Today so most of us have a camera at our disposal at almost all times in the form of our smart phone. There really is no excuse for not taking more pictures of your kids. My kids, both the girl and the boy, have always loved looking through pictures of themselves as kids. They may whine when I take them, but they love them later. If you are a parent (or grandparent) and have ever begged your kids to say “cheese” you know that whine of which I speak.
I am going to offer up some tips in a series of posts over the next couple of weeks on how to take better pictures of your kids. Not only will I give you tips on making it less painful for you, and them. But you will very likely end up with pictures that you love even more than the “cheesy” ones where they are gritting their teeth and yelling “CHEESE” and then “are we done yet??”
1: Do you really want pictures of CHEESE?
No, me either. You know the one, with that fake smile they give when you call their name and tell them to look at the camera. I often hear parents say “give me a real smile” or “give me a good smile.” Kids, by nature, want to please us. So from a very young age they are often trained to give a staged smile when the camera comes out. But the real feelings of joy and happiness may not be behind that smile, resulting in that fake “cheese” smile. Instead of staging a fake smile, take some time to chat with your kids about things that they love, tell a funny joke, talk about things that make them smile, or just act silly. My favorite smiles of my son are the ones where he is laughing at me making a fool out of myself or talking about his amazing goal in the last hockey game. Real smiles are a given if they are enjoying the experience.
2: Sometimes is about the quantity.
Don’t be afraid to take a ton of pictures. Today all you have to do is delete the ones you don’t want. The likelihood of getting an image or two that you love greatly increases when you take 200 pictures instead of just 20. If you are at your son’s soccer game and want some great pictures to share on facebook, or to include in that perfect scrapbook page, take a lot of pictures during the game, from different locations and angles around the field. I get caught up in chatting with the other parents too, but if you spend the time to take a lot of pictures, you will very likely find some in the mix that you love, or at least like. While I love taking pictures of my adorable clients, my favorite subjects are still my own kids. So to get pictures I love, I have a camera available at all times. If you have a bigger camera, keep it loaded with a memory card and the battery charged. If you use your phone, remember to pull it out and snap away. While I suggest taking a lot of pictures to help guarantee taking a few you will end up loving, don’t forget the outtakes and the cut off heads. Sometimes those are fun to look back on, too. We still chuckle, 23 years later, when looking at pictures that my mom took of my daughter as a baby. She often had the whole room included and my daughter in the bottom corner. That was her. So sometimes what you may think of as a “mistake” or “one to toss” could end up being a very fun memory down the road.
3: Let them express themselves!
This includes so many ideas and ways to think about pictures. Smiles are wonderful, but my favorite photos of my son are often of different expressions. I love the ones of his belly laugh, head thrown back in hysterics. Or a very thoughtful expression he has as he gazes out the window on a train ride we took on vacation. The look of concentration on your daughter’s face when she is trying so hard to tie her shoes or learning to ride her bike. Even the disgusted expression my son gives me when I ask him to smile for me on vacation. The smiling picture ended up on the holiday card, but the one I look at and chuckle over, more often, is the one of disgust. It is so him! A fun idea for a photo shoot is to let your child make the silliest faces they can. What a fun idea to take a series of pictures of their different expressions. You can ask them to make their best silly face, their best mad face, their best surprised face. You can print them all and make a photo collage to hang, or a very fun scrapbook page. Don’t forget to keep snapping away between the silliness because I bet they are laughing and having fun. You are likely to capture a real genuine smile in there, too.
4: Keep an eye on the time.
Keep in mind that kids have short attention spans. Something fun, or even just tolerable, can turn to torture for them in mere seconds. They may also be more willing to cooperate if they know there is a limited amount of time. The phrase “Can you help me by letting me take a few pictures for 10 minutes, then we can make muffins” will go over much better than “We need to get some pictures taken for the holiday card. I don’t care how long it takes me, we aren’t going to stop until I get something good.” Yeah, the last option doesn’t sound like a lot of fun to me, either. Give them a time limit, and then stick to it. I also suggest including something fun after they have cooperated. Don’t forget to take breaks. If they have cooperated with you for 5 minutes, let them run around for 5 minutes, or go check out that little stream, throw some rocks in the pond, whatever. They will be more likely to do what you ask if they feel they will get to do something they enjoy, too. You may also get some great pictures of them while they are doing their own thing.
5: Kids just want to have fun.
Let them play. Get down on the ground with them and snap away while they are playing with their legos, playing on their Xbox, rummaging through the dress up box, or baking cookies. Not only does this document things that they love, and of them having fun, but you will very likely get some great expressions. They don’t always have to be looking at the camera for it to be a great picture that you, and they, will love. Use different angles, sit on the ground, shoot from above, get different perspectives. Don’t forget the details in their activities, it helps to tell a story.
6: Get them involved.
This tip works well to this day, even though my son is almost 12. I will keep using it until it doesn’t work anymore. Every fall I take his “school” picture outside. I love the fall colors and later afternoon light. It isn’t his favorite thing ever, I know this. To help this a bit, I try to involve him in the shoot. I ask his opinions on locations, poses. I have also been known to ask him to design a whole photo shoot around some idea. One year it was hockey. He loves hockey, it is his life. We took his gear to the studio. I let him dress up in it and told him to give me his best intimidating expression as if he wanted to make the other team shake in their skates. He had a blast! Best of all, he loved the pictures. It was who he is and he felt he got to pick the theme. This could be a fun idea for your daughter and a group of friends, have a fashion show, play dress up, have them pick out their favorite outfit. The more you can get them involved, the more cooperative they may be.
7: Don’t flash me!
Turn off the flash. Just try it sometimes. Natural light is so nice and flash is, well, so FLASHY! It can result in blown out white faces, dark backgrounds, red eyes. Take pictures in a well lit, bright room. Go out side in the early morning and later afternoon and evening a couple of hours before sunset. Or take advantage of that cloudy day, it is a natural light diffuser. Take pictures by a window, it provide some lovely light on the face.
Stay tune for more tips next week on taking better pictures of your kids. It shouldn’t be a painful process for them or for you. While they still may not love it, after including some of these tips and ideas, they may be more willing to let you snap away, and they might even occasionally have fun. The best tip of all though, is just take pictures. It is your life, their life. The only bad pictures are the ones you miss. Happy snapping!