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Tips for Photographing Your Own Children

Newborn Baby Photography Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham
Within the photography community there is a well known term called 'Photographer's child syndrome'. Which means that people assume we have hundreds of gorgeous photos of our children, simply because we are photographers (if you could hear me now you would hear me laughing bitterly!). But the reality is that our children are so sick of us and our cameras that they do not cooperate even a little bit when we try to photograph them. Every time I get my camera out with my boys I end up with a few more grey hairs than when I started, it is not easy.

And while this is most definitely a trait of a photographer's child, I've learnt from chatting to lots of families over the years that this is also something many of you struggle with when trying to take photos of your children. Lets face it, children do not generally perform as well for their parents as they do for other adults.

There are ways around it though which I would love to share with you today. So please read on for my top seven tips to getting great photos of your own children:

1) Find the light

This is a blog post all in itself, but I will touch on it briefly here because light is the basis of every photograph.
Some quick tips:
If you're outside, try not to photograph your children in direct sun. It is not flattering and causes harsh shadows and squinting expressions. Instead try to place them in some open shade (this means an area that is shaded from direct sunlight, but where your child can look out of the shade towards the open sky, which will be a much softer and more even light on their face).
If you're photographing them indoors I would always advise turning off any overhead lights as they can cause colour issues and also unflattering shadows on the face.
Instead try to utilise any natural light you have available by placing your child near to a window.

2) Forget 'cheese'

'Say cheese' rarely works for photographs. You usually end up with a forced Wallace and Gromit type smile which doesn't reflect your child's personality at all. So forget cheese. Instead you need to work to get your child to genuinely laugh, and as their parent you are the best possible person to know how to do this. You've got to go all in, it doesn't matter if you feel silly, I promise you when you get those genuine smiles it is totally worth it.

My youngest Rafa is still at the peekaboo and silly noises/songs age. He also hasn't reached the 'fake age' smile yet which usually arrives around the age of three, so I don't have to work too hard to get a genuine smile out of him. George is five and his fake smile is so forced it makes my toes curl, so he is much more tricky to photograph these days. Usually me saying a silly/naughty word, pretending to fall, making fart noises or threatening to catch him and tickle him all work to get a more relaxed expression out of him.

Another great trick with slightly older children is to tell them they are not allowed to smile, and if they do they lose the game. While they are doing their best serious face you have to do your very best to make them crack. George ALWAYS fails at staying serious and the natural laugh he gives when he realises he has lost the game is just lovely.

3) Get them doing an activity they enjoy

This one is so so important. If your children are enjoying what they're doing when you're trying to photograph them then that mood will translate in the photos, which is exactly what you want. If you're out and about let them jump in puddles, paddle in a stream, find sticks and stones, ask them to hunt for birds or bugs. If you're at home you could let them play with the hose in the garden, bake, dance or sing songs. Whatever it is that brings them joy, have your phone or camera ready while they are doing it to capture the genuine mood. It works far better than forcing them to sit in one spot and perform for the camera.

4) Catch them while they're unaware

The candid moments are always my favourites. When they're doing something cute like snuggling on the sofa, or when they've fallen asleep. I may be weird but I've also been known to photograph a couple of fights and tantrums between my boys (I reckon those are the memories that will resurface on their wedding days during the best man speech, so I'm really only doing my duty).
Capturing the candid moments takes minimum effort because they usually don't even know you're doing it. You have to let go of any idea of perfectionism for these types of shots, because usually as soon as you try to tweak it the moment is gone. But they are so very precious and you'll be grateful you captured those memories when they are all grown up (the image below was from last Christmas when Rafa punched the gingerbread house George had lovingly made, causing a huge hole in the back. The fallout from that one was epic).

5) Distraction

Distraction can be key with uncooperative children. The moment they forget they are being photographed is the moment you usually get the money shot. It's very hard to achieve this without a second person to help you, but if you have got someone who can be silly in the background and distract them while you snap away, you stand a really good chance at getting some great shots.

6) Pick your moments

If your child is tired, or hungry, or really into the TV programme they are watching, or the game they are playing, they are unlikely to come away from it happily to perform for the camera. So choose your moments carefully, and accept that sometimes it is just not the right time or even day to try and take photos.
I find preparing them always helps, if I've got an idea for a particular photo in mind I will explain this to George at the beginning of the day. He often gets excited about it then and I let him help me with my preparations. Showing him the photos as I take them always helps too, as he feels involved in the process and is more likely to be enthusiastic about what we are trying to achieve when he can visualise it.

7) Get involved (the most important one)

A lot of parents avoid being in photos for many reasons. Maybe you are waiting to lose weight, grow your hair, buy some new clothes. Maybe you quite simply just do not like photos of yourself and avoid the camera at all costs.

You need to put those feelings to one side and do it for your children.

When they are grown up they are going to want photos of you, not just a million photos of themselves. The moments with you will be THE MOST precious to them. Nothing in life is guaranteed (blimey, if 2020 has taught us anything it is this). So please don't wait, capture those memories. Enrol someone else to hold the camera for you (if your other half is hopeless with a camera like mine then that someone could always be me ;) but that isn't the point of this blog) and get in there with your kids. Cuddle them, tickle them, throw them up in the air. I promise you with all my heart that you will not regret it.

And finally...
When you have taken the photos I beg you to print them. They are no good to anyone just stored on your phone or up in the cloud.
Think about this, if you didn't print them would your children even know where to find them if you were no longer around?
Have tangible copies that you can store in a box and keep safe. There's nothing more enjoyable than emptying out a shoebox of old photographs and reminiscing on a rainy afternoon. Pass that gift on to your children.

I hope that was helpful. Always here to answer any questions you may have, feel free to message me :)

photography  copyrite
Charlotte Christopher Photography
Whitehouse Common Road
Sutton Coldfield
West Midlands
B75 6DT
Tel : 07831 147514
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