Take Great Photos of Your Children Outdoors

how to photograph children outdoors

Spring is finally here, and there are lots of opportunities to take photos of your children in beautiful outdoor locations – bluebell woods, parks or maybe even the beach. But with the combination of bright sunlight and a fast moving child taking great photos of your children is not always easy. Luckily there are some simple steps you can take to give your photos the wow-factor. Read on for my six tips for taking great photos of your children outside…


1. Consider their outfits

It might seem a bit OTT to dress your children with photographs in mind, but clothing really does make a difference to the overall impact a picture has. Before you head out of the house take a bit of time to think about the location you’re going to, and which colours will complement it well. For example, when my daughter and I visited a bluebell wood last month I dressed her in soft, light colours which I knew would work well against the green and purple of the background (see the photo above.)

Generally speaking you can’t go wrong with softer, muted tones, and if possible it’s best to avoid black or neon colours – they usually won’t complement Mother Nature.

If you have more than one child also think about how their outfits work together. It can be cute for younger children to wear identical outfits, but generally speaking I recommend co-ordinating your children’s outfits rather than matching. You might find my guide on what to wear for a family photo shoot useful when you’re choosing clothes.

One last thing to consider when it comes to clothing is logos, writing and pictures on the clothes. These will often date photographs much more quickly so I recommend avoiding them if you can.


2. Avoid direct sunlight

Contrary to popular belief, having the sun shining directly on your subject is not good for a photo – sunlight is quite hard and can be used to great effect for a dramatic look, but your outdoor surroundings probably need a softer approach. If you can find a shady area to take your photos instead.

It doesn’t need to be a huge amount of shade to be effective – actually just light shade is good, for example when the sun is behind a cloud. If there are no clouds in the sky, try the shadow of a tree or building, or perhaps a beach parasol. As you can see from the photos below, the difference between having your subject in direct sunlight, and having them in the shade is quite striking – and the added benefit of avoiding direct sunlight is that your subject won’t be squinting either.

how to photograph children outdoors

3. Turn off your flash

Once you’re in the shade you may be tempted to turn on the flash, or it may come on automatically – but please don’t use it! Using flash will give you a very bright foreground, but a dark background. Since you’re outdoors and most probably have a nice looking background, you’ll want it to be well lit. The light from any camera or phone’s in-built flash will also be hard like direct sunlight, which is another reason not to use it.

To achieve a well lit image adjust your exposure instead. If you’re not sure how to do this, but are shooting on your camera’s automatic mode your camera will adjust itself to give a fairly even exposure across the foreground and background (very briefly, exposure is how bright or dark your image is.) If you’re using your phone you can change the exposure quite easily on the screen. This tutorial explains how to do it.

If it’s still too dark even with adjusted exposure, you probably need to move somewhere with lighter shade. As you try different spots you’ll see how the brightness of your photograph changes.

how to photograph children outdoors

4. Get down low

You’ve got the clothes, found the right lighting and are ready to start snapping. Before you do, check your angle to make sure you’re at the same eye level as your children. When you’re down at their level you’ll have a more natural perspective, and the added bonus of being able to see all of their features and facial expressions. Don’t be afraid to get into funny positions here – I spend the majority of my outdoor family sessions sitting, lying, or crouching on the ground to make sure I get the shot.


5. Let them have fun

Not many children enjoy sitting or standing in one place for long periods of time whilst you photograph them, so don’t make it into a chore. Whilst I do love having photos of my daughter looking at the camera, there’s also something very special about the photos of her engrossed in an activity; they capture her personality, interests and abilities at each age. So do mix up the posed photos with some time observing your children doing their thing and finding sweet moments to capture. 

If you have younger children, you may find my tips for photographing busy toddlers helpful too.

how to photograph children outdoors

6. Give it time

The last thing I recommend is giving it time. Each of the photos of my daughter in this post took time for me to capture – before getting the shot there were moments where she was distracted, looking the wrong way, not smiling, walking away from me, and all those other things that toddlers do when you’re trying to take their photo! Give it time, and don’t expect every photo you take to be perfect. With practice you’ll learn what works for your children and what doesn’t, and through that your photos will improve.

Over to you

I hope you enjoy putting these tips into practise as you photograph your children. I’d love to hear what other questions you have about photographing your children – let me know in the comments below.

And if you’ve been thinking about having some professional photographs taken of your children this summer there are still some spaces left at my summer mini sessions. Find out about the mini sessions here.


Picture of Clare Murthy

Clare Murthy

I’m a newborn, baby and family photographer working with families from South West London and Surrey. I specialise in timeless, natural photography with no props or unnatural posing. I photograph babies at my studio, and families in beautiful outdoor locations. I'm based on the Surrey / London border, close to Hampton Court.
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