3 Photo Tips for Capturing Your Own Kick Ass Adventure Kid Pics

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Not a week goes by that I don't get an email from someone asking about photography. Shamefully, it's a difficult task to coach people on photo tips with the written word as my only tool. It's even more awkward when I'm asked, "What kind of camera do you have?" because it feels like that's someone's way of digging to the depths to find the treasure of nabbing some great photos. And what I end up doing is saying something like, "I shoot with a Canon 5D, not the Mark II, but an obsolete version that few would be willing to accept for free. But here's what really helps me . . ." and they get some version of the following.

The web isn't short of photo tips, so why should I bother? Because I feel that it's only polite to answer the questions, and I didn't invent the following tricks, someone taught them to me. Learning together is what this website is all about. So without any more fuss, these are three photo tips out of like 5,000 that I think are pretty helpful when it comes to snapping shots of the kids outside.

1. Control where the camera focuses

Don't let this insinuate that you must use manual focus - not true. You can still use auto focus and control where your camera focuses. You ought to know already that you press down on your shutter release button halfway to set the focus. If you don't now you do.  But there's more.  Modern cameras have focal points, six to eight individual points across the frame, and unless you override it the camera decides which focal point to use. Most of the time that's fine, but sometimes the camera gets it all wrong.  Manually set a focal point, and you'll be in charge.

There are two embedded tips here:
1). placing your subject to one side of the frame, rather than right in the middle, makes a more interesting photo. Manually determining the focal point makes getting the kids in clear focus nice and easy.
2). don't be afraid to cut off their feet, legs, or waist.  You want to see their faces in a photo like this. Right?

Okay, another embedded tip: focus on the eyes. And because I had set a focal point, I could put Keeley's eyes right in focus without guessing or just hoping for the best. Rockin' goggles Chloe has, huh?

Same principle.  Actually, no.  This is an example of a bonus tip . . . I just don't know what it is yet.

2. Get close. Now get even closer

Tempting as it is to get that big, inspiring view in the background as well as the cute smile on your child's face, if you pick one or the other you'll have a better picture.

Combine getting as close as possible with focusing on the eyes, you'll get a really neat photo. This is a good one to take right after the kids eat some gooey s'mores.

Though this is pretty close, this one could be even closer. As close to those bubbles as possible.

Bonus advice: if you get too close, you might anger the inner Tyrannosaurus Rex. So tread lightly.

3. Don't just stand there

Squatting down and shooting up - or the opposite, getting high and shooting down - will take an ordinary (and potentially dull) photo opportunity and bring it to life a little bit more.

I have four shots from this scene right here, and this headless version stands out to me the most because it's shot from down low almost at ground level. The others? Shot at head height, which is exactly the view we have all day long.  No wonder a photo from down low is more interesting.  It's a new perspective.

When you change up the camera perspective, too, these curious minds take note.  McKenzie squatted down to check things out, which really adds to the surprise of this picture. Gracias, McKenzie.


+1 / -1
# Nathan 2011-04-08 16:54
Mark, you are glossing over one really important aspect that your picture taking takes great advantage of, and is difficult to reproduce in any old point and shoot camera: The lens. The image of the bubble with the short depth of field requires a nice quality lens with an aperture of F2.8 or better. THAT is an important aspect to discuss when answer questions about "How come your images are better than my images"

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+3 / 0
# Mark 2011-04-09 14:50
HA! Love that pic of Megan.

I don't think the lens, or camera type, is all that important when the criteria is getting photos that you like. Even little Canon Powershot cameras have a maximum f-stop of 2.8 and macro capability with minimum focus distance of 1.6", which is more than I can say for my 24-105mm f4 L. Arguably, that $300 Powershot does more for (a hell of a lot) less. Which brings me back to the point, which is learning to use a camera has equal or more merit than just collecting the "right" equipment.
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