If you have children, you probably take more photos of them with your iPhone than anything else. We've already taken a look at how to take great portraits with your iPhone, and everything from that article applies here as well. We'll re-iterate some of them here, like light, camera level, and catchlights. But when it comes to taking the absolute best possible iPhone photos of your little ones, there are some other things we need to pay attention to as well.
I know I say this in every photography article I write, but that's because it really is that important. You need light. And it's especially important with kids because they move. A lot.
Quick mini-lesson about cameras
In order for a camera to capture an image, it needs light. To get light, the camera opens a hole, called an aperture, in the lens and releases the shutter, which allows light to hit the sensor for a set amount of time. A larger aperture means more light (because more light is coming in at once), and a slower shutter speed also means more light (because light is passing through the aperture for a longer period of time).
"But this is an iPhone, not a DSLR where I can control these settings. Why do I need to know this?" Because understanding how the camera works and why you're getting the results that you are will help you make decisions to improve. And for children, the biggest challenge is movement, which is why taking photos in a well lit environment is critical.
You see, kids move. Some of them nonstop (like my daughter). So there's a good chance you're struggling with blurry photos. The reason for this is because the shutter isn't moving fast enough to freeze the motion. But now that we know that the shutter will move slower to allow more light, it must also be true that if we have more light, the shutter will be faster. This is why more light is better with children -- you have a greater chance of freezing their motion with a fast shutter.
To summarize, because of the limitations of the iPhone, there's only two pieces of advice I can offer to solve blurry motion photos: get your child to stop moving (very difficult, but the right distraction can do it), or take your child somewhere where there's a lot of light.
Get down to their level
One of the simplest things you can do that will drastically improve you photos is too get down to the eye-level of the child you're photographing. This may mean squatting, getting on your knees, or for the real little ones, laying on your belly.
Remember, though, that rules are meant be broken. If done right, photos shot from above or below your child can come out rather stunning (like having your child lay on their back and you shoot from directly above).
Posing kids is hard, especially your own kids. Here's a few ideas that might help. The main thing is to get creative -- telling a child (or anyone for that matter) to smile isn't going to result in a nice natural smile.
- Bribe them with candy or toys
- Do something fun, like tickling, while your camera is ready, then back off real quick and take the shot
- Ask them to face away from you and, on the count of three, to spin around and give you their best pose
- Have them run towards you (perhaps with someone chasing them)
For younger toddlers and babies who don't understand commands, try some of these tips.
- Play peak-a-boo behind your iPhone. Maybe even have a stuffed animal play peek-a-boo behind your iPhone
- Find something that makes a noise they've never heard before. Maybe a new toy, maybe a new ringtone, maybe some other random noise you can produce yourself. Hold this item at camera level, not way above your head. You want the child looking into the camera.
- Make animal sounds
- Make a complete and utter fool of yourself by running, jumping, and dancing around and making high pitched sounds. No, seriously.
Use the front-facing camera
I know, the front-facing isn't nearly as good as the rear-facing camera, but for babies and toddlers, when they see themselves on the screen, the can't help but smile or make faces. So although these photos may not be of the highest quality, they should still result in some fun memories.
Also, if you're the only who's always taking the photos, the front-facing camera is a great way to get some photos of you with your child.
Ever notice that in some photos of kids, the child's eyes stand out more than in other photos? Sometimes there is some post-processing involved, but most of the time it was just clever placement of lighting -- and it's so simple. To make your child's eyes stand out, you need catchlights. If you're seeking out good light sources, this will actually happen naturally. The trick to catchlights is to make sure that your light source is hitting your child's eyes. That's it.
Sometimes it's OK to use the flash
I have a secret. I hate the iPhone's flash. It's terrible. In fact, the flash on most cameras are terrible. On-camera flashes do give much needed light, but they usually also result in very flat, unflattering images. So my first recommendation is to avoid the iPhone's flash at all costs. Especially with children -- the flash is so slow, that by the time the picture is taken, the moment is lost.
But sometimes there is no other choice, like in the photo above. I found my daughter sleeping in her crib like this and so badly wanted a photo. To get a "good" photo, though, I would need to turn on the light, but that would wake her up. I'm all for doing whatever I have to do to get a great shot -- except when that something is waking up my daughter. So my only choice was to turn on my iPhone's flash. It's not the greatest photo in the world, but it's an awesome memory. And with our kids -- that's really what it's all about. Memories.
Now go out and shoot!
So now that you're equipped with some tips for getting great photos of your kids, go out and practice! With summer just around the corner, you can bet that you'll be taking even more photos of your kids. As always, please share your favorite photos with us in the iMore photography forum. (Please do not share photos of someone else's child without permission from the parents). Have fun!
Note: Originally written May 2012. Updated July 2014.