I took pictures at the park today of a darling sister and brother. They are children of a friend of a friend who heard about my photography business. When the children's mother called me, she said, "I just can't seem to get any decent pictures of my kids!"
It is a common complaint I hear from parents. I understand completely because it is hard for me to get good posed pictures of my kids. From my experience there are some ways to make it easier -- here are my tips:
- Clearly communicate what is going on to your children. It might sound obvious, but even little ones really need to know what is happening and what is expected. When I decide to do a photo shoot with my girls, I usually tell them at least a few hours in advance and explain each step from getting ready and what I want them to wear, to actually taking the pictures. It is something parents naturally do when taking their children to a pro to be photographed, but often forget to do when trying to take pictures themselves.
- Provide an incentive for good behavior during the photo shoot. Another common parenting trick, but it works. Whether it is the promise of playing at the park after pictures or a special treat, the anticipation of something more fun than picture taking really helps. You can call it bribery if you want, but I call it a motivated, smiling child.
- Take pictures in full shade. On sunny days, going to a location where there is lots of full shade makes your job as a photographer easier (without all the sun spots that always end up on the end of noses and chins). You won't have to worry as much about where to put your little subjects to avoid weird and distracting shadows. Cloudy days are ideal, but can get too dark, inevitably popping up the auto flash on your camera. Get to know your camera if you are serious about taking "pro" pictures of your own kids. There are so many tricks to this trade.
- Work fast and have reasonable expectations of your children. I usually get my best portraits in the first 15 minutes. I pose them quickly, already knowing in my mind what I want. If you wait to set up props and things, you'll lose them to distractions for sure. Move on when that pose gets old, knowing that the window of cooperation is very short, even for well-behaved, motivated children. I once took a group shot of 10 children from 1 year old to 4 years old and the very first picture was the one that turned out the best. And if at first you don't succeed, try again another day, maybe at a better time for your children.
- Work with an assistant. Although I often do photo shoots with my own kids by myself, it is much easier if my husband is there too. Nobody can coax a smile out of them like Daddy! Clearly communicating with the person who is helping you is essential too or you will end up with lots of pictures of your children smiling off to the side or an assistant's hand in front of the camera. My photography is easy when I am doing it for other people because I am always working with the children's parents -- the best assistants. It works because I can concentrate on posing and lighting while the mom and/or dad works on the smiles.
And if all these tips still reduce you and your children to a pile of tears and blurry photographs, give me a call! It is such a blessing to me to be able to take pictures of children. A captured moment is a treasure. Whenever I meet a new family, I am struck by the beauty in children and I think of the quote by Louis Pasteur: “When I approach a child, he inspires me in two sentiments: tenderness for what he is, and respect for what he may become.”