Photographing your children outdoors: using colour and light to create memorable photographs

Photographing your children outdoors: using colour and light to create memorable photographs

As the weather finally starts to warm up for us in the Northern Hemisphere (fingers crossed!) now is the perfect time to start taking more family photos outdoors. As a mum myself (with an 8 and 11 year old) it’s the beginning of our family bike rides, and having recently moved, walks exploring a new area.

I get really excited photographing outside as my kids have room and space to be themselves, and I can capture really natural shots of them doing the things they love.

So here are some of my top tips for how to capture the most natural and fun memories of your family, whether you are taking photos on your camera or mobile phone.

1. Use locations that your kids already love

Now we have moved house, we are lucky to live closer to an open space with a football pitch and a park. We love to spend evenings there as a family and the park is a great opportunity to take some really fun shots.  

The secret to taking a really memorable park shot is to be creative with WHERE you are taking the photo from.

Image source: Nina Mace

Here is a great example – when your kids are on the slide our instinct is to take the photo stood at the bottom of the slide, but I go to the top and get them to look back at me when they go down on their tummy. If your park has a metal slide you can also get a great reflection which adds even more interest.

The next image should come with a health and safety warning, but you can end up with a photo that captures their excitement at swinging so high! As you can see from the behind-the-scenes image, there are lots of houses and cars behind the swings but I wanted to remove these so I could just capture the amazing blue sky.

Image source: Nina Mace

I lay down underneath the swing and asked my friend to push my daughter from behind. Just make sure the swing has come to a complete stop before you try to get up! 😊

2. Think about the light when you plan to take photos

Most of my time spent teaching photography is talking about light and how it has a huge impact on your final photo. Depending on what time of day you are taking pictures changes WHERE you should encourage your kids to play for a lovely image.

–          If the sun is high in the sky

If it’s daytime and the sun is high in the sky, even if it’s cloudy, it is best to have the sun behind your kids. If they are looking towards the sun then they will squint and their eyes will appear really dark in the image.

–          If its first thing in the morning or a couple of hours from sunset

This really is the ideal time to take photos. If you have little ones who are early risers then this is the perfect time to head out. For older children I would get my camera out when the sun is lower and everything has that lovely golden glow like the image below.

For us photographers ‘golden hour’ is when we love to shoot. At this time colours appear more vibrant and you can use the light to can accentuate details like little hands and curls in hair.

Image source: Nina Mace

3. Look for colour all around you

Even if you live in a less green area there are still lots of great opportunities to capture memories and images using colour.

Image source: Nina Mace

This is a great example of how you can find lovely colours in the smallest space – we played a game pretending to post some letters (you could do this for real, and it’s a great marker for seeing how tall your kids are getting) and the red post-box made for a lovely background.

4. Include their favourite toys and games

Andy Warhol once said “The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do.” I like to think about photography as a way to remember how our children once were. So I actively look to include my kids favourite toys and games into their photos.

Image source: Nina Mace

A favourite cuddly toy, book, football tell the story of your child along with their favourite game of peek-a-boo.  

via GIPHY

I hope this inspires you to get outdoors with your kids and capture those real memories of their favourite spaces and the fun things you do together.

Nina Mace

Nina Mace is an award-winning children's photographer who also trains beginner parents and professional photographers. Her work has been recognised by the Guild of Professional Photographers when she won Children's Photographer of the Year. Her work has also been featured in magazines and blogs including Child Photo Contest and Vogue. To see more of her work visit Nina Mace Photography

5 Comments
  1. Wow what brilliant advice and helpful tips. You’ve definitely captured some brilliant images using the techniques mentioned. Thanks Nina.

  2. Hi Nina,
    Thanks for the great ideas on where to take photos from to produce backgrounds that aren’t of things you don’t want to see and bringing in a solid background! The post box is a fab idea. What time would you say is golden hour over the next couple of weeks?

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