I’ve been asked a few times recently how I’m able to manage successful-ish mini photo sessions of my 3 and 2 year old.
First off, I am not an expert or professional photographer. I am simply a mom who inherited a really nice camera when I got married 5 years ago. My husband had a Nikon from his previous profession, and I stole…ummm, inherited it.
I should say, you don’t need a super expensive DSLR to take great photos. I’m amazed at what point and shoot cameras will capture these days…and smart phones. It’s really all about the editing. For my Nikon I use Adobe Photoshop and for my iPhone I use VSCO and Instagram edits (I don’t use filters though).
Everything you see of my kids was taken by yours truly. Love it, or hate it. So, here are 7 of my tips:
1. BRIBES (or threats, depending on how much of a #meanmom you want to be)
Seems self explanatory but candy doesn’t work for my two. Sure, they love candy just like the next kid, but the issue I have with candy is they’ll cooperate for 1-5 pictures in one single location and then expect the grand tour of Wonka’s factory. If you don’t provide, you’ve lost their trust and ability to perform. If you do provide, you will have some form of nasty chocolate or blue goop on their faces and nice clothes.
For us: the park, playing sports (allll my 3 year old ever wants to do), a favorite lunch time treat, bubbles, coloring, painting…these have all worked in the past. Bribes that can’t be immediately produced. Bribes that can only be retrieved IF and AFTER the kids cooperate.
2. KEEP IT SIMPLE. KEEP IT SHORT.
I actually take a lot of pictures at our house. We have a whitish house with a nice sized front porch. If the kids are wearing something cute or have a cute prop I’ll ask them to step outside for a second for a picture. They last about 3-5 minutes. Sometimes it’s a success, sometimes it’s not. But I don’t drag it out. When they’re done, we’re done.
When we go places for pictures, I really don’t tell them what we’re doing. We simply show up. I let them explore and I’ll snap pictures as they walk, run, jump whatever. Again, keeping the time to a minimum. So like 15-20 minutes. They lose interest easily and they’ll ask what we’re doing and at that point I’ll have to pull out my threat…I mean bribe…campaign to get them to cooperate.
You all. If you follow me on social media you know I’m a huge fan of candid pictures. Even when we attempt pictures of the fam, I’ll tell my husband to not look at the camera just be natural. He probably thinks this is ridiculous…but I love candid pictures so much. Which is great because toddlers and preschool aged kids do not like posing for pictures. Try not to make your kids pose or stand a certain way. Let them be themselves. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll love these candid shots. (Especially when edited in black and white.)
4. TAKE AN ASTRONOMICAL AMOUNT OF PICTURES
I’m talking like 300 in 15-20 minutes. Out of the 300, you may only get 5-10 keepers. In the news business we were always taught to overshoot. Same goes for picture taking. Keep snapping away. Don’t turn your camera off until the kids are completely out of the scene. Either in the car, or back inside the house. You’d be amazed at how many pictures you can take just as they’re walking to the car.
I have mixed feelings about props, but I’ll include it in my list. Having your kids hold things in their hands is fine, but be prepared to have 200 + pictures of that thing in your kid’s hand. My daughter is beyond obsessed with her “meow meow” (Marie from Disney’s Aristocats). I probably have 21,763 pictures of her holding Marie. I don’t need anymore, so Marie “doesn’t like pictures” is what my daughter is told. Recently we took some fall pictures and my daughter really wanted to carry an old basket she found. It went well with her little outfit, so I agreed. If you’re going to let your child hold a prop, make sure you’re going to be happy with seeing it in your pictures because good luck taking something away from a toddler after it was given to them.
6. DON’T TELL THEM TO SMILE. GET CREATIVE!
I learned this one early on. Sometimes they like to stand somewhere and say “cheeeese” but the smiles are fake and they are annoyed. I like to tell my kids “whoever can raise their hands higher loves me more!” Or “whoever can stick out their tongue longer will get more candy.” Or “OMG! The dragons are coming! Hold your sister’s hand and protect her.” The kids actually really love this game of make believe. I even make stupid sounds and fake burp just to make them laugh. (Don’t judge). Use reverse psychology. For example: instead of “Can you hug your sister?” Say, “I bet you can’t hug your sister and count to 3. But don’t make her cry!” I always have to add the don’t make her cry part in. My kids actually think my laugh is hilarious so let loose and laugh. Have fun with it! You want to make it a fun experience for them so they’ll continue to take pictures for you in the future.
7. SHOW THEM THE PICTURES
After you snap a few pics whether on your DSLR or iPhone ask them to come over to you and take a look. My son will actually tell me when he thinks it was a “bad one” and say, “mom, let’s do that again.” Sometimes if I’m just taking pictures of his sister, I’ll let him push the button. Let them be involved and think they are the ones running the show. My kids love to help, and this makes them feel useful.
I’d love to hear from you if these tips worked or what tips you use when photographing your little ones. Feel free to comment below!