Monday, April 12, 2010

Taking Portraits of Kids...

I am not an expert in portrait photography. But I have been taking our own portraits for well over three years now. Some sessions have gone very well, some have gone very, very badly. None-the-less, I do think that I have learned quite a bit from these little teachers of mine and my confidence in the task is definitely growing. I thought that I would share some of my tips and tricks with you today.

  • Build excitement around the portrait session: I have found it helpful to let my kids know that on such-a-such a day, we would be taking their pictures. I try to involve them as much as possible by telling them what they're going to wear, where the pictures will be taken, ask for their input, etc. By letting them in on the planning and the process, they are much more willing to be on board {dare I say, perhaps even excited} when the time comes.
  • Use props: And by props I mean fun and interesting objects that will take their attention away from the fact that they are being photographed 500 times. Try to choose objects that fit in nicely with the theme or image of your portraits. Also, it helps if the children can play and interact with the props. This allows you to get a ton of natural shots and if you're photographing siblings {or cousins, friends, etc}, you can get plenty of shots of them interacting together. You may remember in Maya's 1-year photos, I let her play with yarn balls and wooden spools. For Layla, we used a tea set. But may I suggest balloons, balls, dress-up, funny hats or glasses, pots and pans, scarves, flowers, etc.

  • Follow their lead: If they are tired of using the props, let them do something else. Ask what they would like to do next, where they would like to have their picture taken, what they would like to hold, etc. Ultimately, if you are trying to push through and making the kids do something they are not enjoying, it will come through in your photographs. Plus, kids have some great ideas. And they are much more willing to cooperate if they feel like they have some say in what is happening.

  • Let them do their own thing: Trust me when I tell you that you get a ton more usable shots of children being themselves then you will of children you are trying to pose. Learn your camera and get good at taking shots of kids in motion. Let them do what comes naturally and be there to capture it all.

  • Talk to them: Undoubtedly, I am not the type of person who cares if my kids are looking into the camera and smiling. But it is nice to have one or two of these shots in the mix. But rather than making silly noises or asking them to say "cheese", talk with them about something that interests them; something that makes them happy. You're more likely to get a natural smile and you won't have to keep begging them to look at the camera. Ask them about Santa or the Easter bunny, or their favorite TV show.

  • Know when to call it quits: Sometimes, at the very beginning, you can tell that the kids are just not into it and it's not going to work out. Be okay with walking away and trying another time. You don't want your kids to associate having their picture taken with being unhappy and making you unhappy {trust me...been there!}. But also, if you've gotten some good shots and the kids seem to be getting tired, and you've tried to switch it up already, then just call it a day. I will often ask after a while "do you want to be done or would you like to pose somewhere else?" Once again, letting them call some of the shots will get you a lot more cooperation.

  • Compose your shots: Pay attention to your angles and decide where your focus should be. For most shots of my kids, I sit or kneel when I'm taking their picture. I like to be right at their eye level for most of the pictures. But then I like to play with my angles; shooting from above or below...even behind. You end up capturing details and parts of your kids that you'll want to remember long after that day.

Ultimately, when working with children, you need to make it about them. If these portraits are all about you, what you want, and how you want it done, your kids just really aren't going to be that into it. Who would? If you show respect and appreciation for who your kids are and what they need, they will shine and so will your portraits. And most importantly, have fun!


Cassie April 12, 2010 at 4:03 PM  

Oh goodness. Can I tell you how much I identify with this post? I worked in a busy portrait studio for two years and not everybody understands that sometimes you just have to say "well it's not going to happen today." So many mothers try forcing it.. and I understand busy schedules but sometimes.. they just rule the day.

I really really love these pictures!

Camilla~ Bloom April 12, 2010 at 4:07 PM  

This is a GREAT post...very informative. I too used to be a portrait photog some moons ago...and starting out, I would have loved to have read this post- it's so helpful and so true!
Thank you for sharing.

brittany April 12, 2010 at 7:44 PM  

great tips! I've been trying to figure out how to manage my whole clan for a photo shoot and I keep getting nervous and not going through with it. I'll keep your thoughts in mind--thanks for learning for me:)

and what beautiful children and pictures.


Corinne April 12, 2010 at 8:43 PM  

Thank you for the tips! The shot of the stretched toes is my favorite.

Kris's Kaptured Moments April 12, 2010 at 9:53 PM  

Fabulous advice...Thank you for the post..The images of the girls are quite stunning..I love the sweetness of each expression.. The tippy toes shot is pure joy..

Feather April 12, 2010 at 10:13 PM  

i really appreciate these tips! i love to photograph my children, but have never set up a "photo shoot" with them because i think it would be too difficult, or there would be to much whining, or they would be just...pills! but you gave me some awesome tips. i love the prop tip best, and making a date to build from. thank you thank you thank you!

Hyacynth April 12, 2010 at 10:29 PM  

I really enjoyed reading this. I'm desperately trying to learn to use my new camera ... so much so that I forget when taking pictures that there are things about taking pictures that don't have to do with the camera! ...Like involving my kids in the decision making for the photographs or talking to my oldest about things that excite him instead of bribing him to smile or look at the camera. Great list. I will be consulting this as I want to do some outdoor spring shots Wednesday. Thank you!

Beth Simmons April 13, 2010 at 12:04 AM  

Thank you for posting these very helpful tips! I love all of these images. Your work is always enchanting!

Divas and dreams photography blog April 13, 2010 at 2:41 AM  

Wow..thank you for sharing all that information... I really loved reading all your tips..great!!!
You are so good with your portraits and I think you are a pro!!!! Beautiful pictures all of them :-)

Jamie April 13, 2010 at 6:13 AM  

Your girls look adorable! I can't wait to use some of your tips on my niece and nephew.

{Amy} April 13, 2010 at 2:01 PM  

Fantastic pictures of all the girls, you must be so happy with how they turned out.

Thanks so much for the pointers! Neither of my kids really enjoy me taking their picture (at all) so I always down-play it and try to act like it is no big deal but I think next time I will actually try to make a big deal of it and make it a special day for them.

janine April 13, 2010 at 4:55 PM  

These shots are nothing short of stunning! Love the light and the angles and the bare feet :) Great advice too, especially the letting it go parts - oh how many times I've done that!

Karina April 13, 2010 at 8:14 PM  

wonderful tips and amazing portraits. I am so guilty of "forcing" my little one into getting a good shot....but I always love the natural laughs the best. I'm going to try "setting her up" for success by letting her choose some of the details the next time. Thanks for the insight.

Kim Klassen April 13, 2010 at 8:26 PM  

oh wow, such a fabulous share... soooo soooo good! the images.. AMAZING!!

sigh....♥ kim

Cindy April 13, 2010 at 9:18 PM  

Just stumbled in...
Wonderful photos and wonderful tips!
I am just beginning and need all the help I can get!:)
Thanks so much!
Enjoy the day!

Kristi April 14, 2010 at 11:03 PM  

Maegan thanks so much for the great tips! I have a hard time trying to even get a picture of the blur that is my 3 year old. So maybe I'll have to try some of your tips. Thanks again!