Her shirt was already dirty, and her braids were getting undone. The teacher was telling her to have a seat for her school yearbook photo. And with the teacher's permission, her mom stood behind the photographer shouting at her child "Sit up!", "Smile!", and the ever-popular "Say Cheese!"
I stood there in line waiting to be next. When it was my turn, I already knew the routine. Sit up, smile, and say cheese. I was in the 1st grade.
When I think back to those days as a child, I remember that being a standard thing to do--and to a mass majority of people, it still is. And to set the record straight, there's nothing wrong with that. But here's how I see it.
Would you rather have a wall full of pictures of your kids always just sitting up straight (or standing up straight) looking at the camera saying cheese, or would you rather have pictures of your kids being--well, kids? A picture that embodies the character and personality of your child, or one that has a story to tell?
Personally, I'd rather have a picture that shows realness. If you agree, which I'm sure you do since you're still with me. ;)
I figured I'd let you in on my top 8 Tips on Photographing Kids.
1. Go Down to Their Level
When taking photos of kids, you want to go down to their level--literally. Take a moment to see the world the way they do. Often times, their point of view can be more interesting than your average day-to-day views. Not only will you get interesting angles, but when you talk to kids at eye level there's a sense of respect that kids feel. If you took their photos just from way above, they look small, and to them--they'll feel small too.
2. Give Them Something To Do
Just like adults need something to do with their hands, kids need this too. Give them a prop or give them an action. What I like to do with them is if I know they like to dance or being the true nature of kids, they want to move. I give them an action to mimic or try to attempt to do. For example, if I want them to pull their arms nice and wide, I'll joke with them and tell them to try and reach both side of the trees or architectural structure while telling them "keep stretching! You can do it!". This gets them to think we're playing, and I usually get a few smiles out of it.
3. Play Games
What fun is taking pictures of kids without a little play time? Add play time to your sessions or just with your kids. Catch them while they're in their element of play. If I'm at a park, I'll have them hide behind a tree and give them a 1-2-3 warning when to pop their head out, or a simple game of hide and seek works too! The element of surprise is never short of laughs and great genuine smiles. Promise!
Another way to get them to smile which I whip out from time to time is what I like to call the tickle factor. It's the moment riiiiight before you're about to tickle someone that they get super nervous (usually in a good way) and they laugh from the suspense.
4. Let Them Wander
I can't even tell you how many times these kids had me doing laps during our photo sessions! #noregrets many parents tell me the same thing "Oh, my god. I'm so sorry. [Insert Child's Name] usually stays still." And here's my response: "Please don't be sorry. I'm happy [Insert Child's Name] is running around. This gives me more playful photos. And you're not the only one. I promise." So, here's the thing. When kids run around and wander, they have a sense of exploration which I love photographing. The glow and adventurous feelings, it translates through the images. So let them wander and explore!
5. Let Them Make Faces (It's Okay, I Promise!)
Okay. I have to tell you a quick story. When I used to work as a studio portrait photographer--you know, the ones inside a department store where your mom would take you and your siblings to take photos while dressed up all in matching clothes? Yeah, that kind..sort of.--when I used to work there, I would hear moms and family members tell their kids... "Don't make ugly faces. Say cheese! But smile! Omg, don't make that face!" Haha, as much as it sounds funny , I'm sure those kids were so confused. Of course genuine smiles are #best, but honestly, the funny ugly faces are pretty great too! Those photos are especially gold when the kids are older and you can show it to your kid's friends as blackmail (No? Is blackmailing not cool? Haha, good thing I don't have kids, then. Lol).
6. Let Them Interact With Each Other
If you're taking photos your kids, try some shots of them socializing. See how they socialize with other kids, siblings, or even adults. It's cute when you can see how kids (especially the younglings) converse with adults--and check out their hand gestures! That's fun too. Catch them talking to other kids and telling secrets. To get them to laugh, you can always throw a little joke out like, "are you talking about me?" That usually gets them to laugh while still in their "secret-telling"-pose.
7. Don't Forget the Details
Getting pictures of the details completes the story. Picture this (pun intended), your kids at the beach, you're taking family pictures. Now, add details shots of the sandcastle that your kid's building, the sand all over their feet, the seaweed they caught, and even the sunset. All these details give others the story--the feeling of being there. So don't forget them when you're out next time.
8. Let's Be Real
One of my favorite things about taking pictures of kids is they are unpredictable! Because the nature of children, there's only so much patience and willingness kids have for being in front of the camera, speaking from experience. They will get antsy, they will throw tantrums, cry for their bottle (or snacks) or make grumpy faces. And all of that is okay! Take those pictures anyway. Haha. It's all part of the process. Family members will enjoy them just as much. But at the end of the day, you gotta give it to them. They were great little models. And modeling is hard work!
At the end of the day, take photos that make your heart melt. Take photos that will make you laugh, and smile and all that cheesy heart-warming stuff. Then, put the camera or phone down, and enjoy your unplugged time with these kids. I hear they grow up so fast. Don't miss it!
I hope these tips are helpful and give you a little insight on my own personal experience working with kids.
If you'd like to schedule a photo session with me to get beautiful images of your little ones, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am a...
Los Angeles native.