How to Take Amazing Digital Photos of your Kids (or Anyone Else)

by : Ravi Jayagopal

Children and a Camera - probably the most difficult, but creatively satisfying way of archiving your life's wonderful moments.

Shooting pictures of children can be more difficult than getting a shot of that awesome dunk or the spectacular home-run hit, because a sports moment is probably more predictable than the expression of a child. It's almost like trying to hit a moving target, except you don't know when your target will show up, and which way it will move!

But rest easy - amazing advancements in digital photography, both in terms of technology and lower prices, have made it possible for your special moments to be captured with far better accuracy and detail than ever before. Newer cameras with improved photo resolution and shutter speed, with the help of spectacular low-cost lenses, help to make it easier for both professional and novice photographers to take excellent pictures. When these features alone cannot help take the picture you want, fancy software that comes for free with the digital cameras lets your alter the pictures to do full justice to the moments they capture.

Many believe that great cameras take great pictures. Well, there's both good and bad news for you - the good news is that you don't need a $2000 camera and a $3000 lens in order to take an amazing picture; the bad news is that you - the photographer - are the one who can single-handedly make or break an amazing photo - all by yourself, just with your "eye" for photography (or the lack of it).

Any photographer worth her salt will tell you that when it comes to taking good photos, timing is everything. There is a very small window of opportunity to capture a truly great shot, and whether you're after that exhilarating sunset, or trying to capture that all fleeting expression on your child's face, your fingers must have precision, timing and an intuitive sense of when to click. It is tougher than it looks, and that's why photography is an art.

Similar to the famous saying, beautiful pictures lie in the eye of the photographer, and not in the camera.

Famous photographers charge thousands of dollars to take a picture. It is not because they have better cameras or expensive lenses (even though that does matter, but not as much as you probably think), but because they know what to focus on, and when to click.

Most of us only come close to getting the ideal shot, never fully realizing it in the end. More often than not, our pictures have most of the elements, but fall short in a few key areas: Perhaps you frame your subject well, but the lighting is just a little bit off; or perhaps the lighting is good but you forgot to include a flash or use red-eye reduction.

This is where modern digital photography becomes a necessary component in taking the perfect photo. Within minutes, just about any picture can be edited to reach its full potential when it is created with a digital camera. Automatic color enhancement, red-eye reduction, and zoom and crop features that go along with taking digital photos are just a few of the many awesome features that digital photos have to offer. With these tools in easy reach, taking beautiful pictures has become easier than ever.

It is then a no-brainer that you should be buying a digital camera, and not a film-based camera, for obvious reasons: you can shoot as many pictures as you want, repeatedly, till you get that perfect picture, without having to worry about burning through tens if not hundreds of dollars worth of film rolls, development and printing costs. Plus when shot using popular formats like RAW, the things you can do to your pictures before you print or publish them, are mind boggling.

All you need is to find the right camera. You want a camera that offers great pictures as well as easy options for downloading to your printer or computer. You can edit your pictures as you like with commercial programs like Photoshop or Corel, or with software that comes with the camera, like Canon's EasyBrowser.

Technology has advanced so much and there is so much competition amongst camera makers, that the prices are now so attractive which makes it very hard to mention money as an excuse.

The hardest choice then becomes what 'type' of camera to buy:

- a Point-and-click (that has a built-in, permanent lense), or

- a SLR (Single Lens Reflex - whose lenses can be removed and changed).

Point-and-click cameras are meant for the average person, who doesn't want to be bothered with too many options or choices - someone who wants to just point at the target, and click, and be done with it. The average auto-focus camera comes with an in-built zoom lens, has a little flash bulb, has a little screen behind the camera where you can see the full frame of what you are about to shoot, as well as a preview of the photo after you've shot it.

They take great pictures, no doubt. But they can, in no way, be compared to the pictures taken by the slightly more expensive SLR cameras.

An SLR camera comes with the ability to switch lenses, so that you can choose the right lens for that super-close up picture of that bee pollinating a flower, or the perfect wide-angle lens to capture the entire view of the Grand Canyon from where you stand.

Other features that make a SLR a much better choice for taking great pictures that last a lifetime, are:

* Built for speed - Super fast start-up speed so that you never have to miss that perfect moment because it took your camera 20 seconds to get to ready-to-shoot state.

* Accurate "what you see is what you get" picture when you compose your shots through the view finder instead of the LCD display. In fact, the LCD display on an SLR will not show you a preview of your current composition, but will only show you the photo after you've shot it.

* A wide choices of lenses: You're not stuck with just one lens like you would with a point-and-click camera. You have the option of buying and using a variety of lenses to match just what you are about to shoot.

* Better pictures in low light - Due to the ability to vary aperture, a SLR lens can open the aperture long enough to let in more light in low-light situations, or click faster in a very-bright situation (like a bright overhead sun).

When you are ready to buy your digital camera, you need to take the price into consideration, but it is more important to think about the features of the camera that you buy. It is the features that will help you to make the most of your pictures. You will not need an feature filled camera if you are only using it for recreational purposes. However if you plan to do a lot with your photos, you will want a camera that offers the right features for you.

Even though I own a Canon Rebel XTi myself and cannot recommend it highly enough, here are some digital SLR cameras to consider:

Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi:

This is what I own - a 10.1 MP (Mega-pixel) camera that takes phenomenal picutures, and offers a great combination of performance, ease-of-use and value. It comes with a 2.5-inch LCD monitor, a integrated cleaning system featuring a self-cleaning sensor that vibrates the sensor to shake-off dust, all of this in a very light, ergonomic body.

Nikon D80:

This is a 10.2 Megapixel camera with instant 0.18 sec. start-up, and fast 80ms shutter response. Allows continuous shooting at up to 3 frames per second and up to 100 consecutive JPEG images. Takes about 2,700 images per battery charge as per Nikon. Has a similar 2.5" LCD color monitor with 170-degree, wide-angle viewing. A little more expensive than the Canon Rebel XTi.

Sony A100:

A 10 Megapixel CCD, that has quite similar features to the Canon and Nikon, like Anti-Dust system, 2.5" LCD amd 9-point autofocus. The distinguishing feature of the Sony A100 is the Super SteadyShot® image stabilization feature that moves the CCD to compensate for camera shake. This will come in handy especially when shooting in low-light situations, where the aperture opens more to let in more light, which means it could take a lot longer for the "click" than in normal-light conditions, and both the photographer (you) and the targets (your kids, friends or family) have a greater tendency to not stay still for that few precious seconds.

Canon and Nikon overcome this by incorporating image stabilization features into the lens, instead of into the camera itself like Sony does. This leads to slightly more expensive lenses, but some believe that lenses do a better job of handling "shake" rather than the cameras themselves. So, this is one more thing for you to consider while making the choice between say, a Canon and a Sony.

Finally, the bottom-line is cameras can only enhance a great picture - they cannot create it from scratch. You are the one who has the ability to elevate an ordinary shot into an extraordinary one with your sense of timing, angle, and composition. So, depending on your own internal "brand" preference, any of the above cameras would make a great choice.

To see how others have shot pictures of their little ones, check out the world's cutest baby pictures at . Afer that, head over to, read the reviews, do your research, and take your time in deciding which digital SLR is right for you.

If you are thinking that deciding which camera to buy is a difficult task, wait till you have that beautiful camera in your hand, and you wait for your little one to come up with that same expression that he had on his/her face last week, when you missed taking a photo because you had a slow and tedious point-and-shoot camera in hand!

Take amazing pictures that last a life time. Get a digital SLR.