photographing your little ones

I’ll be the first to admit that photographing my own children can be different from photographing clients, it seems more stressful and there are definitely a lot more tears, sometimes on my part, mostly for my kids. The last thing I want is for my children to dread when mom pulls out the camera. I want them to cherish the memories we are trying to make and enjoy the time we spend together. I know I am no expert but I just wanted to share some tips I have used along the way when photographing my own children at a planned or stylized session. Since I have young children, this is geared more towards little people with busy bodies and wondering eyes.

1. Set everything up before you even let them out of the car

If your kids are anything like mine, they get tired of me really quick. Most times I do not even tell them we are going to take pictures, I keep it a secret and tell them we are going somewhere fun and new to spend some time together and play a bit. When we pull up, I will pull out all my props, get my settings set and work quick before they discover what I’m doing. When they get out of the car I direct them where I want them. This might not always work, some kids work better knowing but my kids enjoy the surprise.

2. Get the money shot first

Children have a short attention span and you will be most patient when you first start. They will fall for your tricks more easily and they are still happy (hopefully). I set them where I want them and shoot away. I usually put the older 2 in their position first then wiggle the littlest one in there next, usually she wants to do what they are doing so it helps for her to see them first. I have noticed with my youngest she doesn’t like to be touched. So if you are working with older children and younger children, make sure you tell the older ones not to actually put their hands or arms on the little person, put them behind them and lean into them. This will keep the little one happy.

3. Be loud and obnoxious

I have really learned to let go during sessions and just let the crazy noises come out. If you try just talking to your child, directing them, they may be holding still but their little eyes will wonder. If you start making the most random noises you can and as loud as you can (without scaring them) you can usually get their attention. Work quickly, because kids are smart and will realize what you are doing and stop looking. Singing their favorite song usually helps too.

4. Be patient

I think this is the hardest for me. When I go to client photo sessions the kids might be familiar with me, they might not, they might be shy but regardless I am not around them all the time and they do not have their picture taken nearly as much as my children so I can usually bribe and trick them more easily. My kids know all my tricks, they know what they can get away with, they know how to push my buttons. It can be so frustrating but if you try and stay calm, everyone will stay happy.

5. Props are the best

You will probably notice a lot of my pictures contain props. I love props, they give the kids somewhere to sit or stand. Props that are their size are even better, I have found they love exploring my little chairs. Blankets help too, it gives them a cozy place to sit especially if they do not like grass. Pillows work well too and it gives them something to hold on to to keep them still.

6. Let them explore & play

If you want them to stay happy you can’t direct them the whole time. I will let them wonder around while I follow them. This will help you capture some sweet candid photos and detail shots. For my older girls, I talk with them and ask them questions or tell a joke to engage their interest and snap pictures while they are looking at me or I ask them to show something to me. For my littlest who can’t talk yet, I make silly noises every once in a while and when she turns to look or laugh at me I make sure my camera is ready. Sometimes they will pick things up that I don’t want in the picture, instead of taking it from them and putting it away, I will take that item, a rock, a stick, leaf, whatever and ask them if it can take their picture. I will have the item take their picture, get the shot I want then give it back. This works well if they have toys that they brought with them that they just can’t let go of.

7. Don’t push it
Sometimes kids really do not want to do what you are asking them to do, they do not want to sit on a certain prop or near a certain person, don’t force it. Either try something else or give them a little break. I would always have snacks or candy. My favorite candy is smarties because they are small and not messy and there are a lot of them! If things just aren’t going their way, try another day wearing the same outfits.

8. Give them a chance

For my older girls that can take direction, it is a little easier to get them to do what I want but sometimes they don’t want to. Let them come up with their own poses and ideas, act excited about it, then tell them “oh, you know what would make that pose better? Try doing this….” This really helps them feel special and like their ideas are important to you. You can also offer choices, “do you want to sit here or stand?” “Do you want to smile?”, etc.

9. Positive reinforcement

Make sure you are telling them how good they are doing along the way. If things aren’t going the way you would hope, still make sure you tell them they have done good but if they can do just a few more. At this point, If I wasn’t getting the shots I wanted I would start yelling and then things would just go down hill from there. Even if they aren’t doing exactly what you want, make sure you tell them you hope they are doing their best and maybe give them a Smartie.

10. Embrace the chaos

It’s hard to know what to expect with little kids, some days are better than others. Remember you are trying to capture memories, moments of their little lives that go too quickly. Sometimes things aren’t going to work out but if I just stay calm and realize they are little kids, it is easier for me to just embrace what I am getting. It can be frustrating when you try so hard to style the perfect shoot but embrace this time in their lives and cherish the moment. You might even be surprised at how many great shots you ended up with.

I hope you find these tips helpful, these tips can definitely work for client sessions as well. And if you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section!

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