone is taken at midday, it might not have the same atmosphere and feeling of Christmassy-ness (is that a word!?) that you’d planned for (I sometimes turn my tree lights off during the day for the same reason – they don’t really sparkle or stand out). First thing in the morning while it’s still dark or from 4pm-ish when it’s closing in, your lights and decorations will come into their own. Or…because you need to do things when’s best for you and your kids…fake it and close the curtains a bit and help create ambience :0)

5/ Get real unposed moments

I have to get in my ‘I love natural storytelling’ bit as I love it so much and truly believe it produces the best photographs. Kids invariably look better natural. Mine certainly do (you can see the photograph above with them on their tummies, they look a little awkward as they don’t like their picture being taken!). Sure you do it anyway, but get all the natural pics of hugging, reactions to opening presents, laughing their bottoms off. They are often the gems! Mine look most natural and happy when they are running 🤣!!!

two little boys standing by the christmas tree laughing

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, feel free to let me know your feedback in the comments below.

Victoria Green is a featured professional wedding and family portrait photographer on Hitched, Bridebook and Wedding Planner.

Thank you for supporting me and my business. I hope this has been helpful.

Have fun snapping at Christmas 😁📷😍.

Victoria xx

two boys sitting on their tummies smiling in their garden in Tonbridge, Kent

Top tips for photographing your kids during lockdown

Home » Photographing Children

Kids can be incredibly natural in front of the camera. They can be distracted by their love of fun and ignore me more than a lot of self-conscious adults. Their expressions and capacity to be animated, provide some of the best pictures.

But…and there’s a big but….some children can be a total nightmare to photograph. If your kids are anything like mine, they love to fidget and move constantly. One of my sons hates posing and will only let me take his photograph if I don’t interfere or provide any art direction whatsoever. My other son, loves posing but becomes a complete crazy loon with either tongue out or massive Wallace and Gromit style grin. Both sons equally challenging in different ways! And then you try to photograph them together…..ten times more difficult than taking them individually.

Add to all of this, I have specifically titled this blog, how to take photographs of your children DURING LOCKDOWN. So some children are maybe – again, if they’re anything like mine – less negotiable or easily incentivised to have their photographs taken. They are more frustrated, increasingly more bored and less patient with parental commands for photo calls. There are maybe less opportunities too for fun backdrops and new experiences to snap. But if you’re not able to see family or friends at the moment, you may want to capture some lovely shots so you can share with loved ones.

I have reflected on my experience over the last ten years of photographing children and put together this practical list I hope will be helpful to instantly improve and add a creative flourish to your pics.

1/ Sounds obvious but for starters – don’t try and get a lovely shot at ‘witching hour’, whenever that is for your little ones (if your kids don’t have one – consider yourself lucky, I am very jealous!). So I don’t even try photographing my cherubs when they might be hungry (and during lockdown, the snacking is relentless so give them a satisfying snack just before you even attempt to shoot).

2/ If your darling Tom or Tamsin is a fidgety sausage, don’t try and make them stand still. They will look awkward and they won’t look like them. To reduce fidgeting – give them something to hold or play with that keeps them occupied. Not something ugly – have a think about an item that is small if possible (I like ‘classic’ toys)! If they are preoccupied, you’re challenge is then limited to getting eye contact / good eye direction and not flaying around and looking miserable.

A great position for fidgety kids is getting them to go on their tummy and look up at you (you get on your tummy as well). This is great if you’re trying to photograph siblings together as it is a good distraction and if you act quickly, you might get a total cracker!

three child sisters on their tummies at the summer fete in Tonbridge, Kent
little sisters laughing together at summer fete in Tonbridge, Kent

It can be extra tricky at times when you’re photographing siblings where one is not walking and the other is older. With little crawlers they are constantly wanting to explore and don’t stay still for very long. So my ‘tummy trick’ can give you precious seconds, especially if you get the older sibling on your side. So in this example below, the older boy was told to hold his baby brother nice and close to him so there was a greater chance of getting him to gaze at his mum (directly behind my massive bush of hair) and to stay still for just a second (and it really was just a second):

little boy with baby brother on their tummies in Tonbridge, Kent

3/ Consider photographing close-up so the focus is mostly them. It really brings out their beautiful eyes.

4/ Think like a pro, and check your backdrops. Make sure nothing is sticking out of people’s heads from behind. Make sure there isn’t an extension lead or sainsbury’s carrier bag. Usually, as your subject matter is your child / children, the background can just be a pleasant blurry backdrop. You don’t want it to distract from your subject.

5/ Consider the basic photographic rule of ‘three-thirds’. So don’t photograph your child in the centre of the frame as this is just dull. Imagine, your photograph is split into thirds. And plan to have your subject either in the first or third third. Not in the middle. Look at the picture below of my Seb. He is off centre. This can make a dramatic change to your photos.

little boy smiling with wet hair in garden in Tonbridge, Kent

6/ Try and have an assistant. When I photograph babies / tots, I get a parent to come up behind me and my camera but very very close to my head. It feels and sounds weird but then the subject’s eyes aren’t too far away looking at your assistant and you loose connection with the camera. Encourage your assistant to do whatever it takes to get a winning reaction. I love silly dads pulling very silly faces / making funny sounds that make babies chuckle. You get the idea.

7/ As a reportage photographer, I am a massive fan of taking natural pictures and I think children look incredible when they are just being kids and enjoying themselves and you successfully manage to capture it. When something exciting comes along (like a new paddling pool, building something for the first time), be there ready to take the photo and get their reactions. Don’t get them to pose or tell them what you are up to.

Consider framing your shot by getting them to sit / lean / stand in a tree (this is a great distraction – I often find children are happy to be photographed in trees. It gives them something to do with their hands and the balance keeps them amused). If I am doing a home portrait shoot in the garden, one of the locations I like to photograph is the child’s favourite location – whether its on a swing, in a treehouse.

8/ Lots of children don’t feel comfortable looking directly into the camera. I also think children looking to the side can look natural and interesting too. So I will often raise my hand to the left and wave and ask them to focus on that spot or for younger children, I get a parent to stand to my side and pull funny faces.

little brothers sitting on their tummies in their garden in Tonbridge, Kent
little girls laughing in Tonbridge, Kent

9/ Some children are more fidgety than others. Lots don’t like being stationary and besides, it is really fun to capture them when they are at their happiest which is invariably moving. Get them to hold hands if they have a sibling and get ready to capture them running / walking holding hands.

little girl running in her garden in Tonbridge, Kent
little girl running with her smiling parents in her garden in Tonbridge, Kent
little girls holding hands walking in their garden in West Malling, Kent

10/ I love siblings doing piggy backs as it keeps their faces close together and with the little one on top, it can keep them still for a second.

Whatever position is working best for you, I find it works really well when heads are close together. That sounds strange but give it a go. If you’re able to offer some art direction, encourage and make sure children are close to each other physically.

little girls sitting together in sparkly dresses in West Malling, Kent

For further inspiration, check out my children’s portrait gallery here.

I hope these tips help you take awesome pictures of your children during lockdown.

Good-luck! xx