I cannot tell you how many times parents have cautioned me that their child “Doesn’t do well with photographs.” What exactly do people mean by this? Upon further investigation, when I hear this declaration, it ranges from being quite shy to over the top silliness. But most of all, it speaks to a concern they don’t follow directions and say “cheese” on command. It’s not my thing either. Follow along while I talk about my favorite ways as a Spokane Family Photographer to capture genuine, authentic moments with children.
A Bit About my Philosophy as a Spokane Family Photographer
The most important thing when it comes to photographing children is to alter our expectations. Notice, I deliberately used “alter” and not “lower.” I NEVER see it as lowering expectations when photographing kids but more reframing our expectations for the reality of life with children.
Life with children is messy, creative, and emotional. It can be going at warp speed and also painfully slow at times. Whenever venturing to photograph kids, think about holding their space instead of expecting them to adjust to ours.
Consider reminding yourself before a shoot, “I will meet them where they are today and capture the moments I see.” As a Spokane Family Photographer, this is a mantra I repeat before every session.
If you’re interested in more about my philosophy on this, check out this post, Photographing kids outdoors, Perception Vs. Reality. We get right to the heart of perception vs. reality with kids in front of the camera.
Children Love Choices and a Sense of Control
Let me ask you this… “stand there, hold your hand at your hips, and smile.” Does this sound I have given the child a choice or sense of control?
What about this, “Would you like to stand by the tree or the water for a photograph? Check out that water. How far can you throw a rock into it? Awesome! Can you look back at me quick? That was a GREAT toss”.
Both of those conversations could have happened trying to achieve the same image. However, think about the second. The second conversation was focused on giving choices and some control to the child.
They have the option to say “No.” “No, I don’t want to look at you.” And guess what? That’s OK. In that scene, I still would have been able to capture many great moments without the direct eye contact they CHOSE not to give me.
Things that create a sense of control
- Encourage kids to explore their environment.
- Give prompts and ask questions. Limit directions when you can.
- Could you include them in planning the shoot? Ex “Where should we take photos at?” “What would you like to wear?”
- Avoid asking them to look an emotion they don’t feel. I.e., “Look Happy.” It doesn’t work. Trust me.
My Favorite Games and Prompts to Encourage Fun
Often all you need is an environment that encourages natural exploration and a few questions to guide them along the way. However, there are also those times where children, and the one behind the camera, are feeling less inspired. Here are a few of my go-to games and questions that often get genuine reactions.
- Simon Says. This one is tricky because I find myself playing along and NOT ready to take a photo. However, it’s a great game to get movement and giggles out of kids.
- Tell me a joke. My son’s personal favorite. He LOVES telling jokes, and this one gets us both laughing.
- Do your cheeks feel cold or hot? Beyond being a super cute image, it gets children checking in with how they are feeling. It’s a great grounding practice for kids that are feeling nervous.
- Dance and freeze dance. The dance prompt is fantastic for the whole family. Bonus if you can find music to play in the background.
- Go on a nature treasure hunt. “Can you find something green?”
Be OK with Days That Feel Like Misses
I touched on this before, but I’ll repeat it because I think it’s essential. Be OK, and better yet, embrace the days that feel like misses. Those days that don’t feel “Pinterest Worthy” might be even more vital to the story of your family.
This image below is one of my favorites. Every time I see it, the photo reminds me of the day we decided to venture out for some pictures in the fog. However, my son chose to lay on the road and be one with the gravel. Don’t worry. The road was closed for traffic. At the time, I was frustrated but looking back now, I cherish those moments. They all make up our beautiful story.
I hope this post gives you a bit of inspiration to get out and capture photos of your children. Maybe it’s with a photographer like me or even better if it’s with your phone this weekend! Today is the time to take the pictures you’ll want to have tomorrow.
I love to talk about creating dynamic, family photo sessions. Let me know below how I can serve your family!
MB – A Spokane Family Photographer with a passion for capturing those in-between moments.