An estimated 2,500 photos are taken every second. (Via source), and 90% of people have only ever taken a photo with a camera phone. With the quality of camera phones improving year by year, some camera phones are beginning to rival DSLRs in their quality and capabilities. But besides measuring levels of quality, such as megapixels or noticeable distortion, how can one improve their picture taking habits to create better, more engaging images?

One specific group who often seek guidance on the subject of photo snapping are parents of young children. Every parent wants to take photos that catch their child in their truest form, just simply being themselves. Here are my top four tips for taking better photos of your kids:

1.  Get down on their level.

Whether it means taking a knee or laying fully on the ground, getting down on a child’s level is the best way to change up the perspective of a photograph, and makes them feel instantly more comfortable.

2.  Put them in shade.

For good reason, many people believe that it’s best to take photos in the middle of the day when the sun is “at it’s brightest.” However, taking photos with kids facing into the bright, harsh sun often result in squinty eyes and harsh shadows. A better method is to find some open shade, where the light is even (resulting in less contrast between bright highlights and dark shadows) where kids don’t have to squint.

3.  Let them move.

Kids NEED to move. They can only sit still for so long before they start squirming. But you know what? Some of my FAVORITE photographs of children are the ones where they’re doing their own thing – whether it’s running around, climbing something, making funny faces, or being tickled, kids are comfortable when they’re moving – not when they’re asked to sit still. So give your child something to do, whether it’s running from one side of the yard to the other, jumping on a trampoline, making funny faces, reading a book out loud, or playing pretend (i.e., the ground is hot lava!), there are so many different ways to keep kids engaged and preoccupied without them even realizing what’s happening – giving you a chance to snap some great action shots!

4.  Don’t just tell them to “smile!”

One sure-fire way to get an awkward looking portrait of a child is to tell them to smile. Time after time, I’ve found that kids whom Mom tells to “smile really big for the camera!” have squinty eyes and a big, tight smile. Much like point number three above, the best way to approach photographing a child is to 1) give them something to do, and 2) talk to them. Never stop asking them questions! Children will engage with your camera when they’re engaging and connecting with you.

What are your favorite tips for taking photos of kids? Add to my list in the comments below!