Snap the best candid and posed shots of your kids at home with these tricks from seasoned photographer Robert DeSantos, who specializes in family and child portraits at Manhattan-based PhotoOp NYC.
What are ways to get quality posed shots of my kids at home?
Posed shots are trickier with kids. Kids want to move around all the time so it can be difficult. For younger kids, I put a “magic dot” on the floor and say, “Can you sit on it? Make it disappear?” Or I’ll get them to sit, give a high-five and then take it away. Of course, if it’s a baby who is 6-8 months, it’s super easy: You just sit them down and they’re posed!
How do I get natural, candid photos of my kids?
The goal is to get your child to be in his own element. When they don’t realize that you’re there, that’s what you want. Let them play, let them do their own thing. Try to stick to the side and let them envelop themselves in their own activity.
When you have a second person or an assistant [another parent], he or she will be the one that kind of jumps in and interacts with the kids. We play tickle games all the time just to get an expression out of the child, and the child doesn’t look at the camera. That gives you more of a candid quality.
When I shoot, I shoot solo and I’ve just developed a way to be quick. I play games, get down to a kid’s level. Do anything silly to make a kid laugh—high-five jokes, fart jokes. You just have to relate to them at that level. Remember that tickling always works. Candid photos show more personality, who a person really is.
Can you suggest good backdrops to use that I already have in my house?
My favorite thing in homes is to use window or natural light. You can use any blank or colored wall or if you have a yard, all that greenery in the backyard is perfect too.
There are two times of the day the light is best—in the morning right when the sun comes up and when the sun is setting. These are known as the magic hours. If you don’t have the luxury of waking up at 6am, you can put a light-colored or white sheet in front of the window at any time of day and this softens or diffuses the light.
Hardwood floors or cool tiles work well for above-the-head shots.
Keep in mind to not have anything distracting. Don’t make the background too busy. Make the focus the child, and always focus on the eyes. The eyes should be the sharpest in all your photos.
Think about what’s going to tell a story about your child. If your son is a big Yankees or Mets fan, throw in a team jersey and have your child hold a baseball with a bat nearby. Don’t mix and mash stuff just for the sake of throwing it into the photo, though.
Rob DeSantos is a photographer at PhotoOp NYC, the studio behind our cover contest photo shoot. Specializing in family portraits, PhotoOp NYC has locations on the Upper East and West sides of Manhattan. DeSantos has been a photographer for five years and is also a digital artist.