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How to photograph children: 19 great pictures to take this summer

Make this summer picture-perfect.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

In the whirlwind of water balloon battles, summer reading assignments and swim lessons, it can be a challenge to slow down and preserve the precious memories that get packed into the few weeks before a new school year begins.

The summer, along with kids' moving bodies, can go by in a blur. So take these tips from photographer moms on mastering the summer photo shoot.

1. Beach Babes

Vanessa Hicks of Vanessa Hicks Photography says her best tip for capturing great beach photos is to shoot away from the sun to prevent your child from squinting.

Wyatt says capturing kids' reactions to summer activities can be a touching way to preserve memories.Rebecca Wyatt | Rebecca Wyatt Photography

"The best time to shoot beach photos is early in the morning or an hour before sunset," says Hicks. "Try to stay away from high noon, and always make sure their back is to the sun."

In crowded environments like the beach, Wyatt suggests isolating your subject when possible to eliminate background distractions.Rebecca Wyatt | Rebecca Wyatt Photography

Rebecca Wyatt of Rebecca Wyatt Photography adds that on a busy, crowded beach, parents have two options: either embrace the chaos and include it in the photograph, or isolate your subject by shooting up at them using the sky as a background.

2. Wheel Fun

Danielle Guenther, who owns Danielle Guenther Photography, suggests telling your kids to grab their skateboards, bikes, scooters or roller skates and heading to a park for a photo session on wheels.

"They're fast-moving objects here, so shoot in high speed mode," says Guenther. "iPhones have this option — hold down the button and it will shoot several frames at once, in burst mode."

"It's beautiful out, so get outside and bring the skateboard, scooter, bike or roller skates," says Guenther.Danielle Guenther | Danielle Guenther Photography

"This is a great time to take video, too," Guenther continues. "It's always great to have these memories in action form."

Anna Angenend of Anna Angenend Photography offers an additional suggestion for capturing these moments-on-wheels on video.

"Try mounting your phone or a Go Pro to your child's bike or wagon for a unique perspective on a favorite childhood pastime," says Angenend.Anna Angenend | Anna Angenend Photography

"Try mounting your phone or a Go Pro to your child's bike or wagon for a unique perspective on a favorite childhood pastime," says Angenend.

3. Pool Days

Wyatt says pools bring about endless options for fun summer photo opportunities. To help kids remember where they spent their days swimming years from now, Wyatt recommends getting close to your child, then backing up.

Wyatt says water photos - including images taken at the pool - are an essential part of summer photography.Rebecca Wyatt | Rebecca Wyatt Photography

"Get the details, then step back to capture the whole scene," says Wyatt.

Wyatt says backing up and capturing the entire scene in a photo can be a great way to document summer memories.Rebecca Wyatt | Rebecca Wyatt Photography

"And look for reactions," Wyatt continues. "For example, if your son is jumping into the pool to play with your daughter, shoot his jumping in, but then turn your camera to your daughter's face as he joins her."

Shooting kids mid-leap will produce poolside action shots that can capture milestones such as learning to dive, or jumping into the water without a float for the first time.Jennifer Nobriga | Clickin Moms
Capturing kids while floating on brightly colored pool toys can make for an interesting summertime image.Jamie Rubeis | Clickin Moms

4. Summer Nights

Sarah Wilkerson, CEO of Clickin Moms, says in low light conditions, it is important to bump up the ISO settings on your camera, since the camera is likely to be firing more slowly. Wilkerson also cautions that it is important to stay as still as possible when taking nighttime photos, in order to get a clear shot.

Wilkerson recommends bumping up the ISO on your camera when taking photos in low-light conditions.April Nienhuis | Clickin Moms

"Those long, warm evenings that go way past bedtime are likely to be among your kids' favorite summer memories, so be ready to capture the firefly hunt, campfire or fireworks display," says Wilkerson.

For additional lighting in nighttime photos, consider summer staples like sparklers or glow sticks.Kristin Dokoza | Clickin Moms

5. Bubbles

Hicks says when photographing their child playing with bubbles, parents should get down on the child's level and use a fast shutter speed.

"A hot a dry day will make bubbles pop faster, so early in the morning or evening is a great time," says Hicks.

"Bubbles are great for images," says Guenther. "They add texture, color, and let's be real here...they're magical!"Danielle Guenther | Danielle Guenther Photography

"Bubbles are great for images," says Guenther. "They add texture, color, and let's be real here...they're magical!"

"I love playing this game with bubbles," Guenther continues. "Get your camera ready. Have them step back and tell them to close their eyes. Blow the bubbles in the air and scream, 'Open!' They will open their eyes with such joy and wonder — and you'll be ready to snap an image."

Getting down to your child's level is a sure way to get great photos of them playing with bubbles, according to Hicks.Vanessa Hicks | Vanessa Hicks Photography

6. The Fair or Amusement Park

When it comes to taking pictures on moving rides, Guenther says parents should get on the ride with their child, and suggests wearing a neck strap to help secure your camera as the ride gets underway.

