Quick tips for great photos of babies and kids

Consumer Reports News: July 18, 2011 05:08 AM

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We recently tested various devices—two smart phones, a point-and-shoot camera, a D-SLR, and a camcorder—against each other to see which one did the best at capturing a birthday party.

The reason we used the birthday party as a test for the shoot-out is that it's a tricky, low-light situation in which you'd want to capture both photos and video. We used each device to take a group shot and to shoot video of the kids singing. (And yes, I made them sing happy birthday five times, once for each device.) You can check out our video to see which might be the best device if your toddler or baby has a birthday party.

However, no matter what device you use, there are many ways to improve your photos or videos. Here are some tips to help you capture better shots of your children, be it in low, normal or bright light conditions:

  • Think about how to shoot your subjects. Take some practical steps to improve your shots, such as making sure your children are comfortable. (This goes for kids of all ages—even adults.) If they're too hot or cold or not relaxed, chances are you're not going to get the shot you want. Let them have some fun. Also, get close to your subjects and get down on their level. You'll get mediocre results if you only shoot down at your toddlers or babies, or you're too far away from them.
  • Come prepared. Make sure you've charged your camera battery, and, if possible bring a spare. You don't want to miss the moment.
  • Avoid red-eye. In low-light situations, a basic camera is more likely to give you red eye than an advanced model, particularly an SLR, since the flash is closer to the lens. So if you're using a basic model and need to use the flash, turn on the red-eye reduction feature. Or, you might try some of these tips to avoid using the flash altogether. For better results in your flash shots, use an SLR with an external flash and try bouncing the flash off the ceiling, which will virtually eliminate red eye.
  • Explore your camera's smart features Get to know some of the advanced or smart features on your camera. If your point-and-shoot has a smile shutter feature, it might be helpful when shooting babies, which may be unpredictable when it comes to smiling on cue.
  • Panning. For more active kids (or older kids), try panning your photos: This lets you capture a sharp image of your subject, but with a blurred background that conveys a sense of motion.
  • Consider the background. A cluttered background distracts you from your subject. However, you may want to select a few toys or meaningful objects. But consider how you want to compose your photo. Sometimes, just cropping your photo a bit can make a big difference.
  • Compose your group photos. Group shots of babies or toddlers with their family can be tricky because you don't want to make the shots look too busy or congested. So, again, consider your composition. If you can, take lots of photos with different compositions and edit them later.
  • Take lots of photos. If you're nervous about running out of space on your memory card, be sure you have a spare. And you can always delete the bad shots later.

Terry Sullivan

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