How to take better photos of kids
Top Tip no. 1 – Distraction Distraction Distraction…..
I have been doing family and kids photo shoots now for over 12 years, and also have 2 boys of my own (currently 16 and 10). So I know exactly what it’s like to photograph children, most importantly for this blog, to photograph children that belong to you!! I have seen it so many times, the children ALWAYS act up to their own parents and make it nigh on impossible for them to take natural fun photos without pulling silly faces, or turning their backs, or gurning, or sticking their tongue out…ring any bells?
I use this every time I do a shoot with children and in fact with most adults too.. to get the natural image, you must always take the sitter out of themselves and that means distracting them. You want to make the camera secondary to the interaction. Don’t let it dominate…and for goodness sake
DON’T TELL THEM TO SMILE FOR THE CAMERA!!!!
So here are a few ideas for distraction techniques I have used over the years, including on my own boys (one of whom was the type of boy who immediately he saw a camera decided it required a rather gruesome smile with eyes shut!!! Oh joy).
- Talk to them – easy hey? But if you are talking, hopefully (not always the case I know) they are listening…and children have a wonderful face when they are listening to people…beautiful. Just make it something they can relate to . Ask them questions but make sure you take the photo whilst you are talking not when they are replying…talking shots rarely work out. tell a joke, or more amusingly, get them to tell a joke, which usually makes you laugh (probably because it’s so bad) which in turn, makes them laugh
- Get them to make a funny face – if they are like my son and love to make faces – play to this strength and encourage them ..’Jamie can you do a tiger face, Jamie can you do a mouse face’ Invariably they will make hideous grimaces but in between times and when you’re actually saying ‘Jamie can you do a /…..face’ that is when you snap. Hopefully, after a few of these they will get bored of face pulling and move on to something just as annoying but less visually problematic!
- Do something weird – do something that you haven’t done before, or that your child has not seen you do…sing in a silly voice, or pretend your camera is talking, or a great trick for a close up shot is ‘Jamie come really close…now did you know that there is a fairy living in my camera? No? Well there is…but she can only be seen when I click the button…so look really carefully, ready….’ Most children are so imaginative and open to suggestion that they will even be able to tell me what colour the fairy was!! And you get a fabulous intense look from the child.
- Point out stuff that isn’t there…they will look for ages!! – Like Elephants in the clouds, or Giraffe up in the tree!! This also rather pleasingly gets them to look into the light out the window which makes for a beautifully lit image. The only problem you may have is them looking confused rather than interested! Depends on the age obviously!
- Get them to wait for something – I use a balloon. I blow it up and get them to wait in the position I put them in on the proviso that I will be letting it go any second and they have to try and catch it. Again it’s something you have to be quick at as you can only get the shot when they are waiting, you can’t get it when the balloon is released as their hands will be up and eyes to the sky. And as you know they will loose patience if you don’t let it go like you promised!
- Bribe – If all else fails, use bribery…the best I’ve found are the mini smarty boxes, the smarties are tiny, so they are eaten really quickly but kids really love getting them and will do almost anything to get their hands on one!
- Change locations – if they have lost interest completely then it’s time to move…what child will resist when the sentence begins..”Jamie, lets go and do….in the top room/garden/sitting room” delete as applicable! Think of somewhere else you can go and then you can start from letter A again!!
If you have more than 1 child then a great way to get them to interact with each other for a photo, is to get one child (older) to whisper in the ear of the other something “a bit rude” (usually something like ‘mummy’s done a fart’).. this will get a funny reaction from the younger which will set off the older child.. bottom humour wins everytime.
Above all BE QUICK…your child (and most adults for that matter) get rather bored of having the camera pointed at them and not having you play with them, so aim for short bursts of image taking and make sure you follow up on any bribes you have mentioned as believe me, they will remember and they will not believe you next time if you promise them a chocolate!
If all else fails, book a professional!!
Susan Porter-Thomas Photography Family Portrait Photography LSWPP
Good luck, I will do a few more of these blogs to help you out, but in the meantime