As a mother and a portrait photographer, I’ve taken a decade’s worth of photos of children and families. From hosting workshops, I see the common traits that adults and kids generate from being so nervous in front of a camera; they’re disappointed with the shots and it reduces confidence levels.
This led me to author my first book, How To Look Good In Photos. I became fixated on correlating the same pattern of errors people make in posing and positioning and wanted to rectify this. For kids though, it’s not about having your child positioned or posed in a certain style… a completely different set of rules apply.
1. Don’t make children sit still
Since kids have a short attention span, and their excitement ensures they won’t sit still, don’t make them! The key to taking great family photos with young children is to keep them distracted and enjoy the moment instead of trying to have them stay in one particular position or pose. By making them sit still, not only does the photo reduce the great energy that children have in abundance, but it also guarantees an unnatural shot that doesn’t portray their fun and lively qualities.
2. Keep the camera out of sight (where possible!)
I highly suggest that the camera is out of sight from the child’s direct eye line and focus on child engagement as priority. For example, if your partner is taking the photo, then play your kids favourite music in the background. When you and your child are laughing and dancing, have your partner bring out the camera quietly. Don’t draw attention to it, but let it capture the exact moment of you, playing with your happy munchkins.
3. Engage with your child
You can also sing the child’s favourite song and as you’re both in the here and now, the camera is clicking away. The same applies for using props that encourage kids to move around. Maybe you can ask your child to touch your necklace. As the child starts playing with the jewellery around your neck, your partner can click away and create some truly intimate photos you’ll all cherish.
4. Play with your child naturally
If you have a garden with outdoor toys, have your child sit at the top of the slide and you stand at the bottom. Encourage your child to open their arms, as you do, the camera will capture some magical, movement shots of you together, in sequence. You can also use this trick for footballs, swings and climbing frames, making you the objective of their attention instead of the camera.
It’s all about playing with your kids as you usually would, so these moments can be captured by the camera. It’s a great way to show movement and action while the focus is on enjoyment, and not the lens.
Some kids are camera shy so the more you interact with your child as paramount, and the camera’s not making them nervous, they’ll relax and open up. When they finally see the snaps you’ve taken, they’ll start to appreciate the camera and you can slowly introduce them to it. This will build their confidence to befriend the lens so you can then introduce more direct shots.
By using this steady process, you may see kids push their own boundaries and be comfortable when a camera is nearby. It’s important that you maintain the natural, playful environment and don’t fall towards static images again.
5. Play slowly
The trick to nail these amazing family shots? Play slowly. What you usually do naturally such as dancing with your child, will most likely be faster than a typical smartphone or camera can accommodate. So remember to take the pace down a few steps to avoid fuzz in the photo. Snail’s pace is important – keep this in mind. Also try to have as many photos in natural light as this will accentuate the finishing result.