childcare photography

10 Tips To Make Your Photos Memorable!

If photos are at the heart of compelling parent communications, then the facial expressions in those photos are the currency that melts hearts and connects.  And yet, how many photos do we take each day that are too far away, where the facial expressions are hard to make out?  And how many photos are staged, devoid of natural facial expressions and therefore less likely to truly engage parents?

We all know a good photo when we see it, but often struggle to recreate that feeling in our own photos.  It turns out, a few simple tips can unlock many of the secrets of a good photo, even in busy playground situation.

As a childcare educator, chances are you’re churning out a lot of images each day on your smart phone or the centre’s digital camera. Maybe it’s hit and miss; maybe you’ve struck lucky and got a hero shot or two. Here’s how to save time and get the shot every time.  A few simple, easy-to-follow rules can make all the difference.

This is not about the merits of one phone or camera over another, but rather a review of the key principles of photography.

1. Get in close and personal

Facial expressions are the currency of great photographs. That means:

  • Small groups
  • Getting up close

To capture facial expressions, small groups are better — one to three children rather than a crowd.

And the bigger the frame, the more distant the subject, the less you capture of the facial expressions.  And so get up close, waist up or even closer, rather than full body photos and far away. That way the facial expressions communicate the story of the picture.

In that same vein, we want to avoid fake smiles, that’s not what we want to see.  Natalie Norton of the Digital Photography School advises to “remove ‘cheese’ from your vocabulary”. Great if you can get the kids to look into the camera, but it’s not a must-have.

2. Go low

When you’re down at the same eye level of children, you’ll capture a whole different feel with your shot. It’s more intimate and engaging rather than the ‘lording above’ perspective.  Plus you create much less clutter backgrounds looking up, giving the subject, the child, a stronger presence in the picture. Clutter is the enemy of good photos.

3. Check your background

We’ve all taken some doozies here that reveal amateur photographers are trigger snappy and forgot to check what else was in the frame. Works if you’re aiming to create an optical illusion, but often that won’t be your goal.  Again, you are checking for clutter and for things like trees growing out of a child’s head!

4. Hold the camera straight

No need to carry a spirit level with you, just look at the image be it on the screen or through the viewfinder to gauge if the horizon or if items in the background look right or a bit skewed.  Many cameras have a grid option to help you keep your horizons square, use them.

5. Frame your photo

We call this, work with what you’ve got. Finding geometrical shapes to frame your subject, a tree branch or object in the foreground with contrasting lines. Another option is a simple distant background to create depth of field. We love an uncluttered background, but that may not be an option for you.

6. Aim for natural and action shots

Have your images tell a story. Catch your subject in the thick of it so they’re natural and not posing for you. You’re catching them as they are. Give this tip a whirl and you’ll see the magic in series (tip 9). There’s a euphemistic element in this tip, too, as kids are generally always on the move, so good luck trying to take a posed ‘portrait’ of them.

Note in action shots, close up pictures can capture the emotion going into the activity.  However, it is also true that more distant shots help capture the environment and therefore context about the activity, telling a more complete story.

7. Take a second to focus your device on your subject

Easier said than done. We’ve had to ditch too many images with superb composition because our subject wasn’t in focus. Just that second of sharpening the focus can make a huge difference. Don’t rely on your photo software such as Photoshop to fix the pic – is it worth spending the time wrestling with software when you have so much on your plate?

8. Rule of thirds

Sorry to get technical on you, but this is really handy to know when you’re composing a shot. This rule is a huge part of why so many professional photos like “right” and so many amateur photos do not.

Divide your image with two horizontal and two vertical lines so there’s a grid of nine equal-sized boxes over your frame (hard to visualize? Check out this link for more insight). Place your subject on one of the lines on the grid, not in the middle of the frame.  Similarly, put the horizon near one of the lines. This is a particularly useful tip for photos of a single child — frame the shot with the child to the left or the right, not in the middle, using the rule of thirds.

9. Take a series of images

Keep the shutter clicking, so to speak, or kick-start the motor drive on your photography device to get three or so shots to make a series that can really show movement and expression. It’s a way of making the child ‘pop’ out of the framed shot and show different sides of their personality

10. Actively seek feedback and keep learning and share

You’re an educator – you live and breathe learning and no doubt that’s the way you feel about taking photos, yes? We hope so. Here are some sites we recommend, some of which offer regular tips by email: Digital Photography School,

Got the photography bug for real? Check out these free online courses: Shaw Academy, Peta Pixel (this site lists more than 20 freebies you can hook into), Alison (you might lose yourself in this global site as all courses are free) or Photo Contest Insider (lists the 10 best as at the end of 2016).

 

Bonus tip:

We haven’t mentioned checking if the lens on your camera or phone is clean. That’s pretty crucial.

As you can see, a lot of this is common sense. Here are the main takeaways: closer, frame it, keep straight, natural not staged, and obey rule of thirds.

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