Another lockdown! Having 3 children at home, we have some experience with homeschooling this time round. I was actually dreading this news and thought it would be emotional to have to go through this again. Then I thought back to the first lockdown and how amazing it was to see our kids doing their school work. Experiencing their progression in writing and reading and seeing first hand how their minds work, is simply amazing. I also took the opportunity to document homeschool with pictures. Here’s some top tips in taking pictures of your children during this time, including light, best angles and ways to get them to look at you, without that cheesy grin!

#1 Light

Light is one of the most important aspects of photography. If you don’t have enough light the picture you’ll end up with will either be blurred, especially when it comes to moving children, or too dark for it to be a wall worthy picture. Don’t be tempted to use the pop up flash on your camera or even the one on your phone. These flash’s give tiny pin pricks of light in the eyes which is a give away for using a flash. It also makes for harsh, flat light and tends to bleach colours in your image.

Taking pictures of your children inside

When your inside, aim to use window light. This gives wonderful catch lights in the eyes (the light reflecting in the eyes). If you have a large window in your living room, or some French doors/patio doors leading to outside this works perfectly. As long as you have your back to the window and your child is facing towards the window, you should get enough light to make sure the camera can take a sharp image. If you have sunlight coming through the window avoid using it until it moves round, or you get some cloud cover. Direct sunlight causes squinting and is generally very unflattering.

Taking pictures of your children outside

Even with grey clouds (and we have a lot of those at the moment!) the light outside is always going to be easier when taking pictures of your children. If you do have sunlight however – be careful of harsh and strong light on your child, shade is always preferable! If there’s no shade, face you child’s back to the sun. This avoids the dreaded squinting eyes and the light on their face is softer. This light behind their head, also known as rim light or backlight, can look beautiful. It creates separation between your child and the background. If it’s a sunny day try and take images during golden hour. This is the hour after sunrise or the hour before sunset. The light at these times is warm and soft and perfect for taking a beautiful portrait of your child.

#2 Get down to their eye level

Getting down to your child’s eye level makes for a much better angle and ultimately a much better photograph. You can have fun shooting past and through things in front of them too. Sometimes, a picture above a child, looking down and them looking up at you can be fantastic too but unless this is intentional, getting down to their eye level is definitely the best way to get a great portrait. You may have to get down on the floor, even lying down if you have a toddler.

#3 Focus on their eyes

We are automatically drawn to the sharpest part of a photograph which is why it’s so important that this is the eyes. In this blog we’re talking about taking pictures of children but if you’re photographing a pet or even a statue, you should still focus on the eyes. This is one of the fundamentals of portrait photography. If the head is at an angle, as a rule, focus on the eye nearest to you – the other eye may be slightly out of focus and that’s fine, as long as the one closest is sharp. If you’re using a camera, have a look in your manual (or google it) for a focus setting called ‘single point focus’. This will give you the option to focus on the eye specifically.

Focus on the eyes child portrait bury st edmunds
Sharp focus on the eyes means this photograph stands out – especially with those catch lights in her eyes.

#4 No Posing

For me, the idea of taking pictures of my children during these strange times of lockdown is to document and record memories. Looking back one day and remembering what happened in 2020 and 2021 and the fact that we had to homeschool will be memories we won’t forget. The key to great documentary style pictures is capturing your children’s personalities and their little quirks. Some of these idiosyncrasies they’ll outgrow and without documenting them, we soon forget. If you try and pose your children you won’t really capture those personalities. If you have a child that likes to look at the camera then of course capture that cheesy smile. Keep snapping however. Make some funny faces (keep the camera in the same place and just move your head so your child can see your funny face!). Make funny sounds too and you’ll soon get that one portrait that is a genuine giggle or smile – or just a straight stare to the camera (see below!).

#6 Keep practising and keep taking pictures

My last top tip for taking pictures of your children is to keep practising! You may only get a handful of images that you truly love from a week’s worth of picture taking. But if you don’t even pick up your camera you won’t capture anything at all. That’s what photographs are for in the first place; capturing memories. By choosing to use continuous mode on your camera you get many pictures taken in succession. Children move fast so you’re giving yourself a better chance of getting that one image that is a winner. If you have a lot of pictures at the end of the day – do go through and delete the ones you don’t want. This avoids having hundreds of photos you need to delete at the end of the week! If you’re using your camera phone, this is essential to avoid it getting too full. Finally, have fun! Experiment with different angles. Move around and keep taking pictures of the same scene – you’ll be surprised at how this can change the look and feeling of a photograph.

Documentary Child Portrait Bury St Edmunds
A bird’s eye view. I stood on a chair to get this documentary shot of homeschooling.

You can see more of my family photography here. If you’d like to contact me or have any questions don’t hesitate to get in touch!