If you have children that love getting their photo taken, then I totally envy you! As my son has grown up and developed his own (strong willed) personality, he has also grown more resistant to getting his picture taken. Of course that is fine – I mean, who wants to have a lens in their face everyday? – but as a mother who wants to document our family life, it can be downright tricky at times! However, I have my ways of making sure I can still take lifestyle shots, either by ensuring his co-opration, or by being sneaky :)
So, if you are one of those who have children who either cower or complain when the camera comes out, here are my tips for getting lifestyle images of your children, whilst ensuring that they are still comfortable with it.
1. Photograph when they are absorbed in an activity
I find that if my child is focused on an activity, he doesn’t notice or care about the camera as much. Set up any activity, such as baking or painting, ahead of time, and take any “introductory shots”, such as paint lined up on the table, before you bring them in. Then let them get involved in the activity before you start snapping.
2. Suggest, don’t direct
I generally try just to document things as they happen, and therefore don’t direct at all! I find my son is much more co-operative when he can just get on with it too. However, if there is something that I want done, then I will suggest it so it sounds more like an idea rather than a command. For example, if you want them to lick the batter out of the bowl when baking, say "wow, that batter looks really yummy!" rather than directly telling them to do it.
3. Engage with them
Don’t let your taking photos be the only thing they remember of you!. Take a couple of shots, put the camera down, engage with your child, then pick it up for a couple more. I know it’s tempting to make sure you have captured the activity from every angle, but it’s more important that the picture taking is secondary to interacting with your child – that way they don’t feel that everything is simply “for the camera”. Hopefully then they are less likely to resent having their picture taking, but also so that they are more likely to act naturally so you get more genuine expressions.
4. Go for detail shots
Sometimes when my child is not in the mood for picture taking, he doesn’t mind me taking one or two detail shots instead. Which is fine by me since I love detail shots! This way I still get to document the activity and enjoy taking photographs, but without putting too much strain on our relationship! Also, sometimes I just go around the house when my child isn't even there, and document the little things - the book he is reading by the bed, his favorite toy, the toy cars lined up and so on. (You can read some tips for taking detail shots here)
5. Shoot from afar
If you have a child who does not appreciate the camera, then look at it as an opportunity to try out “wildlife” photography. In much the same way as I wouldn’t want to get up close to a grumpy tiger with a 35mm lens, I have no desire to get that close to my six year old when he is in the same mood. At this point, I step WAAAY back and put on a longer length lens and shoot from the relative safety of the next room. (and if you have a Canon 5D MK3 you have the silent shutter too – genius idea) It might be a little tougher to compose shots the way you want them, but at least you have them!
6. Help create the mood beforehand
If you want images of your child running joyfully in the leaves then don’t except him or her to just rock up to a pile of leaves and start playing and having fun whist you get on and capture it. You need to take the time to set the mood first by creating a fun environment - YOU need to be fun and joyful too, and that will feed itself into your child. Actually, this applies for taking pictures or any children - regardless of whether they are yours or not!
7. Let them get involved
If your kids have an idea of what they would like you to shoot - go with it! Getting them involved in the process really helps with how accommodating they are: they are much more likely to get into something that they have chosen. Or even if it’s not something that you want to photograph still go ahead and do it – having photographs of what they think of as important will help foster their love of photography in general and also give you some ideas of what is important to them right now in their lives.
8. Put your camera down.
I never take any photos when it is clear that my son (or anyone for that matter) really doesn’t want to get their picture taken – whether that be any pictures at all, or when he has just had enough. Respect your child and put the camera down from time to time - go and photograph some shots of their life without them being in the frame, or take photographs of your husband, or get the tripod out and get in some selfies!