10 Steps to Take Better Photos of Your Kids This Summer (with your phone!)

Everyone has that photo: the one that first made them realize the little camera icon on their phone had the ability to pause a moment, and take an absolutely breathtaking image. As a professional photographer + writer enthusiast, I am not advocating we do away with professional photography gear. However, I am advocating for more moments captured, inviting the pause a photograph invites. Images that we can look back on that can soften the parts of parenthood that are hard, and illuminate the parts that are precious by using one of the most viable tools nearly 95% of Americans have at their fingertips, literally.

That’s right – your smartphone.

Here are 10 tips from a Pro on how to take images that people won’t believe you took with your phone!

1.) Identify what you are trying to “pause” in this moment.

Ask yourself “what am I trying to remember about this stage?” Is it your baby’s chubby leg rolls, sticky watermelon kisses,  or their last morning of middle school? Asking this can help you pause and focus on what you are trying to pause about this moment.

2.) Engage in the Moment

Don’t just be behind your phone, continue the interaction with your child or subject while you are taking the photo. I love capturing them being them, or being silly. “Could you show me how a princess twirls, or how a bunny hops?” or “Yell out your favorite pizza topping as loud as you can on the count of 3!”

3.)  Simplify

If you are really trying to create a dramatic portrait, or have a strong emphasis on the moment – keep it simple! Simple clothing, just a diaper, elements with a simple background, all of these things will help draw emphasis on what you are trying to capture – them!

4.) Change your vantage point

Figure out what looks the best, and how to get the best pictures, through experimentation! Get on your child’s level. You’d be amazed at the way your images will transform by this one simple step. Also, if you have a big scene around you, take a few steps back to fill the space with the scene, and capturing your child in this great big world, making them appear even tinier than they are!

5.) Focus on Connection/Relationship

How do you capture children in their own little world? Photograph them interacting with other children or siblings. By photographing several children together, you’re able to portray that little world that they are so often living in. The viewer will feel like they’re peering through a window into childhood.

Look at the photo below. Doesn’t it feel like you’re peering into a child’s life? Bubbles, summer, sundresses and laughter. This photo was taken last week with my iPhone at a playdate!

6.) Follow the light
Observe the light. Watch how it changes depending on the weather and the time. Notice when you see long shadows, and when you see shorter shadows. The more you understand light, the better your photos will be. For instance, I like to go out to shoot early in the morning (8-9am), or right before sunset. This is when the light is warm and golden, and can create pure magic. If you are photographing in the shade, bring your subject to the “cusp” of light right on the edge of where the sun and shadow meets for optimal light.

7.) Capture them as they are (not how you want them to be!)

Throw out the pinterest pose guide + let them be little! This one took me the longest to conquer (and I am still a work in progress at that!) Someday, you will appreciate the tantrum during photos, the tears rolling down their cheeks because they had to go inside to nap, the eye roll on the last day of school… someday, those moments will be precious and the grass stained pants, scraped knee, missing front tooth, all that will be a memory, expect what you captured. Capture them as they are!

8.) Take more than one photo

With children especially, plan for the best, but taking multiple photos, or having yogurt smart phone set to “burst” mode, or “live” can help you capture the moment you are trying to pause, without taking an hours worth of photos that will end up in the deep digital space somewhere, and not on your walls.

9.) Don’t overthink it

99% of the time, the best photos happen when you least expect it. I’ve learned to have them interact or “play” in good lighting situations, so I am ready for the moment, but also engaging with them to establish a connection before pausing it.

10.) Clean your lens

The most obvious, yet overlooked piece when taking a photos! How many of you have given your kids your phone for a 5-minute break of alone time when eating, showering, shopping, or driving? The bottom line is, if you are a mom in the 20th century, most likely your kids have your phone at some point in the day. Before going to snap that perfect photo, grab a baby wipe, or be fancy and give it a good spit ‘n’ shine, and make sure that the lens is gunk-free to ensure crisp, clean, photos!

11.) BE IN THEM!

That’s right – I said it… be IN photos with your children. Don’t wait till you feel your best. Part of this season may not be FEELING your best, and that’s part of the journey. Yes, mamas… learn how to use the self-timer or selfie mode with your children. Don’t look at the camera and just smile, engage with your children- capture them running away, or after you…. just be in photos with them!

My favorite post processing Apps for iPhone:

*Lightoom Mobile




*Gemini Photos



Dayna Mager, DaynaMaePhotography.com