"The best camera you have is the one with you"
How do they do it? You know those people you follow in Instagram who constantly post incredible photos of their children? Do you snap away on days out with the kids, or at home, but your photos are just not as good?
We consulted Irish wedding, lifestyle and brand photographer Katie Kavanagh and drilled her for her best tips on getting the shot. The good news? You don't need to invest in fancy equipment — your phone and some insider knowledge is all you need.
It's all about having fun and experimenting, but here's what parents aren't quite getting right when it comes to taking photos of your children.
1. Not thinking about light
"This sounds counterintuitive, but the first thing I do when I go into a house is turn off all the lights. I'm looking for natural light all the time. It's much more flattering. Ideally your subject will be facing a big window, but that's not always possible so just look for what available light you have. Lamps and overhead lighting will cast funny shadows and colours on your images, which isn't flattering for anyone. If you're outdoors, have their back to the sun, this will eliminate any squinting or horrible shadows. If they're in the shade try to have a bright ground space reflecting light up into their faces."
2. Getting the angles wrong
"My number one tip when photographing kids is to get down to their level. See the world as they see it and your photos will take on a whole other dimension."
3. Not framing the pic well
"When framing photos it's easier to keep kids centred or off to the extreme right or left of the frame. You want to be thinking of the rule of thirds
if you can, but we all know with children it's hard to think of it all."
4 Backgrounds are too plain
"Most parents will clean the house before I arrive which we all know won't last long. My favourite images of kids have a riot of colour in the background so colourful books, lego, teddies, the lot — I'm here for it. It gives you a much more realistic picture of your child at the time rather, than a sterile white wall with your child sitting facing you."
5 Too much planning
"Patience is key here. You can't go into a kids photoshoot with preconceived notions of what you want it to look like. Kids don't work like that. My best tip is to actually get down on the floor and play with them for a while. Show them your camera and let them take pictures. Take photos of them and show them, gush over how cute or silly or funny they look. Kids much prefer the silly pictures to the smiley ones. Towards the end of the session, if I haven't got a standard 'nice' photo, I'll bribe them with 'ok give me 2 minutes of nice smiles for your parents and then we can do the silliest photo you want, you can jump up and down, you can stick out your tongue, you can really go for it'. It generally works, and if it doesn't, you still get some gorgeous photos of your kids being themselves."
Katie's best advice on photographing your kids
"Photographing kids can be really frustrating if you go into it thinking you want certain photos of them. But flip your thinking and just document them as they are. As a parent you are best placed to document them day in day out, not every photo will be a winner but if you keep photographing them, they'll get used to you and this is where the magic happens. You'll get beautiful images of them being themselves. Don't get bogged down in fancy cameras and lenses, your phone is just fine. As the saying goes the best camera you have is the one with you, and your phone is generally in your pocket."
Now we're equipped with all the tips we need to document our kiddos' daily lives with finesse, but carving out the time for a proper family photoshoot is also a great idea, as Katie explains:
"A yearly family photoshoot ensures that all family members are in the photos. In my experience mam's take the photos so they don't tend to be in many. So a yearly 'day in the life' shoot means you and your kids will have those photos for years to come."
All photography in the piece is, naturally, by Katie Kavanagh. You can check out more of Katie's work on her website, on Instagram or on Katie Kav Brands.