I’m the eldest sibling in my sibling set, and the old rule holds true for us at least: there are exponentially more photographs of me as a baby than either of my little sisters (probably combined).
Of course, this was back in the film photography days, when snapping a picture wasn’t as easy as grabbing your smartphone. Now, with DSLRs and smartphone cameras making really high quality cameras accessible to so many people, it’s hard not to take tons of pictures of our kids. Unfortunately with toddlers, however, those pictures may be numerous, but they aren’t always great (or even good). Combine an amazingly messy creature on an insatiable quest to move constantly with a parent that never seems to have enough arms to go around, and what we are often left with is a lot of blurry pictures sent to the delete folder.
How to get better pictures of your child (see, Mommy and Daddy really do love all of you, we have photographic proof!)? Well, first stop is the equipment. The old adage ‘the best camera is the one you have with you’ is totally accurate. For many of us, that’s a smartphone. The newest iPhones take much higher quality pictures than my first digital camera ever could. If you don’t have (or don’t want) a smartphone, here’s a good list of digital cameras that should be as quick and high quality as any smartphone. If you’re shopping, you will be looking for something small and fast-focusing. The downside to these is, well, the price. Honestly, for a point-and-shoot, for me nothing beats my phone.
Second, get down at your kids’ level. Your pictures will be much more interesting if you can get eye-level with your kiddo. For crawlers this means you, too, may be crawling.
Third, light. Why is this third? I should have made it first, because lighting can make or break a photo. The most flattering natural lighting occurs in the morning just after sunrise, and again in the evening just before sunset. Obviously, toddlers will make this impossible 98 percent of the time. However, do try and get the sun or light source behind you. Watch for shadows, both from harsh mid-day sun and from trees and buildings if you are outdoors.
Fourth, have fun with post-processing. If you are using your phone, apps like Instagram or Adobe’s Photoshop app can be a fun way to manipulate your photos. Also, your toddler probably hasn’t mastered ‘duck lips’ yet, so you will be guaranteed to have the cutest pictures on social media.
Finally, DSLR kits offer a lot of bang for your buck and really let you get creative. If you’re thinking of stepping up your kiddy photography game, the two big players are Canon and Nikon (I’m a Canon girl, personally). These cameras will let you adjust the shutter speed, which is very helpful with fast-moving targets, ISO and aperture. They also offer a variety of different lenses that allow you to photograph a wider variety of subjects.
A word of caution, though: Many people buy a DSLR and never learn how to use it. It stays on Auto the whole time. When that’s the case, the camera may rarely be used as well because it’s bulky and less convenient than a smartphone. If you plan to buy one, take some time to learn to use it. There are tons of photography tutorials, both paid and free, in articles, Pinterest and on Youtube. If you prefer a more hands-on tutorial, there are lots of photographers that offer digital photography classes. The little bit of time you spend learning about what your camera can do will pay huge dividends down the road.
Meaghan Howard is a stay-at-home mom to two super active little boys. She enjoys taking photographs of her little family as well as photo documenting their travels.