Photos of your kids are likely to be some of your most precious photos. Maybe no-one outside your family will ever see them. But their value isn’t a matter of art or ratings or clicks–it’s about memories. It’s a cliche that it goes by so quickly, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
With three young kids myself, I find myself taking a lot of photos of them. They quickly became my favorite photographic subjects.
But taking photos of kids isn’t the same as taking beautiful landscapes or night scenes or street photos. It’s much less about technical proficiency than timing and emotion. An out-of-focus landscape shot isn’t much good to anyone, but being out of focus might be perfectly fine for a family photo if it captures a special moment. And then there’s that big issue of wrangling the talent. Kids don’t always understand or want to do what you tell them, which means that you’ve got to be adaptive and creative. Hopefully, the ideas in a book like this give you the confidence to be able to do that and still end up with keeper photos.But even if it’s not rocket photography, there are tricks and tactics that can help you get better photos of your kids and family more often. And that’s where books like Your Family in Pictures by Me Ra Koh come in.
This is actually one of a trilogy Ms. Koh has written. Another of them, Your Baby in Pictures: The New Parents’ Guide to Photographing Your Baby’s First Year has been one of my go-to gifts for friends or family with a newborn. This one is a natural progression, pitched as “the parents’ guide to photographing holidays, family portraits, and everyday life.”
Ms. Koh, or “the photo mom,” is a mother, writer, photographer, speaker, and even TV personality. Needless to say, she has taken some stunning photos of her family (and other things) in her wanderings with her family around the world.
“Focus on the child who is closest to you. That is where our eye goes first when looking at the photo. If that child isn’t in the center, reframe and center that face to lock focus. Then play around with your desired framing and fire.” [p.128]
Her style is a long way from awkward, posed portraits. Her photos emphasize movement and lightness. They’re exactly the style of photo you would want to hang on your wall to bring a smile to your face every time you pass them. They’re fun, and they have boatloads of personality. And that’s exactly what you want.
And she puts a heavy emphasis on making the process of taking the photos fun, for you and the kids. Here’s just one example that leaped out at me that’s also a perfect example of the style and practicality. It’s in a section about taking photos on holidays; this one focuses on Halloween.
The biggest mistake I ever made taking Halloween photos was waiting until Halloween night. By nightfall, the kids had one thing on their mind–and it was not posing for photos. But I also realized from the moment the kids got their costumes that they wanted to wear them all day, every day! I jumped on this enthusiasm by letting them put their costumes on early “if” they let Mom do a photo shoot, too. . . . I’ve heard many a parent comment about chasing kids down the street only to capture photos of their backsides running up to doors. How many of us can relate? This Halloween, start your picture-taking ahead of time for the best results. [p.58]
It’s a great tip, and you’re getting a two-for: better photos for you and an afternoon’s entertainment for the kids. She then goes on to give some specific tips on good backgrounds, where to focus, and how to compose the photos.
The structure of the book is clever too. You don’t need to sit down and wade through the whole book in one, long sitting. You’re a parent; you don’t have time for that. So each little section or tip is short and concise. Want some useful ideas for taking photos at Christmas? That section packs a number of good tips in a couple of pages that take no longer than two minutes to read and throws in some inspirational example photos to boot. Ditto for ideas for taking photos of mealtimes. Or sisters or brothers. Or snow day or graduation or pets. Ms. Koh’s style is breezy but to the point. The text and graphics are clear and easy to read.
While she stresses the good point that taking great pictures of your kids isn’t a matter of having a fancy or expensive camera, having been published in 2014, the book is up-to-date with the current camera technology without getting bogged down in jargon. You don’t have to try to decode instructions written for old technology and try to apply them to the camera in your hand. And each tip comes with a version for people using DSLRs as well as one for those using a point and shoot.
Use the camera you have. Don’t have your DSLR nearby? Don’t worry. The iPhone and other smartphones take remarkably good photos. The best camera is the one you have with you.
Me Ra Koh’s Five Tips for Photographing Everyday Life
- Keep a camera out. The beauty of everyday life most often happens when we least expect it. Keep a camera out at all times and within arm’s reach. This also helps desensitize the family to having their photos taken. The time it takes to get the camera out of the camera bag, find the right lens, and find an SD card and charged battery eats up the patience your family had. But if the camera is there and ready to go, there’ll be less resistance to picture-taking.
- Use the camera you have. Don’t have your DSLR nearby? Don’t worry. The iPhone and other smartphones take remarkably good photos. The best camera is the one you have with you.
- Scope out the light. Be aware of the light in your home. Which rooms get the best light at different times of day? Set yourself up for success by making note of when great light is available
- Use Continuous Shooting mode. When you’re trying to capture everyday moments without putting your family on guard, use this camera mode to quickly fire a few rapid shots in succession rather than taking one image at a time.
- Choose Your Weekly Story. Consider upcoming events of the week (baseball game, ballet class, backyard movie night, or play date at the park). Choose one event to work on capturing. Begin to picture how the event will unfold and what the best photo ops could be. Trying to capture ALL events will burn you out, but honing in on one becomes a fun, inspiring photo challenge.
There are even some support videos to complement the book.
Table of Contents
Preface: My Story
Setting Yourself Up for Success
Spots in Your Home for Great Light
Steps to Set Up Your Photos for Success
Ideas for Getting Your Family in the Mood
Ways Black and White Can Transform So-So Photos
My Top 10 Times to Take Candid Family Photos
Developing a Photographer’s Eye
Practice Framing Daily Moments
Unpacking a Photo
Ways to Discover Color, Line, Shape, and Texture
Cues for When to Shoot or Convert to Black and White
No Longer Afraid of the Dark
Storyteller vs. Photographer
Five tips for photographing everyday life
Breakfast or Mealtime
Heart of the Home
Out and About
Five tips for photographing the holidays
Fourth of July
Five tips for photographing family portraits
Self-Portrait of Mom
Portrait of Dad
You and Your Spouse
The Family Portrait
Tweens & Teens
Five tips for photographing tweens and teens
Senior Portraits: Girls
Senior Portraits: Guys
Family Vacations & Travel
Five tips for photographing vacations and travel
A Day at the Beach
The Great Outdoors
Visiting the Monuments
Breathtaking Landscapes with Kids
Where to BuyI learned some neat tricks from this book, and it also makes for an excellent gift for anyone with kids who is hoping to have fun with taking photos and improve their family photo keepsakes.
Your Family in Pictures by Me Ra Koh is available in paperback and as an ebook.