I get asked this question a lot, so here are a few quick tips for taking better natural light portraits of your little ones.
1. Look for the light. This is the most important. Lighting changes everything, and the right light will make a huge difference in your photos. If you’re indoors, move your kids near a large window, and turn off the lights in your home. Natural light (coming through the window) is a different color than you interior lights, and if they are competing, you’ll end up with some odd colors in your pictures. If you’re outdoors, look for some shade to avoid harsh shadows across their faces. Or if you’re comfortable shooting in manual mode, put the sun behind them and expose for their skin tones for some pretty backlit portraits.
2. Clear the clutter and keep it simple. Move distracting items from the background so the focus can be on your child. It sounds so simple but their is nothing worse than grabbing a fantastic picture of your child’s belly laugh, when there are dirty dishes on the table in the background. (guilty!)
3, Choose a small number for your f-stop. The lower the number, the shallower the depth of field and the more light you’re letting into your camera. Most kit lenses go down to f3.5. You can also pick up a 50mm f1.8 lens for around $150. This is probably the first lens I would recommend to any dSLR owner. It’s relatively inexpensive, and it allows you to shoot at higher speeds in less light. (think sharp indoor pictures without flash) And on that note…
4. Turn off your camera’s flash. Just do it. If there’s not enough light, then move somewhere there is. Trust me.
5. Don’t force it. If you want their real smiles, you’re going to have to work for it. Put down the camera and play with them first. Get them laughing, having fun, and have your camera ready and waiting on the sidelines. If picture time is a miserable experience for them, they are only going to be more resistant in the future. Tickle, chase, jump…pretend you’re a spy on a top secret monkey mission. Whatever engages yours kids and brings out their authentic smiles and laughter. Those are the faces you’ll want to remember.