How to photograph your kids, without tantrums

 This is not a technical guide full of ISOs, shutter speed and aperture information. 

These are a few of my tips on how to enjoy photographing your children from my days of doing family portrait photography.

I have seen far too many families forcing their children to sit still and be photographed and it has got to stop! We are not stuck in the Victorian era, we actually enjoy our kids and we now have the technology to move as quick as they do.

Hope you enjoy reading through this and, as always, I’d love to hear from you, so get in touch (details below) and let me know your thoughts and frustrations when you photograph your kids.

Relax. Create an environment that you and your kids are relaxed in and are happy. There is no point trying to take photos when they are tired and hungry and you are trying to get dinner on and running the bath…that’s just common sense! Capturing who your children are is not a race, take your time, breathe, relax. You need a lot of patience and it is tiring work. Physically and mentally.

(Saying that, have your camera around to capture those magical moments that can emerge from utter chaos and great photos of grumpy kids to use against them when they are older)

Distract them by putting out some of the toys they love, get them playing with bubbles or best of all (or maybe worst?) paints to do hand and foot prints! Just let them play (and remember to…relax!)  If you can, do the activity somewhere where there is lots of natural light as this will give a nice tone to the image.

Get down low so you are at their eye level. This gives a real perspective. Saying that though other angles are good too – lie down or from above. Ask them to show you things as they are doing it. Once in a while make a comment like ‘oh, look up at that big butterfly’ or even shouting, ‘who loves mummy?’ (Now this needs training beforehand because the reaction has to be ‘ME!’ with both arms up in the air, because just one arm just isn’t enough :))

The biggest secret – and it isn’t a secret really is don’t stress about smiles. Don’t get pushy and start  forcing them to look at the camera and the worst thing to do is to keep shouting ‘smile!’, ‘look at me’, ‘smile at the camera’…that just annoys them – wouldn’t it annoy you?? We are so trained to say smile and smile when we look at cameras but we don’t need to. Capturing the concentration with their tongue hanging out or big sister being bossy or amazement at seeing bubbles are all good. Much better than a fake ‘Smile!’ photo.

Get in close to the kids. I don’t mean shove the camera in their face and take photos. For one thing it will distort the face horribly, giving big noses and wide faces! You certainly don’t want that! Sit near them and zoom in with your camera’s zoom. Focus on the eyes and capture all their emotions.

Take in the background. Ideally you’d want the background to be blurry so your kid’s face is in focus and the only attention. But, you know what? Don’t even worry about that. Just try and keep the background free of any distractions if you can. Capturing surroundings can be great when you look back and see old decor, cars, buildings. These photos you are capturing now will be part of social history.

Follow them with through your viewfinder so when there is a split second expression on their face, you can quickly click and you get the photo you want.  Kids are honest and open and have not learnt to hide their feelings resulting in great honest expressions. This is when you physically get tired! Remember to take lots of breaks too.

Get creative and have some really fun photos like playing with scale such as a toddler wearing Dad’s big shoes or carrying mum’s biggest handbag.

Share the love, teach them to take photos and sit back and watch as they record the world they way they see it. It is a fascinating insight to their minds and shows what is important to them.

Take photos from your heart and with love and whatever you capture you will treasure forever. The camera is just a tool, what you take photos of is what is important and what you will look back on for years to come. Trust me, when they are older they will appreciate the time and effort you have taken to record so much of their lives. This is a way to show them how important they are to you and what you’ve been through together.

Enjoy the process of being with them too, not just recording them. These moments you are capturing will include feelings and thoughts. Take some time out to really see them and be thankful for the gift. Really see them and pat yourself on the back for all the hard work you’ve put in. Well done 🙂

Ask them what they think of the photos and if they have any ideas. They can be surprisingly creative and it shows them how important they are to be included in the process.

Don’t stop taking photos of them. Kids are wonderful when they are little but somehow as they grow and we get busier with life, we seem to stop taking random, everyday photos of them (messy hair, slouching on the sofa etc). How they change and grow might not be as dramatic and quick as with older ones so keep snapping away and recording everything about them, their activities, their friends, their messy rooms, their lives.

I promise you, when your kids are older, they will find magic in looking back at old photos, memories and your life together.

Without words, they will see how they were and are the centre of your world and how much you love them.

They will learn what is important in life, treasure loved ones and pass the magic down future generations.

“Photographs are footprints of our minds, mirrors of our lives, reflections from our hearts, frozen memories that we can hold in silent stillness in our hands — forever if we wish. They document not only where we have been, but also point the way to where we might perhaps be heading, whether or not we realize this yet ourselves…”

 Judy Weiser, R.Psych., A.T.R, Founder/Director of the PhotoTherapy Centre