By Simon Wiffen

Have you ever wished you could take your family photography to the next level? Stepping up your game doesn’t have to mean getting a new camera. With a little thought and a few easy techniques, you can move away from simple snapshots and start capturing authentic, beautiful images that you'll treasure forever. Here, I’ll share some practical tips that I’ve found helpful through the years.

Look for Beautiful Light

Beautiful light is everything! Once you understand the importance of lighting in photography you’ll have a much better chance of capturing great shots. Avoid shooting in harsh light—strong midday sun will give you hard and unflattering shadows. Instead, try to shoot when the sun is soft and low later in the day, or find light that is diffused through a curtain or tree canopy. Anything that softens and spreads the light will work great and really improve the final image.

Keep the Frame Simple

Try to keep your background clean and simple. When you’re composing your shot, be mindful of everything that is in the frame. Something as simple as taking a few steps to the side can remove unwanted distractions. You can shoot against a wall or in front of some trees—any clean, simple setting will work well to bring attention to your subject (which is the most important part!) You’ll start to see huge improvements in your images by just paying attention to what’s happening in the background.

Don’t Say Cheese

We’ve all lifted a camera and asked our families to smile but, more often than not, this results in images with unnatural, forced grins that don’t always reflect the true personalities of the people we love. The key to authentic photos is to leave your family in their element; they don’t necessarily need to smile or even look at the camera. You may find when they’re at their most relaxed you’ll be rewarded with images that really capture their true personalities.

Get Low

If you’re pointing your camera down at your child while they play, you’ll create a disconnect. Don’t be afraid to get low. By crouching, or even lying down on your stomach, you’ll be able to see from your child’s point of view. Changing your position will help you capture images that give a sense of being a part of the action and you’ll create a much stronger emotional connection for the person viewing the photograph.

Expressions Are Everything

An expression can make or break an image, and it can be hard work to capture them—they come and go in an instant. When you watch your family playing or taking part in activities, you’ll learn to anticipate when a photo opportunity is about to present itself. Make sure your camera is on and set correctly so you can quickly bring it up to your eye. If your camera has a burst mode, don’t be afraid to shoot a sequence of shots—you’ll improve your chances of snagging that elusive picture. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the perfect moment is over, so give yourself the best chance to capture it.

Keep It Fun!

If you’re looking to capture beautiful, memorable photographs, understand that your children’s play or your family’s comfort is the most important thing. Your photo op is secondary. You might not always get the shot you’re looking for, and that’s OK! If the image isn’t happening, resist the temptation to push harder. It’s sometimes best to just put the camera away and try again next time. Learn to read when your child or family member has had enough; otherwise, they’ll start to resent the camera and taking photos will get a lot harder.

Ultimately, keep things fun and make the photography part of the game. The best images come when your loved ones are relaxed and comfortable being themselves, so don’t distract from that. Instead of forcing it, let them lead you to opportunities to capture the beauty of your family and pictures that you will cherish forever.