How to take better photos of your kids and pets with your smartphone

Dog On Couch Lg Phone
Dog On Couch Lg Phone (Image credit: Ted Kritsonis / Android Central)

We know photos are memories, but they are all the more precious when they document how children grow up. Whether it's an occasion or a slice-of-life shot, getting a little camera crazy with your little ones is understandable. At the same time, pets are also family treasures, and capturing them in their element at home is another of life's pleasures. Put those two together and you have some of the more adorable images you can take of two prized possessions. However, we know that trying to get photos of subjects that don't want to stand still can be a pain, so here's how to do it.

Learn the fastest way to launch your camera

Pixel 4 small

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

Every smartphone comes with at least one shortcut to get to the camera faster. On Samsung and Google Pixel phones, it's double-clicking the power button to quick launch it, even when the screen is off. With a OnePlus device, you can do that once you've woken it up to the lockscreen. On LG phones, it's usually one of the volume buttons. Same with Huawei, where double-clicking volume down works by default.

Timing is everything when using a camera with kids and pets, and a quick launch can make a huge difference in capturing the right moment. Learn that feature on the phone you have to take valuable seconds off any photo opportunity.

Don't ever use the flash

The LED flash on any smartphone is terrible, and for that reason alone, you should avoid it. There are other factors, too. Particularly with pets, flashes can make their eyes look almost like a ghoulish green. If you've ever seen that before, it's because the flash reflects from the back of the retina and makes pupils glow. This doesn't affect just dogs but also cats and other domestic animals.

On top of that, the flash will ruin any natural light coming in, and create horrible shadows. It makes photos look like poor quality Polaroids, rather than images with character, so just avoid it. Not to mention it may startle or disorient the pet in the photo.

Be candid about it

Kid And Dog Candid

Source: Shutterstock (Image credit: Source: Shutterstock)

Kids and pets rarely stay still to pose for any photos, so getting candid shots isn't the hard part — it's staying focused on your end as the photographer. You know intimately well how the two interact with each other at any given time, so whether it's a tender moment or a playful one, the images aren't about a perfect pose.

There isn't a perfect way to capture these moments simply because you're trying to get them as they happen. Be stealthy about it. Neither subject has to necessarily be looking at the camera, which is the part that makes this a little easier to manage. If you want to be a little more sure of your luck in getting the right shot, consider using burst mode.

You can shoot in burst by holding down the shutter button, which can take dozens of photos in seconds. Preview them after and see which ones you want to keep while discarding the others. Doing this with a Pixel triggers a feature called Top Shot that takes a short video and splits the clip into still images. The AI will select the ones it thinks are the best of the bunch, but you ultimately choose the ones you want.

Bear in mind these types of images are harder to pull off in low-light conditions. The reason why is because the camera will automatically lower the shutter speed, so if they move around a lot, expect a fair amount of blur. Candid shots work best outside or in good natural lighting inside. If your phone has a Pro or Manual mode, learn how to adjust the shutter speed and ISO for light sensitivity.

Change the perspective

Baby with keyboard

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

One thing about kids and pets is that they usually look up at you. Their perspective is from a different level and you can get some interesting shots by alternating angles to play up on that. For example, try going low and shoot them both with a slight tilt upward. It shows them from a viewpoint that you don't normally see them in.

Alternatively, you can also capture them from above at a higher angle. If they're playing together, stand over them or shoot from the stairs as they're in their element. The same is true if you get closer and fill the frame with both their faces. The softness of children's skin and a pet's fur add something warm to an image. However you might interpret it, be it innocence or something else, those details make a photo truly precious.

Keep shooting and shooting

Much of photography with these two particular subjects is about experimentation. While they may be difficult to pose, they aren't likely to get tired of being photographed in their respective element. All the more reason to be creative with angles and perspectives. You will likely come out of it with more than a gem or two.

Much as you would want them to exercise some patience, you also need to keep that in mind for yourself. You won't get the perfect photo every time, but the more you learn about your phone's camera, the better prepared you will be, and the better your photos turn out.

Ted Kritsonis
Contributor, Audio Reviewer

Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar. Often times, that will be with a pair of headphones or earbuds playing tunes. When he's not testing something, he's working on the next episode of his podcast, Tednologic.