How to photograph your children in the garden this summer: top ten tips

As parents we love to take photos of our children and want to preserve this brief slice of childhood nostalgia before they grow up. Your garden is the perfect place to capture some playful and sweet everyday moments. Barefeet on the grass, plucked daisies in chubby hands, ice-cream dribbling down their chins; these are the memories you want to treasure.

As a family photographer based in Jersey in the Channel Islands, here I share my top ten tips on how to photograph your children in the garden this summer.

If you’d like me to capture your children for you, I am running a limited number of summer garden mini sessions in June and July:

For £50 these sessions include:

  • A mini prep guide on what to expect
  • A 30 minute session with your children playing in your garden
  • One custom-edited digital image to download, with full printing rights

Further digital images are available to purchase from a private online gallery.


1. Get creative with water play!

In the warmer weather, hosepipes, sprinklers, water trays and paddling pools can make amazing photographs. If you want to freeze the action of the water falling, you will need a shutter speed of 1/ 500 or more. If you have a point-and-shoot camera, put it on ‘sports mode’ which usually has a faster shutter speed. 

Family garden photography Henley-on-Thames

2. Take lots and lots of photographs

Always take plenty of pictures.  In some pictures children will have their eyes closed; in others they will be looking away. You might have missed the focus of the shot, or even the moment altogether. However, a few will be absolute GEMS. I took about 15 photographs before I caught the perfect moment below, as the bubble was about to pop in my daughter's waiting hands. 

Girl and bubble family photography Henley-on-Thames

3. Shoot from interesting angles

By changing the angle of your camera, you can bring interest, depth and meaning to an otherwise plain photograph. Try zooming your camera in along a hammock (like the image below), lying under a swing and shooting upwards, photographing from the top of a slide as they climb it, or standing above them and taking a birds eye view with a wide angle lens.

Girl in hammock family photography Henley-on-Thames

4. Lie on the ground to see their world

Don’t be afraid to lie on the ground to capture your child's perspective on the world. This also means you get an image that feels more connected with the child. And probably makes them smile because you don’t roll around on the ground that often - bonus! 

Boy and dog in garden family photography Henley-on-Thames

5. Pick your time of day carefully

The best time to take pictures is at the beginning or end of the day, when the sun will bathe your children in a soft, warm glow. The picture of my daughter below was taken at 6:30pm. Taking pictures in the middle of the day - in bright sunlight - can create harsh shadows on your children’s faces and cause them to squint. If you find yourself photographing at midday it’s best to find a shady spot in your garden in which to photograph. On a cloudy day, you can photograph at any time of the day as the light will be softer. 

Girl in garden family photography Henley-on-Thames

6. Shoot them as they are (not how you want them to be)

Children lack the self-consciousness that we seem to develop as adults, which makes them wonderful to photograph as their emotions are so real. You need to be ready to capture candid moments, as children are best photographed when they are are laughing, dancing or playing. Or even with a tear in their eye! Here my daughter is dancing to music we had playing in the garden. 

Girl dancing family photography Henley-on-Thames

7. Make your subject ‘pop’

Use as small an aperture number as possible to make the background lovely and dream-like, and yet your subject as sharp as a pin. This means all the focus in on your child. My favourite aperture to shoot at is f/2.8. To keep more of the photo sharp, you’ll want to use a larger aperture number like f/8. 

Daisy crown family photography Henley-on-Thames

8. Capture what makes your child special to you

Sometimes we forget to capture the unique little things that are so fleeting, and yet so ‘them’. For example, I love how my son always nibbles the bottom of his ice-cream cone before eating the top! I want to remember those cute nibbled cones forever. 

Boy eating ice-cream family photography Henley-on-Thames

9. Be a kid, yourself

Be prepared to act like a kid yourself when you are photographing children.  Joking, playing hide and seek, blowing raspberries… anything to get the smiles and natural playfulness. In the photo below, I was laughing and making splashing noises to encourage my son to do the same in his water table. I then kept the camera still and got this shot while he thought we were still playing. 

Boy splashing family photography Henley-on-Thames

10. Focus on the little details

You don’t always have to focus the camera on your child’s face. It can be great to focus on something they are holding, or that is in front of them, for a bit of fun. Get them to hold up a wriggly bug on their hand, or blow bubbles, or show you their grubby hands! 

Girl blowing bubbles family photographer Henley-on-Thames

That's it!  I hope you enjoyed my top ten tips for photographing your children in the garden this summer. Have a wonderful time making memories :-)

Rachel HughesComment