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10 Expert Tricks for Taking Gorgeous Family Photos with Kids

Tip: Capturing the ordinary moments is just as important as documenting the milestones.

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Consider photography a photojournalism project

Big moments—birthdays and proms, graduations and reunions—are unquestionably worthy of photos. But consider photographing ordinary moments as well. “The things your kids do every day are the things you’ll find it most difficult to remember as they get older,” says Amy Drucker, photographer and author of the recent book Real Life Family Photography. “They’re eating cereal and putting on socks and learning how to zip jackets. Those things are part of their story.” Drucker recommends considering the task of photographing family as if it were a photojournalism assignment. “You have these milestones that are the point A and point B of the story,” she says, “but in between those two points there’s detail and color.” Capture those moments, and you’ll have photos you’ll treasure forever. Check out these genius uses for your cell phone camera.

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Choose a camera

With so many types of cameras available, have no fear you’ll be able to find a suitable option that fits your budget. Before purchasing anything new, consider what you’ll need from the equipment; a family that spends most of their time outdoors might want a camera with different features than a family that spends most of their time in a dimly lit ballet studio. For a camera that will allow you maximum experimentation, choose one with an interchangeable lens. “That way, the camera can grow with you,” says Drucker. If you’re not in the market for anything new, the camera on your smartphone is a great option.  Drucker recommends holding the phone horizontally with both hands and avoiding the flash and zoom features. Try these tricks for taking better photos with your smartphone.

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Consider basic technical constructs

First, consider the composition of your shot: how your subjects are placed within the frame. Use the rule of thirds (imagine the frame as a tic-tac-toe grid, and position subjects at the spots where the lines intersect, as opposed to directly in the center of the photo) and take note of any distracting objects that might be in the background of your photo. Exposure is also important: An underexposed shot will appear too dark, and an overexposed one too light. Get it right by positioning your subject so the light floods onto his or her face, as opposed to casting a shadow from behind them. For example, if you’re taking a photo in front of a window, have your subject face the window, and place yourself between them and the window.

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Capture a moving subject like this

Kids and pets have a tendency to move around. Catch them mid jump or run by adjusting your shutter speed. “The higher the shutter speed, the more it will freeze the motion,” says Drucker. “Most cameras have auto modes on their settings. Look for the one with the image of the running man. We call that sport’s mode, but it’s also good for kids when they’re running around.” You can also use your camera’s burst mode (handily available on most smartphones).  More on that later.

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Become a fly on the wall

The key to capturing truly candid photos is simply getting your family to remain candid. “You have to have your camera up to your face enough of the time to convince them they do not need to look at you and smile,” says Drucker. “Let them know that you’re just learning how to use your camera, or are taking some experimental photos, and that they can continue playing with their Legos or doing whatever it is.” Over time, she says, kids will learn to continue doing what they’re doingeven when there’s a camera around.

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This is how to take the perfect birthday shot

Go beyond the standard birthday photo of your child smiling behind his or her cake. Drucker suggests capturing the make-a-wish moment by putting your camera on burst mode. That way, your camera will continuously take photos without stopping to refocus (do this on your iPhone by holding down the shutter button). Drucker also recommends strategically positioning the cake in good lighting. “Before we even bring the cake out of the kitchen, I look for the spot where the lighting is best,” she says. Have your camera at the ready, and snap away.

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Try a sleeping shot

“As parents, we all sneak in and watch our babies sleep,” says Drucker. “It’s so peaceful and delightful, but it’s not a thing we typically think of photographing.” Memorialize the moment with a few shots. Drucker recommends planning to take the photo during a daytime nap (instead of at night, when you’ll need to use a baby-waking flash). Place the baby’s seat or bassinet in the light of a window, and get creative in using architectural elements, such as the door or crib frame, in the foreground of the shot. “It gives the viewer the sense that you were just peaking in for the moment,” says Drucker. “It tells a nice story.”

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Get Fido in the photo like this

Pets are essential and unforgettable family members in many households. To get them in photossomething you definitely want to douse your camera’s burst mode or sports mode. Pets also tend to get red eye more than humans, so avoid using the flash.

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Prepare your camera for important days

Have your camera ready to go at all times—especially during the ones you’d like to get a few extra shots. For example, the first day of school is a day many parents like to capture on film. “You’re not going to get your kid to wait for you on days like that,” says Drucker. “Schedule that photo time into your morning alarm and have your camera set and ready.”

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Back up your photos and print

Upload the photos from your camera card to your computer and back them up to the Cloud or an external hard drive. File the photos on your computer and choose a few to print. Drucker recommends photobooksshe makes one for each yearor keeping a few prints in a box in your home. “Kids love to see their photos printed. There’s something so wonderful about holding a photograph that’s not on a screen.” Here’s how to properly preserve photos so they last the test of time.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest