Photographing your children can often be a real challenge and more often than not a frustrating rather than rewarding experience.
Everyone with young kids, knows that those little critters (especially toddlers) are totally unpredictable and can ruin anything if they decide to do so…They don’t like to sit still for anything (and certainly not for a picture), they never stop moving and getting a genuine smile out of them while looking into the camera seems impossible. That does not make them bad children, that simply makes them children!
So instead of fighting against it, learn to embrace it and the result will undoubtedly show in your pictures. Whether you are using your iPhone or a professional camera, here are 10 tips for capturing genuine childhood memories.
- Let Kids be Kids
All that kids want to do is play and run around. The worst thing you can do is ask them to stop what they are doing, tell them not to move and smile … it literally never works! And the more you are trying to force them to do something, the more uncooperative they become. Instead just let them be a little, let them explore and simply follow them around and see what happens. Let them scream, let them run, let them play… let them be kids! They are happy and you will be surprised about the genuine moments and natural expressions that you will be able capture.
- Make It a Game
A kid will always cooperate if they feel like they are playing a fun game, so don’t make them pose, make them play instead. Peek-a-boo, follow the leader, ring around the roses or simply asking them to have a race towards you are perfect examples of how to capture a smiling face with young kids effortlessly.
- Put Them in Charge
Most kids genuinely love to help and show off as they crave your interest and attention. Offer your kids to get involved: let them decide where they would like to stand, how they would like to pose or who they would like to be in the picture with… or ask them to show you their favourite tricks or talents. Putting your kids in charge of what they want to do almost always leads to genuine emotion and photos that truly show your child’s unique personality.
- A Tickle or Toss Works Magic
For very fidgety or grumpy kids a visit from the tickle monster or a toss in the air from dad works magic. Get your partner to throw them in the air or ask siblings to tickle each other – it always results in great natural laughter and so much joy!
- Bribes, Baby!
Let’s just call it positive incentivisation… every parent knows it typically works when all else fails. I’ll be the first to admit, that if I have something specific in mind and I need them to cooperate I may bribe them with a small treat, a balloon, a toy or letting them watch their favourite TV show. If you are having a professional shoot done, take a few little treats with you and hand them out as needed.
- Give Them Something To Hold
Especially shy kids often feel more comfortable holding their favourite toy. It gives them comfort and something to do instead of just having to sit still. It also naturally distracts them from the camera and what you are trying to do. When you are out and about tell your child that they may pick out any rock, flower, bug or stick they want and can keep it forever! Act like their little treasure is the most special item you have ever seen and watch the spirits and cooperation levels lift instantly.
- No More Cheese, Please.
Sadly, most kids have been conditioned to say “cheese” as soon as they see a camera pointing at them and I think we can all agree that “cheese” smiles are simply terrible. If you really do need a quick smile then rather ask them to say something like “Monkey” to elicit a more natural smile. Depending on your child, more silly words, like “Poop” do the trick as well and they often actually make your kids giggle genuinely.
- A Butterfly In The Camera
Obviously, sometimes we want photos of our kids looking at the camera… so here is a little trick: ask them if they can see the butterfly in your camera and they will look right into the lens, every time, which allows you to get great close-up shots. If they say they can’t see it (which obviously, they can’t), ask them if they are sure, so they will keep looking and you can keep shooting!
An alternative for a professional camera is a “shutter monkey”. It’s a little soft toy monkey that fits around the lens. It not only naturally draws their attention directly into the camera, it also encourages them to say “monkey” instead of “cheese” 🙂
9. A Fake Laugh Never Hurt Somebody.
A fun way to get natural smiles is to ask everyone silly questions and ask them to do a loud, fake laugh. Those fake laughs often turn into real laughs, and then you can get great pictures with genuine smiles.
Hire A Professional Photographer That Works With Kids… A Lot!
By all means I encourage you to take as many phone pictures of your kids as possible to document and preserve their childhood memories. They grow up so fast and you don’t want to miss any of their milestones. However, once every few years invest in hiring a professional photographer to take your family pictures. It not only provides you with high quality professional images that are great for printing and decorating your home, it also ensures all of you are in the picture together.
When choosing a photographer look for someone who has their own kids and/or has plenty of experience photographing kids. An experienced kids/family photographer will connect with your children on their level, getting them to collaborate happily, which makes for great, natural family pictures, but also ensures that your time together becomes an enjoyable experience for the whole family. (Happy kids = Happy parents.)