It is the month of L O V E and somehow my little girl knows it. While this is traditionally the month my husband and I celebrate our love, this little face reminds me that my heart has grown four times since my husband and I met. Three kids and one husband: that’s a lot of love to celebrate!
Our days pass quickly in this house, but I don’t want to lose the moments that make up our life together. I’ve started being intentional about taking photos of my children in their natural habitat. Some people call this lifestyle photography, others refer to it as familyness photography, but the idea is the same. Rather than memorializing forced family photos of children with fake smiles in uncomfortable clothes, why not get photos of your children playing and doing what they love? If you are photographing children in outfits you’ve sewn, I believe this is especially important. After spending all those hours at the sewing machine, don’t you want a smiling child to share it with the world (or just your family) in a photograph?
I guarantee that by using this approach you will end up with pictures of happy children and memories that you can truly cherish for a lifetime, knowing that you captured a genuine moment from the beautiful life you actually lead.
Doesn’t that sound wonderful?
I’ve been practicing this method of photography on my own children for about a year now, and while I’m no professional, I’ve learned a thing or two about working with children. Below, you can read all about the Stuffed Animal Picnic Tea I set up with my three year old daughter to disguise our photo shoot. I’ll give you a few of my tips for keeping it casual and fun while snapping those pics. It’s all about capturing your child in an environment that brings her joy.
HOW TO CAPTURE GREAT PHOTOGRAPHS OF YOUR CHILD
First off, children can smell stress and expectations like horses can smell fear. I’ve found that when I am anxious about getting the “perfect shot” I inevitably fail. Instead of placing unrealistic expectations on my kids, I do much better when I try to capture their beauty as it already is, flyaway hair and all.
My daughter, Abby, LOVES her stuffed animals and dolls. When she asked me if we could have a tea party picnic with her dolls I immediately said YES and grabbed the camera. All we needed were some blankets, tea cups, cookies, a basket, and (of course) an outfit made by mom. We piled it all into the jogging stroller and walked down the road to our lakeside park.
She and I set up the party together, with my two year old running around in the background and stealing all the gingersnaps. Once Abby was settled in with her dolls, I casually pulled out the camera, got down on my knees, and started snapping photos.
Here are some things I did to make it a successful photo shoot:
- I got down on her level. This is something I learned from Davina Fear, and I could thank her a million times for this tip. When I get down on Abby’s level I enter into her world and see it the way she sees it. If I take pictures of her from above, I see her diminished. If I get photos of her from the ground level, she fills the frame just like she fills that space on the grass with her imagination.
- I smiled. Even when she wasn’t looking at me, I smiled. I can’t stress it enough, kids can smell our grouchy moods. Smile and they will instantly feel at easy.
- I talked to her. When I take pictures of my kids, I talk to them almost constantly. I ask them about funny stories, I interact with their play, I tell them why I love them. My ploy is usually to get them to look at me so I can get a good shot of those clear, blue eyes. Speaking of…
- I looked directly into her eyes. When she did look at me I didn’t look into the camera, I looked at HER and held that gaze. I’ve gotten pretty good at holding the camera steady while looking into a my children’s eyes. They can’t make an emotional connection with the camera, but they can make one with me.
- I took at least a 200 pictures. You might think that sounds ridiculous, but we aren’t shooting on film anymore (most of us anyway) so there’s no reason to be stingy with your clicks. Go ahead and shoot 500 pictures if you want! After about 200 photos of this shoot, I came out with about 40 that struck me as beautiful. Getting a clear photograph of a child can be difficult (they move a lot!) so don’t worry about taking too many pictures. You can easily delete the extras later.
- I let her determine the end of our photo shoot. I can usually tell when she is done being photographed. Her lower lip starts to stick out. She turns her head away from me. She lowers her chin and gives me the stink eye. Whatever it is, I watch her mood change like a surfer watches the waves. When her mood is fresh and bright, I catch the wave. When it’s dark and choppy, I hop off into the whitewash and wade back to the shore.
- I introduced props. As you can see in these photographs, she was completely immersed in forcing helping her bunny to drink tea. I’ve also used little cars in photo shoots with my little boy, and am not opposed to hiding candy in her pockets before photo shoots. (That was a huge success in this shoot!).