There's a lot of things moms don't get due credit for — quelling temper tantrums twenty times a day, gluing popsicle sticks together at one a.m., literally creating life. I think some of this mom under appreciation comes from the fact that not everyone sees what moms do, because they're never in pictures with their kids, taking the shots instead. So this year, I'm calling on mom supporters to learn how to take pictures of your partner or kids as a Mother's Day gift.
Seriously, documenting moms doing mom things could help the greater population understand exactly how hard it is to be a mother; seeing is believing, after all. And taking pictures is easier than ever now thanks to smart phones, though lot of people still struggle to take good photos. (Shout out to strangers I've made take 27 pictures of me because they couldn't get it right the first time.) So Romper talked to Sam Ciurdar, a professional photographer and father of two, about his best practices for taking smart phone pictures, getting the rundown on what he does when taking personal shots of his wife and kids. Hey, if it works for a pro, it'll work for you too. Even he can't have a fancy camera available 24/7, but one thing he does always have is his iPhone in his back pocket.
Read on for twelve tips from Ciurdar for taking pictures of your family, and get ready to be the Mother's Day hero she's been waiting for. Psst: head to Ciurdar's website and Instagram page to see his work.
1. Avoid Direct Sunlight
Although you might think snapping photos when it's sunny outside is the move, you'd actually be better off waiting for an overcast day. "If you're shooting at high noon, the sun's gonna naturally create shadows over your eyes," Ciudar explains, so your subject will be distorted in the photos. Even and natural lighting is the best for photos, which is why shade is preferable. So if you're enjoying a sunny day with your family and want to document the moment, Ciurdar advises "to look for shaded areas" where the light is naturally diffused. "Or wait until sunset when the light is already really soft," and take advantage of cloudy weather.
2. Find A Window
You can't go outside every time you want to take a picture of your partner or kids, but you can still create natural light indoors. Position the subject of your photo next to a window if you're able to, as the natural outdoor light will illuminate your body. But don't take a picture directly in front of the window, as the backlighting will make it difficult to see your subject's face.
3. Stick To The Middle
There's no actual right or wrong way to position people in your pictures, but Ciurdar says "if you're just starting out, I'd always recommend starting out with your subject right in the middle." Putting your subject in the middle of the shot gives you the opportunity to create symmetry, which ends up looking balanced in a photo. If you're trying to snap a Mother's Day photo and have two children, place mom in the middle, with the kiddos framing her on each side. And it's important to note that you can still get creative when sticking to the middle room. "If you want to get artsy, you can give a little bit more head room and show the scene," Ciurdar says.
4. Give Her Options
You can't anticipate what your partner wants a photo to look like — close up of their face? A wide shot showing a cool background? She might not even know herself, so "I would at least do one wide shot to get the whole thing," Ciurdar explains, and then a variety of other distances to make sure mom gets the photo she wants. "And if you want to do a portrait, get really close. That's the perfect time to use portrait mode," as it won't work in a wide shot.
5. Don't Zoom
It's up to you how close you want your shot to be, but regardless of the frame you select, don't use the zoom feature. It's much better to physically move yourself closer to the subject, because "you just tend to lose so much more quality" if you zoom, Ciurdar explains. "On a mobile phone, I'd always just take a couple steps forward or a couple steps back. Leave your phone [lens] at its widest."
6. Don't Angle Up
Ciurdar puts it simply: "It's always a good rule of thumb to not shoot upwards because you don't want to see up the nose." Point taken. Plus, no one on the planet has ever liked a photo where the majority of the picture is looking at their chin. Instead, keep things eye level or hold the camera slightly above your subject and tilt the camera down as you shoot.
7. Vertical Shots Are Best For Social
More likely than not, the pictures you take will get posted on social media, and horizontal photos don't translate well to social platforms, particularly Instagram. Ciurdar explains to that wide shots will get cropped to be very skinny because of Instagram's square format, causing you to lose most of the shot. "Shooting vertical you have a little bit more real estate to share your content, and I do that same thing when I shoot for brands," he went on to say. "You get more of the person in the shot that way." So keep that phone upright when you start snapping pictures, unless you're trying to get a wider photo to print.
8. Try Some Apps If You're Feeling Fancy
Adobe Lightroom CC is the go-to app for professional photographers looking to get the best quality editing on a phone, as it allows you to "control every aspect of the photo," Ciurdar tells Romper. However, the tool is a bit complicated, so that might not be where you want to start if you're just getting into photography. Ciurdar recommends VSCO because of its "modern and trendy" filters; his wife used it when she started editing. People have also been getting more into curating their Instagram Stories as of late, and Ciurdar likes Unfold for that, because it lets you add text to the shot in a more aesthetic way than you can natively on the Gram. "It's a little bit cleaner than just throwing an image on your Instagram Stories."
9. Say No To Flash
I asked Ciurdar if you should use flash in your photos, and his immediate response was an emphatic never. He went on to say that it's just his opinion, but he thinks photos with flash look artificial. "I'm a fan of the natural look. It's also easier for anyone who's just starting [to not use flash]...I'd only use flash for studio photography." He doesn't even use flash when he's taking portraits of his family. But keep in mind the options rule, and maybe take a few with flash and a few without to make sure you're getting the shot your partner wants.
10. Know Your Kid And Make It Fun
Ciurdar doesn't have any hard and fast rules for getting kids to focus during photoshoots, but he says keeping things fun and relaxed and thinking about the things that make your child happy can help you get the shot you want. For instance, his seven-week old smiles if he blows gently in his face, and his two-year-old daughter will definitely cheese it up for a photo if she knows she can have a mini marshmallow when it's over — or if you tell her she absolutely cannot smile. Children are wired to play, so think about the things you know will make your kids happy and use them to your advantage during a shoot. "Each kid is different...so come with a bag of tricks."
11. Know When To Call It
Your partner will probably be able to fake a smile even when she's feeling over the whole photo thing, but the same doesn't go for your little one. "When a kid's done, they're done," Ciurdar says with a chuckle. Forcing them to take more photos when they're tired and throwing a tantrum will only make things worse, so listen when your kiddo says they're finished and try again later.
12. Live Mode (On iPhone) Is Your Secret Weapon
Ciurdar told me he always uses Live Mode (which is already build into iPhone cameras) when taking pictures of his children for multiple reasons. "One, it's amazing to go back and get five seconds into that world" you were in when you took the shot; you can really get a feel for what the day was like from a live shot more than you can from a still, allowing you to hold onto memories of your family in a more visceral way. But he also loves live because it provides "an extra five seconds of buffer basically" if your kid blinks or looks away. "It gives you a little bit of a safety net when it comes to shooting kids," Ciurdar tells me. Plus, when you upload a live photo to your Instagram story, it can automatically turn the shot into a Boomerang, giving you another way to show off your fam.
Even if it isn't your natural instinct to take pictures, think of it as an act of love. You're making a record of the moments you share with your family, and the mom in your life will be glad she has proof of the moments she shares with her children. Snap one up for the moms.