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8 Tips for Photographing Your Kids with your Phone

Remember the days your parents used their Kodak camera to take unglamourous shots of you, get each photo developed and compiled into a photo album to embarrass you in front of relatives? Well, it's your turn now. But this time round you have the choice of the best shots out of the hundreds of baby pics, without having to print them all out first. And with the plethora of filters, special effects and editing apps, your child will no longer have to live with the long-term effects of not looking photogenic.

Phone cameras are a hassle-free device for parents to take quick snaps of their kids in their element. These 8 tips are general guidelines for taking photos of any subject, with more details on shooting children in particular:

top-down angle of a teacher helping a DGP student with his work

1) Angle

You have a natural height advantage over kids. The top-down view is 1 way to capture the activity your child is engaged in, and allows us to see a little from his perspective too. Though you'll be taking the back of his head, just move a little to position your camera at an optimal angle to get more of his hands at work.

Selfies are usually taken at a 45-degree angle above the eye level, making the body look smaller and the head and eyes larger. You may be able to get more of that with your child if your child can look into the camera for posed shots. Otherwise you'll be getting their foreheads.

At their eye level, any kind of shot and any action will already look good. Passport-style shots are fine (face, body and eyes looking straight ahead) but are boring.

bottom-up angle of a fit DGP girl climbing the bouldering wall

If you can get below them, most likely if they're climbing something, it will be a really good perspective as it's not often children get to look down at the camera. This kind of shot with an adult looking down is intimidating, and so for kids it will be playful and unique.

the open-air environment around Jurong Christian Church lets light in naturally into DGP

2) Lighting

Outdoors are usually more fun to shoot as the light is strongest and most natural. Even on a rainy day, the environment has an increased contrast from being wet and your subject is still evenly lit (though your phone will need to be waterproof in this case). Locations are plenty too and you can move around to nice spots like parks in Jurong Lake Gardens, or clean corporate buildings like Fusionopolis and One-North Park at Buona Vista. Those are quiet and spacious too.

a classroom interior, the Music & Movement Studio, lets kids play and prance

I always have trouble shooting indoors because the ceiling lights are either dim or a certain tinge of colour, affecting the portrait result. Those are fine for family or group photos nonetheless. If it can't be helped, the flash light may help to brighten the face, but standing near a window may yield a nicer result.

Indoor shoots show up well for black-and-white portraits too, since it's only the contrast you need and it's already darker indoors.

close-up of a David & Goliath Preschool boy writing Chinese characters in the air

3) Depth

As for the background in the house, if you shoot indoors, you can blur the background by using a larger aperture (that is, depth of field). You can also digitally blur the background or remove it altogether.

The depth of field is fun to play with as it creates a miniature effect, the foreground and background are blurred with a small area of focus, making it seem your subject is small or mini. This shot style usually occurs in macro shoots, like flowers and butterflies, and the size of the subject is the same as what is taken (that is, a 1:1 ratio instead of being scaled down). You can try this forced perspective with your kid or family portraits.

Creative Play Space has all sorts of toys and games for children to expand their minds.

4) Scale

From a wide landscape shot to a close-up side profile, vary your shots with the size of your subject in relation to their surroundings. If the environment is what you want to have more of, your child can be smaller in comparison. Or of course they're running so fast and you don't want to miss the action, you can take a wider shot and crop later.

Shooting from waist up will bring the focus more deeply to the child's activities, and their level of concentration at that time. Close-up portraits will be featuring just the face and a more intimate focus on a certain feature of their face.

Cute David & Goliath Preschool student Rihanna posing for a photo.

5) Candid vs Posed

Let's face it, preschoolers in their element will usually not be able to look straight at the camera. It's easier to capture their natural expression and personality when they are themselves, being caught up in some task or playing or interacting with others. It also beats the parents constantly snapping their fingers in a bid to get their attention, calling out "Look here, look here!"

However, quieter or more composed children may do better at posing since they keep still for longer. They may also be able to take some instructions for the perfect photo like "Smile and show your teeth! Tilt your head to the side. Open your eyes wider. Gesture a heart sign..." and so on.

There's always some movement and activity the DGP children will get up to, like hopscotch

6) Lightning Speed

Your camera needs to be fast, you also probably need to be as fast. The general settings (if your phone camera allows) is to set a higher shutter speed and ISO for exposure. This will reduce blurriness of your shots as your child zooms around. If your camera movement can match the speed of your child, you can attempt to move it alongside him as you take quick burst shots, and hopefully there will be 1 that has a good focus on your kid's face.

If they can stop midway through their activity, like hang on a monkey bar a few seconds longer, for you to take your shots, that might yield better results.

DGP Preschoolers get as low as possible in this music and movement session.

7) Good Knees

Because you're either, squatting, duck-walking or kneeling on the ground to capture your child who is knee-height. The fabric of your pants can only take so much, let alone the skin on your knees. On shoot days when you have family outings, consider knee guards or softer terrain like grass to kneel on (and glucosamine for joint health). You may bruise a little but the photos are worth it, and your thighs will get their workout.

If it's too much, just hold the phone upside down and level it with them to take their picture. You can flip the photos 180-degrees right side up after that.

The best pics you can capture is at their eyeline.

8) Permissions for Posting

It's not necessary when you're shooting in a public place. If someone wanders into your shot as you're taking your child, you can use the magic of subject removal on apps like Photoshop or Canva (which removes the whole background) and retain your child's image. Though of course if a stranger clearly features in your photo, you're probably going to delete it anyway. But if you're on private property, like a school, it's always best to ask permission of the Principal or parents of children who will appear in your photos before putting them up online.

Your child can't create a social media account now, but you can begin archiving on their behalf online or physically in a scrap book. These will make for great memories as they grow up and look back on their life with you.

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