How to Take AMAZING Pictures of Your Kids with Your Cell Phone

written by Maggie Ferreira

We are living in an amazing time for technology. We literally walk around with mini-computers all day. I'm not sure why we still call them phones, as 90% of what I do with mine has nothing to do with calling people.

One of my favorite features is the camera. Remember the days of carrying around a separate, hand-held point-and-shoot camera? Or even worse, the disposable atrocities? The camera technology on phones has come so far that you can actually take better pictures than anything we used to be able to do with those, and print them more easily.

I have been a photographer for 13 years, and back when I started in 2005, camera phones were a joke (remember the flip phone?). But things have changed. It's so nice to not have to lug around my huge DSLR everywhere I go now. I had my son four months ago, and unsurprisingly, he has become my favorite thing to photograph! Since we all have these amazing cameras on hand, I'd like to offer a few tips for getting amazing pictures of your kids with your cell phone.

1. Clean lens
We handle our phones all day long, and both the lens on the front of the phone and the lens on the back tend to get smudged and dirty, especially if you have multiple little hands on your phone. The quickest way to improve your pictures is to give the lens a quick wipe down. This will help you get sharper pictures.

2. Quality/resolution
Go to the camera settings and make sure that your phone is taking pictures on the highest resolution possible. It's so heartbreaking to get a breathtaking photo of your child, only to realize your phone captured it in a resolution too low to make a decent print.

3. Shutter button for multiple shots
If your kids tend to move around a lot (what kids don't?) you may have trouble catching that perfect shot. If you press down on your shutter button and don't release it right away, your phone will automatically take multiple pictures back to back. This can help you to catch that one fleeting moment, like right when they pop the bubble or hit the baseball.

4. Focus

It's so frustrating to take a great picture, only to realize that the wrong subject is in focus! You catch a cute shot of your daughter posing in her superwoman outfit, only to see the table behind her crisp and clear while she looks blurry. Right before you take your shot, tap your child (or other subject) on your screen to tell your phone what to focus on.

5. Grid Lines
Sometimes your photos may seem to come out crooked or off balance. To remedy this, go to your camera settings and turn on your grid. I suggest the 3x3 grid if available to help you with the rule of thirds (see below). By having a grid you can straighten your photos and give them a better balance.

6. Rule of Thirds
This rule applies to all photography, and is well known by professional photographers. I like to think of this as more of a guideline than a rule, as your creativity shouldn't be restrained by any hard rules. But it goes like this: if you were to take a scene and apply a 3x3 grid to it (as you can in your phone settings), it's best to place the subject(s) of your picture on one or more of the four intersections in the middle of the grid, rather than the center of the photograph. This makes for a more interesting perspective.

7. Look at the whole frame
If you aren't rushing to take an action shot, be sure to look at the entire frame of the picture. If you are catching a shot of your son in his room, is there a pair of dirty underwear in the frame? If the kids are playing in the backyard, did Fido leave a present on the grass that's in the shot? If you are at the park, maybe by taking two steps to the right you can cut out the row of strollers from your photo. Taking a few extra seconds to check the whole frame can help to ensure that a photograph of your child is not overtaken by a random distraction.

8. Angle
Pictures of the kids straight on with them in the middle of the photograph can be boring after awhile. Why not play around with different angles? Get down on their level while they play with their blocks. Have them step on a stool and point the camera up at them while they are in a flying pose with their cape. Start to walk up your stairs and look down on the page they are currently coloring. Get really close to their face to catch that ice cream dripping down their chin. The possibilities are endless!

9. Lighting
Lighting is one (of if not the) most important elements in photography. You can drastically change a photograph just by changing the angle of the light. Try a picture by a brightly lit window for some beautiful natural light. The best times of day for breathtaking natural light are closer to sunrise and sunset. By contrast, noontime light is very bright and harsh. If you have an idea for a picture but it isn't coming to fruition, try the same shot in different lighting to change the results dramatically.

10. Think outside of the box
Kids are super creative, so why not let them give you some ideas for pictures? Even if you can't use a particular suggestion (no Tommy, you can't jump off the top of the huge rock), their ideas may spark a new thought in you (hey, climb that rock, and stop and look at me half way up). Don't get so stuck in the "stand over there and look at me" rut. The beautiful thing about the cell phone camera is you have an infinite amount of pictures you can take, as you can simply delete the ones that don't come out as intended. So shoot away!

And when you’re done, PRINT THOSE GREAT SHOTS! Most people just leave these pictures on their phones and use them as a screensaver or show their gallery to people. Print them and frame them around the house! Remember going to your parents’ or grandparents’ houses back in the day and seeing walls covered in frames? People seem to be letting that tradition die, since most photographs are now digital. But it's so special to walk down the hallway and be able to stop and look at these great moments daily, and your guests will enjoy experiencing those moments as well.