Any of you have a child who is frustratingly difficult to photograph? I mean, ALL you want is for her/him to sit still, look at the camera for TWO SECONDS and say “cheese!” with a non-fake or forced-looking smile. Is that too much to ask for?!? Being a photographer myself, I used to work so hard for those shots of my clients’ children by hollering their names, making funny sounds, and violently waving objects above my lens with my other hand to grab their attention (more for the toddlers). After feeling discouraged that I couldn’t get a perfectly posed and smiley picture every time, and looking through the footage of my photo shoots, I realized that the real magic happens when you take spontaneous shots instead. They show true emotion and the pictures seem more honest and therefore, more beautiful. So, I decided to do less forced-smile pictures, and more natural pictures of kids doing their own thing. If you are able to get your children to look at the camera and give a genuine smile, that’s awesome! But if this costs you sweat and money (by bribing them that you’ll buy them a toy or take them to Chuck-E-Cheese if they cooperate with you), there’s still other ways to capture photos of your kids that you will cherish forever. Here’s some tips to help you capture some memorable photos of your littles without breaking a sweat. (Ok, you might sweat just a little).
- Keep the camera handy. Keep it close by so that it’s easy to grab when you catch something cute or funny happening because if you say, “Stay right there, I’ll be right back” then “do that again” chances are you will ruin the moment. Also, if you can remember, keep your camera in your purse when you go out and about with them. You just never know!
- Set the Stage. If there is a certain picture you know you want…make it happen without them knowing your plan. This is called anticipating. For example, if you want a picture while baking, clear the space you’ll use to prep beforehand in (good lighting) and “set the stage” with everything you need so that you’re ready to snap some shots when your child is mixing the ingredients or licking frosting off his/her finger.
- Give them a prop. When you’re not setting a whole scene, give your child a prop or a favorite toy to hold. Sometimes they need to be focused on something and be entertained, rather than standing and holding nothing. It also makes the picture more interesting.
- Play. Put the camera down for a little while to be silly and play with your kids. Tickle and laugh with them. Let them enjoy their favorite toys, a yummy snack, or let them play with the dog then start snapping up pictures. Strive for emotion, not perfection. If you keep waiting for everything to be perfect, you’re going to miss out on what you were going for in the first place…a great non-cheesy picture of your child!
- Lighting. It’s key to be in good lighting. In my opinion, children look their best when photographed outdoors in natural light. Just avoid harsh light in their face and backlit situations. The best time is the last hour before the sun sets (golden hour). If you are at home, open the curtains and blinds to get some natural light in. It makes a BIG difference. If your little one is in front of a window and backlit, try taking the picture from the side so that he/she won’t come out too dark. With toddlers especially, it’s worth making the most out of natural lighting and avoid using a flash whenever possible.
I hope these tips help you to capture some nice photos of your little ones. How awesome to have a wall or photo album of nothing but photojournalistic-type photos of your children. (I’m working on mine!) I believe it’s more unique because it becomes more of a documentary of their life rather than portraits.