Photographing children is a joy.  As parents, you can capture yours at home, or outdoors, any day you like. You have boundless access and opportunities. We all want family photographs and albums to treasure. We all want special holidays and birthdays looking wonderful in albums and we all want tips to do it better! I’m here to help.

Most families have one person who uses a camera or phone to take most images. Does that sound like you?  They want tips on everything from composition and engaging children to advice on camera settings. This blog can’t provide what a photography course with me can cover. But it does give lots of tricks and tips to get you going. I’ll start with the biggest issue we had in our family imagery: it’s a healthy reminder to swap roles. Get your other half to photograph you with the children.

Whoever takes most of the images will regret later that they are not in many of them. My husband is understandably nervous of handling my pro dslr camera. He avoided it for years and still has no real interest in how to drive it and turn the dials. But, he absolutely understands how his reticence could accidentally erase me from our photo memories. So my top tip, is set your camera settings up for your other half and get yourself in the images!

A lot of parents tell me, though we know our kids so well, it’s tricky to get great images. It can be that they feel so comfortable larking about or joking with us, they don’t co-operate as we’d like. It can be that too often we are asking them to stop playing to look at a camera. Where’s the fun in that? So, my second tip is don’t interrupt play. Take candid action shots. This isn’t about you winning a portrait award. Your access to your children and who they are in their play and at home is a gift. Run with that and you won’t need co-operation so often. When you demand less, they are often more willing to pose for the odd group shot. In my family, our best images are candid and on the run. My boys like action and our best family photo memories show that.

I asked some parent friends and past clients what they would love to know.

Tips on how to make a great image… I don’t even know where to start, but am always disappointed.

– Laura Ignatiou

What makes a great image is very subjective, but a well lit image is a must. Other than that, great children’s imagery, for me, is an image that shows me something of who they are. If I capture the quiet side of them or a great giggle fit, I am equally happy. Candid shots full of personality is what I always seek. I never ask children to smile, or say cheese. They tire of it before 4 years old, then you get that fake smile they perfect around 5. Know it?  My top tip is to capture them in their moment, don’t think every image has to be a formal portrait where they look straight to camera. Those images can be beautiful, but they can also be stiff. Leave those til you know your camera intimately and can ask for that shot at a speed they won’t resent.

Of course, composition tricks help enormously. If you are unfamiliar with basics like rule of thirds, eye level, ants eye view, leading lines… you can do some research online or, of course, join me for some training. Rhiannon is a wedding and family client of mine who has picked up a number of photography tips. Her top composition tip is the one I use more than any other with youngsters….

Mel, since capturing our family and wedding, one thing has stayed with me and it makes such a difference to photos. You always get down to little people’s eye level.

– Rhiannon Hedges

Photographers use a lot of composition tricks in photographs. When capturing children, the top tip is to achieve eye level. If you want winning imagery, kneel or bend. Get the lens on their eye level. Images of the top of children’s heads rarely make great wall art. And be mindful of what else is in your photograph. Taking images sometimes has to happen at speed. But taking images knowing there are things you dislike in the background is something you can control. You just move to a better angle to eliminate the problem. Nothing irks me more than strangers in the image background or cars, bins, ugly signposts. A moment’s pause could mean you just take two steps and your image is more thoughtfully put together.

I strive for bright, light photographs but they don’t turn out that way. How do I achieve that? – Niki West

Learning light is a longer task than one blog post can solve. But, how do some people’s images look so bright and others’ don’t? It isn’t all photoshop, I promise. Often it’s about camera dials. But, before even those it is about reading the light. Harsh full sun glare at midday on a beach rarely makes easy images with youngsters. Often you’ll get squinting or shadows across their skin. Soft cloudy skies, outside, create the photographer’s preferred natural light, because it’s kind to skin. We call it diffused light. If you get those skies on holiday, grab your camera.

If you want to know more about light, composition, how to drive your camera dials, why not call me for more training. And if you just want more inspiration, why not hop up on my instagram feed for a flavour of candid action shots, full of light and giggles. Mel x