Sometimes we are in a situation where we need a good portrait of our kids. It can be that grandma requested it to show her fellow bowlers or bingo enthusiast. Who knows the reason, but if you are in a time crunch and don’t have time to go to a photographer, then keep reading for a few very simple tips to get a better phone picture of your little one. All of the pictures in this article are taken with a phone and none edited in Photoshop.
The number one tip is to find the best light. What separates a professional photographer from an amateur is their knowledge of how to bend the light to their will. A nice control of light will always produce great pictures.
Flash produces very harsh light, especially the one on your phone or even the pop up flashes on a digital camera. The light source is relatively small so it will only illuminate a small part of your picture and in many cases blow out the background. All phone flashes are relatively slow and will result in eyes half closed to avoid the bright light. Babies learn quick, my little one was only a few months old when she learned to close her eyes whenever I brought over the phone. That’s when I stopped using the flash. Now she gives me a silly grin!
Unless you live underground or in a cave, you can find good natural light in your house. Look for a window and place your subject close to it. If it is overcast outside, any window will do. But if it is bright and sunny a north facing window is probably best. Too bright sunlight will create harsh shadows on your child’s skin which is very unflattering. If you have white curtains then you can use those as a diffuser if needed.
I have a phenomenal room in my house that creates the best natural light any photographer can imagine. I’m currently trying to convince my husband to let me change it into a home studio, but since it’s our board game room, he’s not all in, yet. I put my 3 year old on top of a table, bribed her to stay relatively still for a little bit and then started the turning game. I had her turn in a whole circle to find the most flattering light source from the window.
In the picture below I had her sit at about a 90 degree angle from the window. You can see a nice soft light which phases off on the right side of her face. You also get shadows in her eyes.
Here I had her sit with the window behind her. This is without a doubt the worst angle. Her face isn’t getting any good light. In this situation you would need a reflector to bounce the light back. But since this is a tutorial for non professionals to take phone pictures, we will skip that part. Having the light behind your subject is not recommended as the phone will most of the time just create a silhouette.
Despite the odd look on her face, this angle is by far the most flattering. I had her sit right in front of the window. Notice how the soft light is evenly spread around her face and the background. You can also see a bit of catch light in her eyes instead of lack of coloring due to shadows. I also cropped the picture a bit since the background is very uninteresting. Most editing software that come with your phone can do that.
There really are only two rules, no flash, find the best window light and turn your subject until you see even light across the face and the eyes light up. Light does depend on each location so sometimes it’s best with the subject right in front of the window, sometimes at a 45 degree angle or even 90 degree. Practice watching how the light falls on the skin and look for those gorgeous catch light in the eyes.