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Taking Pictures of Kids Inside

April 10, 2012

Taking pictures of kids inside the house can sometimes be challenging.   Most people can relate to taking pictures of kids inside, and having the resulting images be blurry or discoloured. Using the pop-up flash on your camera unfortunately can often produce harsh lighting, so many people try avoid it.  One of the keys to taking better indoor photos is to look for indirect natural light.

What I have done in my house to set myself up for more success is to use the natural window light  to my advantage.  I know that my south-facing living room and north-facing dining room both have reasonable natural light close to the windows.  Since I have gotten to know the natural light in my house, I have had more success getting well-exposed pictures of my kids.  I use the natural light to take spontaneous “everyday photos”, and once in a while I also set-up photo opportunities near those spaces.  Having more light means that I can use a faster shutter speed, which means less motion blur.  Better lighting also makes it possible to sometimes get those nice catchlights (reflections of light)  in the eyes.

This picture was taken simply in my living room with my little guy facing the natural night coming in from the window. The black background was just a black piece of fabric draped over the back of an armchair, as you can see in the next "pullback" photos.

This same area of nice light happens to be where my children play frequently as well.

Instead of introducing my little girl to her new tent in the basement playroom (where I would most likely need to use flash), I showed it to her for the first time in our living room where there was a lot of natural light.  Sure I was setting up the situation a little bit, but it didn’t affect the enjoyment that she had in the moment, and I got nicer pictures as well!

It's not feasible to live your life setting up photo opportunities. But if it's a choice, and you have the time to do it, it's nice to set yourself up for success with nice light!

In my living room I slightly rearranged the furniture to make the best of the light I have so that I could take a picture of both of my children.  I have discovered that doing a temporary quick rearrangement of the couch allows me to take a nicer picture of my children together than anywhere else in the house.  Just by moving the couch so that it is facing the window gives a safe, secure location to put my 2.5 year old and 8 month old, and the lighting in their eyes is so much more pleasant than anywhere else I’ve tried.  I checked to see how long it took to rearrange my furniture to get this shot, and it took around 35 seconds.  Not too bad, considering that little step allowed me to take my favourite picture of my children together to date!

Disclaimer: there was bribery involved in getting my 2.5 year old onto the couch for this shot.

I also chose to put my daughter’s little table close to the north-facing window in our dining room.  My daughter colours, plays with  play-dough, eats many snacks and meals all in that spot.  I  don’t have to fight to get a decent shot, because she is sitting where I can see her and where the light is natural and pleasing.   If I remember, I often turn the overhead lights off, so that there isn’t an orangey glow shining on her opposite the window light.

I encourage you to taken inventory of your house.  Which windows have nice, indirect light?  Are there spaces near those windows that allow you to pose your children once in a while,  or set up their play area in?  Once you know what lighting works for you and you start taking advantage of it, you will find that your photos of your children indoors will start looking a lot better!

And when your child isn’t near the window and they’re doing something you want to document?  Just take that picture, no matter what the lighting!  When you look back at your pictures, no matter the quality, you’ll be glad you did!

The lighting for this shot was dismal, but I wasn't about to let the moment pass. I was able to brighten and colour-correct a bit with editing. I love this picture just the way it is, because it captured a fleeting moment!

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