Gunther recommends wearing a camera strap around your neck to steady your lens on moving rides.Danielle Guenther | Danielle Guenther Photography

"If your child is little, make sure to stand with them," says Guenther. "Or choose a seat in front of your child if they're older. It's always helpful to be the first one on, because you have plenty of time to capture images before the ride starts moving as well."

Wilkerson suggests picking a "sub-story" to tell in crowded summer situations like the fair.Michelle DeVries | Clickin Moms

Wilkerson adds that the movement and bold colors of the fair make it a great backdrop for summer photos, day or night.

"The setting is the best part, but fairground photos can appear unappealingly crowded, chaotic or messy if you don't compose them carefully," says Wilkerson. "Pick one 'sub-story,' to tell — a food truck, the ferris wheel, a carnival game — and fill the frame with one defined space as much as possible."

7. Hammock Time

Guenther says getting a great photo of kids on a hammock is a game — a tickling game.

"Tell your child to get on the hammock with their belly down, then slowly start to move towards them with a pretend 'tickle bug' in your back pocket," says Guenther. "Start tickling their belly from underneath the hammock, then step back and start photographing."

When it comes to cute hammock photos, Guenther says playing a game of "tickle bug" is a great way to get kids laughing and smiling for the camera.Danielle Guenther | Danielle Guenther Photography

8. Road Trippin'

Wyatt says a great way to capture the magic of summer is to document the excitement kids feel when they're just being kids. One example of anticipation and excitement is the energy surrounding a family road trip.

Wyatt says a fun way to document your kids' summer adventures is to pay attention to their reactions, such as their excitement to embark on a road trip.Rebecca Wyatt | Rebecca Wyatt Photography

"Look for reactions," says Wyatt. "Summer is a wonderful time for adventure and activity. Kids are constantly playing and doing new things."

9. Sidewalk Chalk Art

Document your child's creativity, according to Hicks, by staging a sidewalk chalk photo shoot to capture some sweet photos of your kids being artistic.

Hicks says a great way to document your child's summer creativity is to stage a sidewalk chalk photo session.Vanessa Hicks | Vanessa Hicks Photography

"A smooth, darker area makes the chalk more vibrant," says Hicks. "Get your kids in their creation by grabbing a ladder and taking an above shot."

10. Summertime BFFs

"Summer's not just about where we go and what we do, but also who we're with," says Wilkerson. "To get great group shots of children together, encourage them to crowd in closer than feels natural — ensure that everyone touches at least two others, which also tends to bring out wonderful smiles and giggles."

"Summer's not just about where we go and what we do," says Wilkerson. "But also who we're with."Jan Tyler | Clickin Moms

If your kids and their pals are looking for a summertime activity, Wilkerson encourages parents to let them create a lemonade stand.

"Let them paint a fancy sign, adorn their stand with real lemons, and bring in balloons for their entrepreneurial launch," says Wilkerson. "Then photograph it all at the end of the driveway, or even against the lush backdrop of the back yard."

Photographing your kids with their summer playmates is a sure way to capture the magic of childhood.Photo Credit: Sally Kate Molhoek | Clickin Moms

11. Stormy Weather

The rain storms of summer provide a unique opportunity for images of little ones in warm-weather clothing like bathing suits, paired with rubber boots and bulky umbrellas.

Summer rain storms can be a time to snap some adorable shots of warm-weather attire mixed with rubber boots and umbrellas.Anna Angenend | Anna Angenend Photography

"When it comes to capturing the wee ones, it's easiest to snap away when they're completely enthralled in something other than mommy trying to have them stand still and smile," says Angenend. "Tots could play for hours with a garden hose or a little puddle, giving you tons of time to snap away."

12. Sunsets

"Make sure you get a sunset shot of your child and family," says Hicks. "Pay attention to the time of the sunset, then wait a few minutes. This gives you that beautiful color in the sky — most people miss this beautiful time."

Hicks suggests waiting for a few minutes once the sun has begun to set, as the sky is its most beautiful color in these moments.Vanessa Hicks | Vanessa Hicks Photography

According to Wilkerson, summer evenings bring about some of the best possible natural light. Wilkerson suggests planning an outing that begins about ninety minutes before sunset to get a series of photos in the beautiful summer evening light.

"It's beautiful light that transitions from warm and bright to fiery sunset to richly atmospheric as dusk sets in," says Wilkerson.

To capture the full spectrum of colors and lights in the summer night skies, Wilkerson recommends planning an outing that begins about ninety minutes before sunset.Michelle DeVries | Clickin Moms

13. Tiny Treasures

"Frogs, snails, seashells, pebbles, ladybugs, feathers and flowers — summer is filled with found treasures," says Wilkerson, adding that a macro lens is the most effective way to capture these tiny finds.

Wilkerson suggests using a macro lens to capture the frogs, snails, pebbles, seashells and other treasures kids are bound to discover over summer vacation.Elle Walker | Clickin Moms
"Summer is filled with found treasures," says Wilkerson.Kristin Dokoza | Clickin Moms

Guenther reminds parents that sometimes, the best way to discover treasures in nature is to watch and wait.

