21st Century Dad
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Take Better Photos of Your Children – Use Window Light

August 4th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad

You can take great photos today, with the camera you own right now.

twilli piePhotography literally means, “writing with light.” The quality of the light dictates the quality of your photograph more than the camera you are using. Finding great light will improve the quality of your photographs more than buying a new camera.

Finding the Light

One of the best locations for a photograph is next to a window, preferably one facing the north. Professional photographers spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars on specialized lighting equipment to duplicate this quality of light in the studio. You can have it for free.

I am a big fan of using flash creatively, but knowing how to find great light is just as important as knowing how to create it. Besides, if you know how to find good light, you can use any camera.

What Settings Do I Use?

The best part about using window light is, you can fire away in PhD Mode, or “Push Here Dummy.” Just be sure to turn off the flash. You’re trying to avoid the harsh, unflattering look of direct flash here. There may be enough ambient light for the camera to decide flash isn’t necessary. Consult your camera’s manual to find out how to turn it off.

Twilli by the window.During the day, the light outside your house is several times brighter than the light inside. Don’t put your subject between the window and the camera, unless of course, you want a silhouette. Your camera may also have a “backlight” setting that helps you out in a situation like this.

I used my point-and-shoot camera in auto mode to take the photos you see here. I did a little tweaking in Photoshop, but with a little practice, you can get great images right out of the camera. You don’t have to plant your child right in front of the window. Open up those drapes or blinds and let the light come in. You’ll end up with a large and directional source of light that gives shape and definition.

twilli by the window

A Few More Tips

Your toddler is a fast little bugger. How many times have you missed the shot due to that darn shutter lag that point-and-shoot cameras still have? It’s gotten better, but there’s still a little lag time. It feels even longer if you’ve ever had the pleasure of using a DSLR.

  • A tried-and-true method is to do a half-press of the shutter to let the camera’s auto-focus lock on. This will take a half a second or so. When your little one is in the frame, press the shutter all the way down. This should increase the number of keepers you get. Don’t worry about perfect focus. Your point-and-shoot camera has some fudge factor here.
  • You can Google “the rule of thirds,” for the long explanation. The short version goes like this: don’t put your subject dead-center in the frame. A slightly off-center composition makes for a more compelling photograph.
  • Get down on the floor! People and children look their best when the film plane (or sensor plane) is perpendicular to the floor. This works for pet pictures too. Standing up and shooting down distors perspective and makes heads loom large. Full body length portraits are actually taken with the camera at waist level.
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8 Responses to “Take Better Photos of Your Children – Use Window Light”

  1. comment number 1 by: John

    Thanks for the excellent tips!

  2. comment number 2 by: DaddyO

    Those are good tips! Sometimes I forget to experiment with different angles but when I do remember to, that is usually when I get my best shots.

  3. comment number 3 by: Deciphering Myself

    Love your pics 🙂 I always take pictures of my two year old too and I’ll definitely experiment with your tips. Thanks and have a nice day!


  4. comment number 4 by: Corina

    These are great tips. I am an aspiring photographer myself. I love your tip about turning off the flash. I have seen WAY too many pictures that people thought were good simply ruined by the on-board camera flash. It flattens the image, messes with your subject’s eyes, and causes harsh shadows. Thanks for all the great tips.

  5. comment number 5 by: 21st Century Dad

    Thanks for the comments everyone. I enjoy photography immensely. I see how simple it is to go from so-so to good and from good to great. I love to share. Look for more tips in the future for camera n00bs and for more advanced users.

    @Corina – there are some great things you can do with flash. Not all photos taken with a flash have that “Xerox” look.

  6. comment number 6 by: Jojo

    These are great tips, I’m still learning with my DSLR and need all the help I can get. These are beautiful pics of Twilli, is she walking yet?

  7. comment number 7 by: 21st Century Dad

    @Jojo: I took those pics with my point’n’shoot camera. There are plenty of non-DSLR users out there, so I will be sharing tips for point’n’shoot users too.

    Any day now, she’ll be walking.

  8. […] Kim presents Take Better Photos of Your Children – Use Window Light posted at 21st Century Dad, saying, “Everyone loves family photos. Learn one way to take […]

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