It’s not that difficult to take frame-worthy photos of your loved ones with a very simple camera (even an iPhone!) if you know the right moves. Try these pro tips from family photographers Marianne Drenthe of Marmalade Photography in Chicago and Robin Dodd of Robin Dodd Photography in Nashville, Tenn. You’ll be printing and hanging enlargements in no time.
Don’t say cheese! “That word should be avoided like an open field in a thunderstorm,” says Drenthe. Dodd agrees, and suggests you ask instead for a little fake laugh. “It’ll get them really laughing, and that’s what you want: true personality, true laughter, not a canned expression.” Another way to get them giggling—offer a big, silly belly laugh of your own, or “tell some really corny jokes,” Drenthe suggests. “Knock-knock jokes are always a hit.”
Stay out of the sun. “People don’t realize that the sun is not a photographer’s friend,” Dodd says. Your best bet: very early morning or right before sunset. A cloudy but bright day offers a diffused light that is ideal.
Pick up cheap supplies. A piece of white foam board from a craft store makes a handy reflector for bouncing light off your subject’s face, says Dodd. Buy a roll of white butcher paper or colored paper and tape it up (on a garage door, for example) as a backdrop, then shoot away.
Capture kids in their element. Skip the stiff portraits and shoot your kids on the playground, or wherever they like to hang out. “Instead of aiming for some ‘perfect image,’ try to capture a slice-of-life moment,” Drenthe says. “As a parent of tweens and teens, I cherish those in-between moment images when my littles were caught up in exploring their world and having fun.”
Get close. Even if it means cutting off the top of their heads, a very tight shot is often the best shot. (Notice how often professional photographers do this.) “There’s nothing wrong with getting right up in your kid’s grill,” Dodd says. “And don’t worry about centering.”