I remember being excited and motivated to capture what I thought would be timeless stunning portraits of my children with my first DSLR camera. My young muses were initially very cooperative, smiling happily for the camera when asked and eager to try new things and explore new locations when a camera was pointed in their direction. I became a stronger photographer along the way, and they became America’s Least Willing Models.
Even the most straightforward shoots started with pouting and ended with tears.
No task was more hated by all parties involved than taking the Holiday Card Picture, where fights broke out faster than my camera’s continuous shooting mode shutter.
I’d eventually bribe the kids with promises of lavish gifts. Lego offers them a car allowance, Happy Meals, and a ride to the zoo if they keep their hands to themselves, appear friendly, and stand still for ten seconds.
The pleading, bribery, and intimidation ultimately paid off, and I was able to get just what I wanted for the Holiday card: one single shot where they weren’t acting like they’d been possessed by demons.
What I didn’t realise at the time was my husband’s 1,000-mile stare, which seemed to tell a tale of years of hard labour in a Siberian prison camp. I consoled myself by reminding myself that the cards were only being sent to my closest friends and relatives.
The Face of Mutiny
Photographing your children isn’t always a fun experience. To be honest, moments like this made me feel like a bad photographer, and even worse, a bad parent.
But I’m a stubborn woman, and I refused to give up on my dream of taking beautiful pictures of my children that didn’t have to be painful. Visit techmong.com for more photography and vlogging tips.
I retooled my approach to photographing my children after realising that my strategies weren’t effective if its not Ai. I won’t pretend to convince you that we don’t have bad days, but things are generally much better.
So, if you’re having trouble taking good family photos without the drama like I was, here are some tips to try when photographing the most sought-after and challenging models on the planet: your own children.
1. Deal with them as if they were an expert.
I’m a portrait photographer, and my portfolio includes photographs of my children.
Although I, like every parent, want beautiful photos of them, I ask for a lot more than the average parent taking a few pictures.
My kids don’t get paid for doing chores around the house, so I made this one special: it’s not a job, it’s an opportunity.
I reasoned that if they realised how valuable they were to my company and how well they were paid for their professionalism, their attitudes would change – and they did.
My son riding in an old truck with the sun setting behind him in a family shot.
2. Make a stopwatch.
As I wanted to improve my photographic relationship with my children, I had to admit to myself that I had flaws.
My boys have been burned a few times when I’ve promised, “Okay, just one more shot…” only to find out it was a lie. It wasn’t that I was trying to deceive anyone; I was really in the moment, having a good time, and I didn’t want to quit. This resulted in a serious lack of confidence.
On my cell, we’ve now set a timer. 15 minutes is EXACTLY what it says on the tin.
If they’ve kept their end of the bargain (no battles, pouting, following directions, etc. ), I’ll make sure to keep my promise no matter what.
3. Enlist the assistance of your children in scouting locations.
Explain what you’re searching for and why you would choose one location to another.
Bring snacks and beverages, and make sure to leave time to run around. Kids can explore a place in ways you never anticipated, and the results can be fascinating.
4. Purchase props that they would enjoy.
Do your children enjoy playing with bubbles, balloons, or kites?
Engage them with props that pique their interest and make them eager to participate.
5. Purchase a wardrobe that they will adore.
When I gave my youngest a slicker and rain boots and told him he could play in the puddles, he was ecstatic.
After a rainstorm, a child plays with a fallen leaf in a puddle.
6. Provide them with a storey if you have an idea for your shoot.
Pretending is enjoyable regardless of age, and even my tween enjoys helping set up a scene for a shoot.
When I’ve done vintage-inspired sessions with my boys, for example, I’ve told them about what was going on in the world at the period we’re portraying, the historical significance of a place, and even trivia about the plant and animal life in the region.
7. Choose poses that will enthral rather than bore them.
Pose them in ways that would naturally engage them, such as with a pet, exploring nature, or demonstrating their dance steps.
When children are engaged in activities that they enjoy, they enjoy posing for photographs.
Allow them to take photos of each other – or of you!
When the roles are reversed, even if only for a few minutes, the process can be a lot more enjoyable.
It can be a perfect way to introduce a new art form to your children if they are responsible and interested. And the more a child comprehends something, the more involved he or she becomes in it.
9. Allow them to be who they are
We can get so wrapped up in getting the perfect frame, perfect pose, perfect wardrobe, and perfect place that we fail to photograph our children as they are in the moment.
Avoid attracting their attention by forcing yourself to bite your tongue whenever you feel tempted to begin “improving.”
10. Ask your kids if they’d like to “star in” a picture.
One day, when my youngest was playing with plastic swords and dragon toys, I asked him if he wanted me to photograph him battling a dragon.
He was overjoyed with the outcome, and the canvas is now displayed in his bedroom.