Life Unposed: Kid Photography


I love capturing life on film! I don’t know as much as I would like about image composition and technical camera settings – and there are certainly things that could be “fixed” in the photo above. What makes me so happy, though, is that – perfect or not – the photo captures my son’s personality at age four, playing outside.

In fact, I find that the photos I treasure most are often far from perfect – like the photo of me and the kids from my Parenting Beyond Kairos post, and this photo of Mike with Lily:

Kid photography

I treasure these photos because, in all their imperfection, they captured the beauty of our everyday life!

And so, I present my best kid photography tips for capturing life on film:

  • Keep the camera out all the time. This will allow moments to be captured, and it helps kids (and adults) get used to having the camera in their face so that they resist the urge to pose.
  • Avoid using flash if at all possible. The bright flashing light disrupts any spontaneity that is there.
  • Capture photos from a distance, and up close.
  • If kids are acting self-conscious, try taking the camera away from your face and hoping auto-focus can do its job. Cameras are pretty smart these days!
  • Instead of telling kids to smile or look at the camera, capture their attention in a natural way. Tell a joke, ask them to tell you a story, or ask them what they think about your silly hairdo.
  • Be a good sport about being in photos yourself – your kids are watching and noticing!

And my few technical tips:

  • Pay attention to lighting. If you want gorgeous photos of your kids playing indoors, set them up by a window – and stand with your back to the window so you get the light shining on them. Just make sure you aren’t casting a shadow on them!
  • Avoid flash where you can. It distorts colors and creates shadows.
  • If you’re in the market for a new camera, pay more attention to sensors and low-light performance reviews than to megapixels. A 14 megapixel camera with a poor sensor is (in my biased opinion) worth a lot less than an 8 megapixel camera with a great sensor.
  • I love taking photos outside during that gorgeous time of day when it is just starting to get dark – you get a gentle light on everything, and nobody is squinting into the sun!
  • Take a lot of photos – why not, with digital film where you pick the ones you pay to print?
  • Learn about f-stops and ISO. Still working on that one…
  • If you’re considering paying for Photoshop, try playing with GIMP first. You may still decide to pay for Photoshop, but GIMP has many similarities – and it’s free!

What are your top photography tips? I’m very much learning photography!!!


What else have you been learning this week? Last week, Sun Hats & Wellie Boots shared a brilliant sign system for outdoor pretend play! I also loved this color-themed Spring exploration from Rainy Day Mum, and these child-decorated shadow boxes (housing child-made ornaments) from Glittering Muffins are stunning!

learning laboratory at mama smiles
I would love for you to link up your week’s fun and creative learning activities! Including a text link back or button (code is in the sidebar) is much appreciated!


  1. says

    Most important to me is no flash!! I was just saying this yesterday when we were outside on a beautiful afternoon–it’s so nice to know the lighting is perfect :) And you’re right, sometimes the messy ones are the ones that show real life, I love that.

    When I got my new camera I had to have my prof. photographer friends teach me about ISO, I’m also still learning. But boy what a difference it makes, it’s amazing.

  2. says

    I’m really enjoying doing a small amount of editing in Picassa. That’s probably about the amount of photo shop I’m going to do. As much as I pretend I want to do more.

  3. says

    I agree with all of your wonderful tips. Especially the one about taking lots of pictures. If you take 20 pictures, one is bound to turn out right? Also you just can’t beat outside pictures, natural lighting is so gorgeous.

  4. says

    Great tips! I use Gimp – it’s a great free Photoshop alternative! Wondering if you use a DSLR or point and shoot… I just got a new point and shoot with a big zoom but might still get a DSLR down the road – would love to control focus…

    Thanks for the link-up!

    • maryanne says

      I upgraded from a nice point and shoot to a DSLR somewhat recently, and I have seen a big difference. You can do a lot with a good point and shoot, though – and your photos are always beautiful!

  5. says

    Great tips, MaryAnne! You’re absolutely right about the megapixels. The only reason you would want a high count is to print bigger photos. An 8 megapixel will print pretty big photos to begin with. My piece of advice that I always try to adhere to is to keep my ISO as low as possible. I don’t like grain and noise in my photos so the lower the better on that. Great tips!

  6. says

    What great tips – the light is so bad in our house that I’m having to use the flash a lot of the time at the moment and it’s driving me mad (tall houses blocking natural light from around us).

    • maryanne says

      That’s really hard! We don’t have the houses problem, but our ceilings are very low (I can touch them, easily!) and that makes it possible to take good photos in only a few spots around the house thanks primarily to our large sliding window!

  7. says

    Great tips, MaryAnne! Love this post. I’m desperately trying to understand f-thingies and ISOs too. I try to remember that ISOs are like the old film numbers – use 100 or 200 films for outdoor and 400 for indoor (more grainy but brighter). And then I grab the camera and snap away and forget everything and then see my photos when they’re downloaded, and scream. I don’t take as many kid photos as I do craft-in-progress photos, which are boring. But I’m learning about backgrounds. There are times when I will rush the camera out to snap a photo of the kids (or some craft innard) to capture some split-second thing, and I swivel my body around so the sun is behind me and SNAP! Horrible background. Some neighbor’s house or trash can or something. UGH. My husband so often groans when he sees my photos. Why couldn’t you turn 30 more degrees left and avoid the cars on the street? He’d ask. Because of the sun’s direction, I’d mutter helplessly. Then discovered aperture priority (A setting on DSLR) – stand far far away, zoom really really close and take photo. Background blurs away. Doesn’t always work in all situations, like if the child is standing right against someone’s trash can (not that one should pose with trash). So I’m still learning. I love taking photos at just before sunset, too. But can’t always, because usually cooking supper then. Husband does, though, and his photos have this golden, warm glow that is magical. Also I’ve learned never to take photos in bright sunlight. Much better to wait for a cloudy day, when there’s diffuse light all uniformly around, than harsh shadows. Indoor lighting, though, drives me nuts. I don’t even take indoor photos if I can help it. I’ve found that it’s sometimes nicer (for my camera anyway) to take dimmer photos with no flash and some yellow lamp nearby than to use the flash and wash everything out. With the latter I can play with the white balance and turn down the yellow (and up the blue) to make it look more natural, but I can’t unwash out an overexposed photo. But yes, where possible, outdoor always trumps indoor.

    • maryanne says

      I need to try your yellow lamp idea for indoor photos! And I love your child posing next to someone’s trash can comment – it’s SO easy for things like that to happen!!!

  8. says

    Great post. I love taking pictures, but don’t have a ton of knowledge about cameras or editing. In another season of my life, I’d love to learn more.

  9. says

    This post is AMAZING!! It is just what I need to take my photos to the next level. I can’t thank you enough. I’m bookmarking this and pinning it. I have a feeling that I’ll be back to review often. Thank you!!


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