"Every child wants to run and catch every bug out there, but sometimes, it's all about patience," says Guenther. "Have your child sit down and let nature come to you."

Guenther suggests, rather than having your child run around trying to catch a bug, to encourage your child to sit still and allow nature to come to them.Danielle Guenther | Danielle Guenther Photography

14. Made for Shades

"Is there anything more adorable than a kid looking her coolest in a pair of shades?" asks Wilkerson.

Wilkerson says there's nothing more adorable then a kid wearing sunglasses. We tend to agree!Vironica Golden | Clickin Moms
"Sunglasses aren't just great for sass and style," says Wilkerson. "They also make it easier for you to get fabulous shots at midday when the sun is intense and high in the sky."Sally Kate Molhoek | Clickin Moms

"Sunglasses aren't just great for sass and style — they also make it easier for you to get fabulous shots at midday when the sun is intense and high in the sky, because they hide harsh shadows around the eyes and keep the subject from squinting."

The only thing cuter than kids wearing sunglasses, may just be kids wearing grown-up sunglasses.Rebecca Wyatt | Rebecca Wyatt Photography

15. Summertime Gear

Wyatt says when it comes to her kids, she loves photographing the "look" of summer. From physical changes like tan lines and extra freckles, to her kids' go-to summer attire like flip-flops and sundresses.

Wyatt says a great summer photo opportunity is to capture images of kids wearing their summer gear, from flip-flops to sundresses.Rebecca Wyatt | Rebecca Wyatt Photography

16. Beach Reads

Hicks says one way to think outside the box for summer photography is to capture images of your children doing some summer reading.

Hicks says a good way to capture indoor images in summer is to place your child near a window to capture them in natural light.Vanessa Hicks | Vanessa Hicks Photography

"I'm a firm believer in children still learning during the summer," says Hicks. "Take them to the library and place them near a window to capture natural light coming in. Adjust your white balance, as you will most likely be dealing with florescent lights that will give an unpleasant color."

Wyatt says summer reading often makes for sweet photos, on the beach or anywhere.Rebecca Wyatt | Rebecca Wyatt Photography

17. Sweet Treats

Summer is a time for sweet treats like ice cream, cotton candy and watermelon. Parents may have to move fast to capture images of these indulgences, but Hicks says the end result is worth it.

"Depending on the treats that you have, avoid direct sunlight as they could melt before you get the shot," cautions Hicks.Vanessa Hicks | Vanessa Hicks Photography

"Try to get the shot before they dig in, unless you are wanting a messy face photo," says Hicks. "Shoot fast as your kids will be ready to dig in. And, depending on the treats you have, avoid direct sunlight as they could melt before you get the shot."

Hicks also recommends being ready to shoot images quickly, as kids are typically ready to dig in and enjoy.Vanessa Hicks | Vanessa Hicks Photography
Summer friendships and delicious hot weather treats are a perfect combination for adorable photos.Kristy Dooley | Clickin Moms

18. Underwater Adventures

Wilkerson recommends buying a protective, waterproof case for your camera, or purchasing a disposable, waterproof camera, in order to capture some unique shots of your kids below the water's surface.

"If your kids practically live at the pool or beach during summer vacation, the strikingly unusual shots you'll be able to get (by using an underwater camera) will be worth it," says Wilkerson.Vironica Golden | Clickin Moms
Wilkerson says parents can pick up an inexpensive, disposable, underwater camera to get some unique shots of summer pool days.Vironica Golden | Clickin Moms

"Immerse yourself in the experience of summer by capturing kids jumping into the pool or catching waves in an underwater shot," says Wilkerson. "You can get an underwater, disposable camera for around $10, and if your kids practically live at the pool or beach during summer vacation, the strikingly unusual shots you'll be able to get will be worth it."

19. Splashing in the Sun

Pools and beaches aren't the only place kids can play in the water in the summer. Water tables, public fountains and hoses are all readily available in the warmer months to make some photo magic.

Gunther says the key to getting great photos of your family playing together in the water is to have fun...and to remember to bring a change of clothes!Danielle Guenther | Danielle Guenther Photography

"Lather them up with sunscreen and go fountain hunting, or live on the edge a little bit and run through the sprinklers and fountains at your local park," says Guenther. "Water is a great way to add a beautiful backdrop — just don't forget an extra change of clothing."

Angenend says it's easiest to snap images of kids when they're inthralled in an activity, such as playing with water.Anna Angenend | Anna Angenend Photography
Wyatt suggests taking images of your children playing in the water, without trying to capture their attention. "They don't always need to be looking at the camera," says Wyatt.Rebecca Wyatt | Rebecca Wyatt Photography

"Try documenting the moments and not trying so hard to get your kids' attention," says Wyatt. "They don't always need to be looking at the camera — when you notice them doing something you want to capture, quietly grab your camera and photograph the action. You will be capturing that authentic moment that caught your eye in the first place."

Editor's note: This story was first published on June 6, 2016.