3 Tips for Taking Better Pics of Your Kids, According to Professional Photographers

Your family photos just got a lot more frame-worthy

how to take photogenic kid pics universal
Dasha Burobina

I was recently scrolling through my camera roll when I noticed that I’ve steadily improved as a parent photog. What’s helped? My child (who is now six) is just as squirmy and disinterested in spontaneous photo shoots as he was during the toddler years. Still, studying the work of a few professional family photographers whose work I’ve long admired has upped my game, which is why I reached out to them and asked them to articulate their favorite kid-friendly techniques. Even better, their advice is smart-phone friendly. Here, exactly what to do.

About the Experts

Nicki Sebastian is a Los Angeles-based commercial, editorial and family photographer. She loves capturing the beauty and chaos of motherhood whether she’s snapping pics of her two daughters or shooting for family brands ranging from Crate & Kids and Maisonette to Oeuf and UPPABaby.

Christine Han is a Los Angeles-based photographer and mom of one. She regularly snaps pics of people (kids included!), food, drinks, product and travel and has worked with brands including BuyBuyBaby, West Elm, Shake Shack and more.

Ana Gambuto is a New York-based lifestyle photographer, educator and mom of two. One of her top passions is teaching others how to document their lives with nothing more than their phone camera. She has worked with brands ranging from SkipHop and Ergo Baby to Tiny Beans and Shutterfly.

1. Stop Snapping Photos Head-On

According to Nicki Sebastian, photography can sometimes feel stale or uninspiring because we can become too accustomed to taking pictures from the perspective through which we most often view the world—at our own height. “Our phones are handy because they’re readily available to capture moments at the drop of a hat, but we can easily get too comfortable framing our images in a very basic, expected manner,” she says.

Nicki’s Advice: Play with angles and focal points.“Find some open sky, lay on the ground and shoot from below—a clean backdrop will make your subject pop and the new viewpoint will add dynamic flavor and interest to your image,” she explains. “Conversely, you can place yourself above your subject and photograph them in a field of grass, on a cozy rug at home or sprawled out on the sand—anywhere that’s comfortable and conducive to play or relaxation. In these set-ups, the camera becomes secondary, your child’s lack of awareness becomes beneficial and the resulting images become true candids.” Nicki adds that this is also the key to helping your child forget they’re being photographed, which allows their authenticity and uninhibited expressions to really shine.

2. Try the ‘Peanut Butter Sandwich’ Trick

It’s about spontaneity. The best kid snaps are the ones that capture the authentic joy of kids, says Christine Han. But when kids see a camera, they’ll often go into what she calls “frozen cheese smiles” mode since that’s what they’re used to. That’s OK! But there’s a better way to get them to be themselves.

Christine’s Advice: Tell a joke. “You have to create the opportunity for genuine joy,” Han says. “First, find a good spot to gather kids where there’s plenty of natural light and very little background distractions.” The next part is simple—play with your kids from behind the lens. “Encourage them to ‘make a peanut butter sandwich’ with each other, ask them if they have tails, anything to get them to laugh and connect with each other. No, you’re not looking to snap a pic of the peanut butter sandwich when they create it, but you are looking for the authentic in-between moments when they’re having a great time. That’s when you shoot like crazy.”

ana gambuto

3. Use Portrait Mode—But Try the ‘Selfie’ View

Ana Gambuto says, of course, portrait mode is a go-to for parents who love to snap pics of their kids on their smartphone since it delivers a beautiful (and professional-looking) background blur. The only downside is that there’s a minimum distance required—on average around four feet—for the effect to work, which can make it a challenge to quickly snap a candid kid shot.

Ana’s Advice: Use selfie portrait mode instead. “It gives a shorter focal length, which means you can be closer to the subject—about six inches away—and have it focus faster, which is great for moving kids,” Gambuto explains. Simply open portrait mode, use the front facing camera (or selfie) portrait view, then turn your phone around so your kid is in frame, she says. Then, all you have to do is hit the up volume button on your iPhone to take a picture. “You’ll have to snap, snap, snap in rapid succession, then see what you get. But when you get a good one, the detail of the close-up is really something,” Gambuto adds.

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