So now you know how to get your child’s attention for photos, but you’re not sure why the pictures are still not looking super great. I know as parents we want to preserve those memories so let me offer a few basic photography tips that will help up your cell phone photo game. While these will work for any kind of camera, most of us (me included!) usually don’t have a nice camera handy when our kid is being adorable – all of the example photos were taken with a cell phone!

1. Find the light.

This is the number one tip I can give to anyone looking to up their photography game. Find the natural light and stick your kid there – usually outside or right next to a window (the bigger the better). Lamps, harsh overhead lights and dark room shots will give you blurry kids/faces and a ton of lost detail. When Amelia was fairly stationary my favorite spot to take photos was to throw a blanket on our living room couch and have all the natural window light hit her face.

2. Beware of harsh shadows.

This is more of a caveat to number one, but good natural light doesn’t mean in the backyard in the middle of the day with squinting eyes. If you can, find a spot where there’s lots of shade AND light so you get the bright and airy photo but none of the harsh shadows. It can take a little extra time to spot but it makes all the difference. On the living room couch I always put Amelia’s head in the same spot, had I turned her around she would have been sitting directly in the sun and it wouldn’t have worked as well.

3. Keep it simple.

In terms of background, the less stuff the better. It can be hard to recreate a candid moment, but a specific example is that Amelia was being really cute and trying to peer out her bedroom window but she had toys and clothes all over the floor. I quickly moved everything out of frame (aka just threw it across the room) and did a little “gasp! what do you see out there?!” so she would look outside again. It’s the same sweet candid moment, but now the focus is on her being cute and not all the mess around her.

4. Use scale.

Part of what pulls the heart strings is seeing just how tiny your kiddos used to be. Try finding a common object for scale purposes (while keeping it simple!) to easily show how big or small your child is at the moment. A favorite teddy bear, a queen size bed, a dining chair or window sill. These are the photos that you’ll look back on and say “I can’t believe you used to be that little!”.

5. Try shooting down.

This is kind of a combination of 3 and 4 but standing up and looking down at your kids is a great way to declutter the background and to show how small they are (even if they’re teenagers ;) ).

6. Find a good editing app.

There are a ton of great apps out there to edit your photos for you without having to pay for fancy software like Photoshop. I personally use Snapseed and Avairy on all my cell phone photos, but I’m also a fan of Facetune, VSCO, Enlight and Afterlight. Play around and see what works better for creating natural, well balanced images.