Mathew on His Third Birthday

We celebrated our youngest member, Mathew, and his third birthday yesterday at home with his siblings and grandparents (above). I managed to take his portrait between strenuous bouts of cupcake eating, candle blowing out, and present opening.

This morning we were at another party for Mathew at his pre-school, Step One, where Mathew wore a Thomas-the-Tank-Engine crown (below).

Mathew on His Third Birthday 2

Here are all of our family at the Step One party for Mathew:


I don’t feel I can take as much time post-processing photos of my kids as I can with photos that I’ll publish in books or sell as prints, but here are some general tips for kid photography.

Get down on level with the kids. Make the same effort to connect with a child who is your subject as you would with an adult whose portrait you are creating. Connection is easier to accomplish when you are down on the floor with the kid rather than way up there like some giant.

Consider boosting the ISO rather than using flash. This makes your photography less disruptive than with a flash going off in everyone’s face, and avoids problems with redeye and blown-out highlights, while still allowing you to capture motion. (And kids are constantly in motion.) ISO 640 is a good light sensitivity setting for indoor candid photos of kids.

Use noise reduction software in post-processing (Noise Ninja works well for this).

In the photos of Mathew, I reduced the noise on a Photoshop layer, masked the layer, and painted in his face. I did the same thing with a bit of luminance sharpening, using the Unsharp Mask on the L channel in LAB mode. This selective noise reduction and subtle sharpening creates a kind of halo effect around the face of the child. Sharpening only the luminance channel in a photo creates a more flattering and less harsh effect than using Photoshop’s Smart Sharpen filter. Selective layer masking restricts the effect to the child’s face.

Last, but not least, I candidly confess that I cloned the cupcake and cinnamon toast off Mathew’s face, and enlarged the catch lights in his eyes.

Most important of all, in Mathew’s words, “Me had good birthday!”

Related story: Dropped in His Tracks.

Posted in Kids, Photography