I’ve seen countless baby photos by now, some were great and really captured the moment but mostly, child photos just don’t turn out. Blurry, grainy, out of focus. Children are small and fast, nothing my dedicated digital camera can’t handle, but with mobile phone cameras you can take a photo whenever and wherever you want. Mobile Phones have their own limitations though, snapping a good picture that captures the moment can really take some practice and technical knowledge.
I just recently got an iPhone (I did try to resist) and I’ve started really exploring mobile phone photography. Generally, I use my Sony Nex digital camera and even though my iPhone won’t recreate the quality from my digital camera, the “best camera is the one you have with you” (Chase Jarvis), so, let’s look at 5 things you should consider to get better photos from your phone.
Top the list for a good reason. Lighting is very important for numerous reasons, obviously so you can see the subject! But ever wonder why your pictures start getting blurry when there’s less light? The camera uses light to capture the image, less light means your camera needs more time to capture the image. This means any small movements by your child or your shaky hand will create a blur.
More light means the image is captured quicker, making your image sharper, less grainy and actually makes the colour more vibrant. There’s also the issue of focus (blur and focus are two different things). Blur is caused by movement during the time the photo is being taken, but before the photo can be taken, the camera needs to find something to focus on. Any camera has trouble focusing in the dark, mobile phone cameras especially because they are so much smaller. Light will help your camera focus more accurately, so you can see why it’s important but light isn’t something you can always control.
2. Get in there!
My second observation with a lot of child photos is they’re either shot from above (i.e. from the perspective of the photographer (you)) or they’re too far away. You need to get in there, which is more difficult with a phone (no zoom) but totally worth it. The closer you can get, the better. If the focus is on your child and you’re close, the background will appear out of focus, which makes your child to stand out in the photo.
It also helps make the photo look more ‘in the moment’ as opposed to ‘observing the moment’. On the upside, mobile phones are small and lightweight, and most children are pretty accustomed to seeing them. When I pull out my video camera or dedicated digital camera my son immediately notices, with a mobile phone I can generally go unnoticed and get a photo quick snaps before he notices.
3. Lighting! (again)
I mentioned how lighting can actually make your camera perform much better in regards to producing sharp images with less grain and more vibrant colours. This places third on the list, but positioning your light sources and avoiding certain shooting situations can really make your shoots more consistent. Obviously a light that falls on your subject is going to be the best but remember that a single really bright light (like the sun) will cast very heavy shadows. A mobile phone doesn’t have a great dynamic range which means when you have really dark sections and really light sections, you’ll lose detail there.
If you’re outside, try taking photos in the shade instead of direct sunlight. I also tend to avoid using the flash, especially when it’s really dark. The flash will create harsh lights, children tend to hate it and your end result will look really artificial. If the lighting is that bad, sometimes you just need to put the phone down and accept you just won’t be able to get that shot today.
4. Control what you can control
In photography, you can’t control everything. Using an iPhone or a mobile phone camera, you can’t even really control your camera. Most phone cameras work in auto-mode, no way to adjust focus, change lenses, shutter speed, aperture, etc etc. When you go mobile, you give up a lot of control which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you just need to control what you can control.
What I can control is where I’m standing, positioning myself to get the best composition and also, what appears in the background.
Obviously I want to share my images with friends and family and when I take a photo I try and make sure there’s no washing, dirty dishes or older people in swimwear floating around in the background.
I don’t even try and control my son. For me, photography is capturing the moment, not staging one. I let him do his thing, if he looks at me, great, if not, no harm done. Don’t try and control the situation, just do what you can do to get the best shot with what you have.
Not real coffee! Just a coffee cup with water 🙂
5. Have Fun
I saved this for the last point, but that’s because it undermines all the other points while being the most important.
I never try and force my son to sit still, it just makes it worse. If a photo just doesn’t work, the great thing about mobile phones is that you won’t be waiting too long for a second shot. It’s about having fun and trying to capture a special moment, if you’re staging ‘fun’ photos, you’re missing the point. Your photo should hopefully remind you of a time, a joyous moment, even photos of daily life can mean a lot. When it comes to snapping your children, I like to think all child photos are of happy, smiling children playing, but we’ve got great photos of my son screaming too. It all paints a picture of our life together and at the end of the day, that’s why I love mobile photography, I can take these photos whenever I want.
Don’t just pull the camera out for the happy and cute photos. Pictures like this are part of your child’s story too.
Using those five above points, hopefully you can get the most from your mobile cameras. It really comes down to practice with your device and understanding how to achieve the best results. Good luck and happy shooting!
What is your favourite picture of your child? What makes it special?
I’m Chris, a new dad with fire in my eyes and a floor covered in hard plastic toys and things with wheels. I run a small online baby store with my wife (oohseebee.com.au) and work full time creating content for a software company. Times have changed since I blew my first demons apart in DOOM as a kid, and as I raise my son in a world of political correctness, anti-violence and understanding, it’s more important than ever to be aware of the expectations in schools and society. Parenting is a team effort and even though there are many different types of teams, without my wife I couldn’t imagine fatherhood. Find all of Chris’ articles here.