Take better photos of your kids

Lesson ONE.

  • Tips before we begin
  • Flash OFF
  • Do not use a smoothing filter
  • If your camera or phone has a “portrait” option try it
  • DSLR users – Give Aperture Priority a try! A low number aperture is best!

Seeing the Light and Taking a Portrait

This is BIG… the most important thing I hope you learn in this crash course is to see the LIGHT!

That’s right! Our first lesson is about teaching your eyes to see the light. “But Jules, I can see light, what the heck?” Yes, you have always seen it but have you really looked at it? …And I mean REALLY looked at light? How does the light touch everything around you? What is the quality of the light? What is the color of the light? Learning to see light is the key to photography.

Freeze right where you are and look around after each of the following questions and answer them in your head.
1. What light sources are around me? (Overhead light? Window light? Candle light?)
2. What is the quality of the light? (Bright? Harsh? Dull glow?)
3. What is the color of the light? (Yellow morning glow? Blue evening light? Orangey-lightbulb light?)

Ok, now let me explain further.

1. What are the light sources around me?
Look all around you and identify each light source.

Identifying your light source

2. What is the quality of the light?
Is the light powerful like a cloudless summer sun at noon?
Is the light dim like a rainy Pittsburgh morning?
Is the light soft and indirect like through a flowing curtain?

3. What is the color of the light?
All light has a white balance. This is the color light takes on as it deviates from pure white. Photographers refer to this bend in color as the light’s temperature. The more red, yellow or orange the light is the warmer the temperature. The more blue, green or purple the light is the cooler the temperature.
I find the easiest way to see the light’s color is to look at how your light lays on a white surface. Any white will do, a t-shirt, a sheet of copy paper, a napkin. Look at what color the white object is in your light.

Ok now that we are starting to look at our light, let’s look at how light lays on our subject matter… yep, your kids. Let’s jump into our first day’s assignment… a portrait!

What is a portrait? Simply put, it’s a photograph depicting only the face or head and shoulders.

We’re gonna keep this simple since this is day one. Remember, we’re thinking about the light and how our light lays on our kiddo. Now before you pull them off to the side and bribe them with x, y, z, just look at them now before you get the camera.
How is the light laying on your child? Are they near a window with big soft light? Watching TV with the colorful glow light? Are they sleeping in the dark because you forgot to do this class until evening?
Answer those first three questions to yourself while you observe.

Look and observe
1. What is the light source?
2. What is the quality of light they are in?
3. What color is the light around them?

Now that you see the light let’s talk about IDEAL light

The ideal light to take awesome photos of your kids is a single source light that spills over 60%-95% of their faces. What the heck does that mean? It means you want 60% or more of your child’s face dancing in light. Now let’s look at how to achieve that…

1. Turn off all but one light source. (The best light is all of the lightbulbs off and only the light coming in from a large window)
2. Put your child near the light source and look at how the single source of light spills on their face.
3. Spin your child and experiment how simple turns can affect how the light falls on their face.

Here is an example using my biggest kiddo, Jay.

Light Source and Spill Light
See how the spill light changes as Jay moves toward the single light source.

Notice how the light falls on Jay’s face.
Each adjustment of his chair lets more light spill on his face.

Notice in photos 1, 2, and 3, that more shadow is covering his face than light.
Notice in photos 4, 5, and 6, that 60% or more of the spill light covers his face.
Notice in photo 7, that Jay is almost fully bathed in light, except for a few shadows on his right cheek and temple.

Finding a balance of light and shadow is the fun part. Ideally you are looking to have enough light on your subject that you can clearly see colors and details. You want some shadows too so that you can see curves and angles. A face completely blasted in 100% light looks very flat. When there are no shadows the face widens and the 3-d shapes disappear. Don’t be afraid of some shadow as shadows create depth.

Now let’s look again at Jay.
I prefer photo 6 the most. His face is covered in at least 85% soft light. He has enough light to capture his adorable freckles and the color of his hazel eyes, yet some shadows remain so that you can see the shape of his cheekbones and curve of his eyes.

Now for your first assignment!!!

1. Turn off all the lights.
2. Ask your model (Yes, call your kid a model and they’ll do it) to sit near a large window.
3. Turn them as you watch the light spill over their face. Make any adjustments by moving them closer or further from the window to find that ideal light.
4. Take their photos. Heck, take a bunch. Talk to them as you photograph them. No need for “Cheese”. Simply have a little conversation and try to take a number of photos as they talk or listen. You’re trying to get them in a natural state, not a giant fake smile. Tell them how smart they are or how great they are at a hobby.
*Remember a portrait is just head, shoulders and upper body. Have fun!

Post your Portrait!

Pick out your favorite portrait and post it in the group. I can’t wait to see how your first lesson went! I can’t wait to see all those gorgeous kids!

Follow Me www.instagram.com/julesbradley



Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Based Newborn & Family Photographer