Here in Jersey City, we have no shortage of dramatic or scenic backdrops. You may find yourself constantly pulling out your phone or camera to snap photos of your little ones. How can you take shots that are expressive, meaningful, and lasting on the fly? Here are a few tips to help you!
Carmel Simmons is a new mom and a family photographer in Jersey City. You can find her work at carmelsimmons.com and snaps from her daily life on Instagram @csimmonsphotos.
Carmel recommends the chemistry block set and the Babiators sunglasses, both featured in this post and purchased at Hazel Baby on Montgomery St. Her favorite coffee shop in town is 9Bar, and when she’s not taking photos or spending time with her baby, she’s singing or working on a podcast.
Here in Jersey City, we have no shortage of dramatic or scenic backdrops. You may find yourself constantly pulling out your phone or camera to snap photos of your little ones. How can you take shots that are expressive, meaningful, and lasting on the fly? Here are a few tips to help you.
Backlighting can be used for dramatic effect, but usually it just makes your photo too dark! Whenever possible, try to face your subject toward the light. Sometimes you only have a few seconds to capture something your kid is doing, but if you can, maneuver yourself so the light source is in front of your subject. Facial features will be lit better, and you won’t have to use that dreaded flash.
Here’s a backlit photo that didn’t work--the subject blends in with the background.
Here’s a shot in the same crib from the other direction. Facing the light can make a huge difference!
- Check your background
Our city is cool, it’s hip, it’s grungy, and sometimes, it’s dirty. And there are orange cones and construction everywhere. When taking a photo on the street, make sure you’re not including the pile of trash bags waiting to be picked up. When taking photos at home, clutter can detract from the strength of a shot. If mess can’t be avoided, just zoom in on your cute kid’s mug. That always works.
“What a cute ba---ew what’s all that trash over there?” -Me
Has Jersey City ever looked so pristine?
If you work with an SLR camera you know the pain of thinking a photo is perfect and then blowing it up and realizing you’ve fixed the focus on a collar or a nearby leaf. Luckily, autofocus comes standard in phones, and when you’re snapping a quick pic, focus can be as simple as touching the screen where you want it. Just make sure you do it! And don’t be afraid to play with focus. A face doesn’t have to be the main focal point of a photo.
This could have been a great shot, but sadly the focus ended up on the ground near his shoe.
Don’t be afraid to focus on a unique detail of a photo. This can help you remember the small things you may likely forget over time.
A photo can tell a story. And the colors you choose in your photo enhance that story. When looking at your screen or through a viewfinder, separate the objects you’re looking at in your mind, and focus on the colors you’re seeing. Does the palette work? Is it pleasing to your eye? When I’m planning a shoot, I choose my baby’s outfit with intention. Obviously if your child is being adorable and happens to have on a green striped sweater and blue Nemo fish trunks, you’re out of luck. But take the photo anyway, because you have to document that fashion sense.
Do his clothes match? No. Why was he wearing a helmet? I have no idea--but the smile on his face made me forget anything else.
One day at music class I looked down and saw my baby was completely coordinated with her blanket. The color story makes this photo stronger.
The key to framing a photo well is asking yourself two questions: What is the most important part of this photo, and what story are you trying to tell? For example, a couple of months ago my baby loved this fishy ball pit/activity mat. Loved it. So I tried to take a photo of her playing in it to remember one of her favorite toys. It was boring--she was far away, and you could hardly tell she was into it. Then I tried coming closer and framing her face through the toys, and instantly captured the curiosity and joy she had with this toy. Make sure your photo isn’t just “documentary evidence” but that it tells a story.
The first photo--zoomed out, distracting, hard to tell where the focus is (and yes, that cord has been since dealt with!)
A later photo, closer up so the photo is being framed by the toy. Even with the colorful toys being in the foreground, the focus still goes to the baby’s face.
Don’t worry about remembering all of these tips at once. If you’re trying to improve your photos, choose one and practice it for a week. Pretty soon you’ll find your Instagram feed looking magazine worthy--because everyone thinks their own kid belongs in a magazine, right?