Grab your phone, point, click and you have yourself a photo! There’s no doubt about it: capturing photos these days is simplicity itself. The equipment on our phones far surpasses what most professionals had until very recently. But do we have the skills these ancients (the 1980’s and 90’s – you remember) had? Capturing a good image, at the right time, framed in the right way and many other aspects that all combine to make a memorable pic…?
The great news is that the actual taking of a photo (or video) is now so bullet-proof that we hardly even have to think about it – if we even know or care. This means we can focus on the content we want to capture. But wait… More than 1 trillion photos are made each year. 300 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube alone each minute! The sheer volume of pictures and video surrounding us 24/7 is overwhelming. And how much is memorable?
We all want professional and attractive photos and videos on our websites and social media to make us stand out from the competition. (And of course, poor imagery gives a negative impression.) So, without hiring a professional photographer, who, for reasons stated below might not work or would be prohibitively expensive, how do we produce consistently usable or even superior images?
We’ve worked in this sphere for years and can share some tips with you. Child care is a segment of our lives that has some of the greatest potential for pictures that bring a smile to the faces of viewers. That’s a good start! We have almost instant access to our cameras. Even better. So here we go:
1. Get down! Let’s see the whole child!
Try to avoid distorted views and photos of backs of their heads, always remember to take photos and videos of children from kids’ height. Vary the angles. Avoid cutting half head or feet on photos and videos.
2. Landscape / Portrait
Think about where you are going to use the videos. “Portrait” view is ok for Instagram stories, but that’s about it. If you are planning to use the video on your website, or Facebook, YouTube etc., make it "landscape". Whatever you choose, different videos of the same event – to be edited together as a single video clip - should be the same format (either landscape or portrait).
3. Stabilize your camera
This is maybe the most obvious piece of advice, but it’s remarkable how much photo and video material can be improved following this simple rule: keep the phone/camera as still as possible. Check if the picture appears out of focus – and redo it if yes. Put your hand or the phone directly on a table or chair or similar surface. Lean back against a wall even if seated. If you need to move the camera while taking a video, do it slowly and as smoothly as possible. You already have little ones moving randomly so keeping the camera stable is even more important. Try using a gimbal. New ones are tiny, work very well and of course are made to be used with cell phones. (There is some learning curve but they open up many possibilities for better video results.)
4. No crying!
Don’t cry if the photos are not as good as you would like them to be! Joking! Seriously, on videos the sound is important, and with younger kids around, it’s more than possible that while recording someone may be crying. If the sound on the video is important for the topic (for example kids singing or talking) then stop recording until the child is happier or there are no distracting noises. It goes without saying that you should not speak while taking a video (unless related to the video being taken).
5. Extroverts or introverts?
Even very young children know what a phone pointed at them is doing. Particularly when it’s often followed by happy squeals from all adults within 500 feet. It’s no surprise then that some kids pose and play for the camera while others, especially if they are the center of attention, can get stage fright.
So just remember, the kids are the stars of this show and your role is just to take the pics. You can often quietly blend into the background some distance away and, by stabilizing your camera, use its telephoto to capture that shot or scene.
6. Familiarity and naturalness
Let’s face it, kids are the cutest subjects ever for any photo and parents love seeing, and sharing, pics of their kids. But, especially for new kids, there can be stranger anxiety among younger children. So, be calm and take the pics you can and once all the kids know who you are those great photo opportunities will keep on happening.
7. Group photos
One of the best child care opportunities is children’s group photos. Randomly taken photos are often less satisfying as the kids tend to run around (who knew! ) or some may be turned away or moving or out of focus. The best results are often standing or sitting in a line or circle, especially if dressed in a particular fun way like for a pajama party or Dr. Seuss’s birthday.
8. At the table
Maybe the most difficult child care photos category I’ve seen is “at the table pics”, when your little students do some artwork together or have a meal: they sit at their tiny tables and what you often get from it are the tops of their heads with whatever is there in front of them. To make it work well, Get Down! and try photos with their plate or project in the foreground, and the happy kids’ faces in the background, like a classic foodie photo. Photos of proud kids keeping their artworks in their hands should work but probably not with food – unless you think your camera is faster than a growing child’s spoonJ. For an easy food pic, you can lift a plate of food in one hand into the bottom of the shot and with the kids in the background and take the pic with your other hand. Try it first to get the angles and distance right.
9. Whacky things and Antici…pation!
Kids can do some really whacky things and make you weep with laughter. Or engage you in thoughtful conversation about your answer to their “What are you doing” questions. What does this mean? Always keep your eyes open and camera nearby for those pics and videos.
10. Parents approvals for Social Media
This may be the most important point. Always get parents’ written approval for you to be sharing their child’s photos or videos online. For those children who are not approved for image sharing, make sure to blur their face so that it’s impossible to recognize them on the group photos and videos – obviously, avoid sharing their individual portraits. There is a free app called “Blur Photo” to blur photos easily on your phone, and there are others. It’s a little trickier with videos since blurring a moving child’s face requires a more complex technology.
So, get your phone ready and see if these tips can get you more likes and increase your social media performance! Keep at it and soon you’ll have loads of great pics. You’ve got the best models in the world!