I've chosen to use 100% my session photos for Part 3 because all of these principals are ones I use during my own photoshoots. Every single kid I've come across has had at least one moment where the camera was just too much. So these are all practical tips that I've learned that may help you with your own family snapshots!
1. Don’t push it. If your kids hate having their photo taken, it’s not worth traumatizing your kids for a picture. Obedience is important but you know your own kids best. If they shy away from the camera every time, hide their face, or seem anxious, it’s a good time to put it away. OR ask them to photograph you! I like to try a similar tactic with camera shy kids. When they start shrinking away, they’re welcome to stand beside me or sit on my lap and make silly faces for the subject while I use my big camera. After I get the shot, they get to look at the screen or through the viewfinder.
2. Candids are best. This goes hand in hand with the point above. The reason *so* many kids seem really camera sensitive isn’t just a millennial snowflake thing. They’ve learned over the years that the camera means that they have to stop what they’re doing to smile and look, or that the photographer will be more involved in their phone than engaging with them. Go for the sneak tactic and stick with candids, sprinkled with the occasional posed and smiling photo :)
3. Play games. I love games during sessions at every age! Peekaboo, red-light green-light, races, Simon says, the “don’t smile” game, take their nose, lean in to tickle them just before you take a photo, make silly noises (honestly, I rely very heavily on fart noises with kids and teenage boys!) If you want them looking happy don’t tell them to smile, make them smile! Make the times you pull out your phone for a picture into a good thing.
4. Match their mood. This is one of the most valuable tools you’ll have as the photographer of your child. Don’t try to change their mood until you’ve matched it. We know this about other adults in our lives (no one likes the friend who’s sunshine and rainbows when your day is the pits) but kids are the same. If they’re in a super wiggly mood and you just want them to stand still for 2 minutes, wiggle it out with them! Turn on some silly music and get a dance party going. Are they super cranky right before their “first day of school!” pictures? Give them a little love in the way you know how. Super mellow and camera shy? Spend a couple minutes doing something they love- coloring, picking flowers together, noticing the clouds. Live in your child’s little world before you try to change it.
5. Ask first. I often ask kids in the early elementary age and up if I can photograph them when we’re at photo sessions (this is not effective with toddlers!) It’s a good habit to get into with your own older kids. Yes, they largely don’t have a choice but it’s a good practice sometimes. We as adults don’t like having our photos taken when we aren’t ready and kids are often the same. I usually present it as “Hi [kid/kids’ name] it’s so nice to meet you! My name is Morgan and I would LOVE to take your photo today. Is that okay with you?” I know that we are going to take photos. You dressed them up and got them there. We are taking photos. But I’ve found it’s best to get them on board first. If/when they occasionally say “NO!” I just say “Okay no problem! I’ll take some pictures of [other family members] And we can play some games instead!” As they loosen up and see other family members in the photos and having fun they always warm up to the idea of having their picture taken too. It may seem like I’m adding unnecessary hassle to a session but forcing a kid to get in front of the camera never works. Kids who say “no” were already going to fight the camera. It’s more likely to get them excited about it if they aren’t initially included :) Even if we only get 5-10 minutes of them cooperating and happy, that’s way better than 45 minutes of them being cranky and fighting everything. You have it even better because you’re literally always with them! So if they’re cranky right now, chances are they’ll be in a better mood later.
6. Put your phone away. Finally, the most important thing to do is put your phone away. It’s okay to get a bad photo or no photo or a blurry one or one where everyone is screaming all of a sudden. Just put your camera or phone away. It’s also important to actually live the moment. I don’t have that many photos of my day to day life and I’m okay with that. The photos are a memory tool, not a memory replacer. So take the time to get a picture you like and then put your phone away.
Bonus: After You Snap
Send it to Grandma. All the affirmation you’ll ever need in one place! Let’s be real, she’s the one who really wants to see it.
Only post what you LOVE. Don’t add extra clutter to your life or your friends’ lives by posting things you feel “meh” about.
Edit thoughtfully. I use VSCO for light edits to my phone photos. I never never use instagram to edit. Snapseed is another good one. Just keep things in the realm of the natural ;) Weirdly yellow colored sky, highly saturated grass, and too-orange skin are some of the many pitfalls to avoid in your phone editing.
Print your photos! Just do it.