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How-to Capture Family Photos that Will Melt Your Heart

2014-02-06 by Zina Harrington

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You’re standing there watching how adorable your child is and you think, “I have the cutest kid on the planet.” Yet, when you download the photo to your computer or look through the pictures on your phone, they don’t seem to capture the essence of the moment.

Below are 7 simple tips that will help you capture photos that will melt your heart.

Whether you’re using a DSLR camera, a point-and-shoot, or even your smart phone, these simple instructions (and examples) will help take your photos to a new level of sweetness.

1. Let’s play tic-tac-toe. If you’re like me, your natural instinct is to put that adorable child of yours right smack dab in the middle of the photo frame. Resist the urge. Remember the basic rule of thirds when taking photos.

If your camera has a grid display, great! If not, just imagine a tic-tac-toe board in your head. Remember, you want to try to keep your subject on these lines and near the cross point (hearts below). This simple composition trick will improve your photos by leaps and bound.

divided image

Be sure to watch below to see how the rule of thirds is used in the examples below.

2. Shade is your friend. One of the easiest ways to get a great shot of your kids is to let them play in open shade. Open shade is simply a large area of shade. Nothing more, nothing less.

If my niece below was standing in the patch of sunshine behind her, the light would have been too harsh. I patiently waited until she wandered into the open shade to snap this precious summer shot.


girl in goggles

Example of What NOT to Do:
The photo of my two ladies below is sweet, but notice how harsh the light and shadows are in direct sun. Compare this photo to the other examples in this post. All of the other showcased images from this hiking adventure were taken in open shade. Scroll down and check out the difference!

girls on rocks

3. Get your silly on. If you want your kids to smile nicely for the camera, let them be goof balls. If we are in a situation where I really want to get a nice shot, I follow this three-step pattern:

  • Ask or tell your children politely that you’d like to take a pic. Grab your first shot.
  • Then, tell your kids, “Ok, now do a crazy pose.” Grab a few silly shots.
  • Then after a few seconds say, “Now, show me your sweetest smile.” Grab the money shot.

Honestly, more often than not the crazy poses end up being my favorite pictures.

girls making faces

Remember, being constantly in front of the lens is not always desirable for kids. Make it fun and nine times out of ten, you’ll capture a stellar image.

Check out these two post-silly smiles (below). Toothless, but perfect in my eyes.

smiling girls

4. Showcase relationships. Remember you’re capturing your little one’s childhood not only for you, but for THEM. Be sure to document the people they love. While I adore this shot of my daughter and her Papa…

girl and grandpa

I love this shot even more because it captures a special moment, the afternoon he taught her how to play chess.

chess game

5. Document their passion. My daughter Quinn *loves* to swim. She is active in other sports, but she constantly tells me swimming is “her thing.” If your little one is passionate about baseball, piano, painting, or even reading… be sure to document it. Capture the details of childhood!

girl in pool


Learn why the girls ALWAYS wore Melissa & Doug Beeposh pants to swim practice in the article 7 Tips for Raising Little Fish. Digging the adorable pants?Click here to check out the full-line of Beeposh prints.

6. Don’t yell, grab your camera. When you come across your child’s random creativity creating a HUGE mess, hold back your initial “What are you doing?” reaction and get your camera. Remember, these messy childhood moments will soon be replaced by teens “too cool” to paint.

activity photos

7. Just keep clickin. You’re not wasting FILM my friends. You’ve got a digital camera!Get a large memory card and click, click, click until you get something adorable like this…

girl playing

I deleted quite a few of these (below) to get the magical smile above!

girl playing

These seven simple tips have transformed my photos and allowed me to truly capture childhood.

Do you have any questions or additional suggestions?
Let’s chat in the comments.


P.S. The simple moments of childhood are fleeting. Embrace the ordinary. Go beyond simply capturing birthdays, holidays, and special occasions… Capture childhood!



Zina Harrington

Zina is the author of Let’s Lasso the Moon, where she inspires parents and children to interact creatively and enjoy the beauty of everyday moments. Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter | Blog | Instagram

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