LET’S FACE IT, these days Facebook feeds are crammed with fairly stale, pretty boring shots of people’s kids. Stand out from the pack! If you want to bring photos of your kids to life, correct these common pitfalls and you’ll be on your way to capturing some perfect moments you’ll cherish (and probably frame) for life. Whether it’s an iPhone or a DSLR, these 9 mistakes can be easily corrected and the results can be simply outstanding.


Problem: Blurry image

Solution: Be fast. Kids move fast! Not only that, they often move towards or away from you, which, to put it simply, is extra hard. On mobile phones and point-and-shoots, figure out ahead of time how to use "Burst Mode" so that you can rapid fire back to back images (and newer point and shoots likely have a "scene" setting for kids, children, or sports, that will likely also do this for you; the same goes for a DSLR. There's also usually an option to take either just one photo ("single shot") or multiple ("continuous") — choose the latter! You might end up with way more photos, but chances of that perfect moment being in there are much higher.


Problem: Shooting from your eye level — and not theirs

Solution: Get Down. Often parents shoot from their eye level, well above the child — which is understandable but leaves images feeling like snapshots. But getting eye-level with a child brings us into their world, and can often result in a stronger, more unique image. You can usually get their attention better to boot! Tip: if your camera has a flip screen, you can sometimes use this to get really low, but don't overlook the impact — on you and them — of actually, physically getting down to a child's level.


Problem: The child isn’t sharp

Solution: Focus on their face. Often we fire away without checking where the focus is happening in the image. Whether iPhone or DSLR, be sure you're focusing on the child's face — specifically their eyes. Later we'll talk about details and angle and this means there are situations where the child isn't looking at the camera — but first make it a habit to get their face to be the sharpest part of the image. It tells the view that this photo is all about your beautiful kid.


Problem: Cheese face

Solution: Evoke a reaction. When we say "Cheese!" we often get face and forced smiles, eyes that say "anything but this," or even a big old frown. Really, with photos of kids, what we're hoping for is that megawatt smile, that big belly laugh. So forget "cheese" and get silly: This might mean singing a song, telling a joke, reassuring them they're wonderful, calling their name, laughing with them, and doing whatever it takes to evoke a real response. Tip: While you might want to avoid "cheese," which usually results in a forced smile, you could try calling their name, counting to 3 (or have them count!), or surprising them with a silly word or phrase, especially if you have an inside joke with them or know what books or shows they like ("Three, Two, One, Buzz Lightyear To the Rescue!"). But in general, being silly works wonders.


Problem: Every photo looks the same

Solution: Move your feet! After you've mastered the art of eye-level, you can mix it up by trying different angles. You can get creative with this — maybe from above (not with them looking up, but an aerial view of what they're doing), over their shoulder (maybe with the focus on their toy, drawing, etc.), or from way down low, like flat on the floor. Let them play — you get up on a chair, crawl in the dirt, lie on your back while they swing up and over you...the options are endless.


Problem: The image feels distant

Solution: Get closer. There are most definitely times to back up and get the whole scene in — and your gut is likely to tell you when you need the whole story. But often people don't get close enough, even parents. Filling the entire frame with those adorable cheeks, eyelashes for days, that little smirk — it can make for a standout image. Tip: Use your zoom rather than get too close for comfort (for you and them!).


Problem: The image Is too cluttered

Solution: Simplify. Kids can often be surrounded by lots of distracting elements: other children, siblings, toys, playgrounds, streets, marketplaces, classrooms, furniture, or more. The more you can keep the edges of your image free from clutter, the more our eyes go straight to the child. You might need to try a different angle, or move left or right, or zoom in, until the edges are somewhat free of random arms, legs, half of another child's face, etc. Other times, it might just involve a little patience, especially while you're traveling and hanging out in popular locations.


Problem: Dull eyes

Solution: Light up their eyes. If your child is looking at you, or upward, try to get the catchlight, which is that square of white that shows up in people's eyes, a reflection of sorts. This brings the eyes to life! Without one, the eyes can look dull — sometimes called "shark eyes" by photographers. You might need to move around and have their eyes follow you until you see the light catching (the catchlight) in their eyes. Tip: bright shade outside is good, or, if inside, put a bright window or door to your back and then have them look at you.


Problem: All face, no details

Solution: Capture the small things too. Their faces are adorable — but the little things count as well! Those sticky fingers, their little feet in the sand, their hand on a parent's cheek. This small moments make for precious memories.

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