June 10, 2020 12 min read
If you are the parent of a small child, I probably don’t have to tell you by now how difficult it is to take a half-decent photograph of them.
There’s just something about wafting a phone or a camera in the general direction of a toddler that seems to induce a transformation akin to Mogwai when they get wet (if you’re younger than 40, Google Gremlins).
Now, I get that this isn’t every child – Maybe you’ve been blessed with one who looks picture perfect in every shot?
Understand that this is rare.
I have one child who the camera loves. From only a few months old, every single camera she saw induced a smile worthy of an Oscar nomination. And wait for it ….. As she got grew older, the novelty didn’t wear off. In fact, she actually asks to have her photo taken.
If this is you, then congratulations! You have many years of Instagram Mummy moments ahead of you.
But bear in mind that she is just one of my children. I have five. Going by my family alone, I personally wouldn’t get your hopes up. That’s really not great odds.
For most parents out there, this is how a typical family photo session usually goes down:
The good news is this a pretty universal small child thing - it doesn’t only happen to you.
Professional photographers get consistently good results most of the time because they’re so experienced. They know what poses and props work best and they’re masters of distraction – but even professional photographers don’t have perfect photoshoots every time.
I’ll tell you a story…..
I have a photograph here of my daughter age 2. It’s part of a set, one for each of the children.
It was early May. We’d gone to a local nature reserve for some family photos and, in the photograph she’s wearing a beautiful white, broderie anglaise dress and her hair is fastened in two pretty pig tails.
The sun is shining, her ringlets are cascading down the side of her face and she’s being held by her Daddy who’s wearing a freshly pressed shirt, looking at her with a smile.
A perfect photograph of a beautiful moment no?
That day, for some unknown reason, she decided she was going to morph into a toddler - tantrums and all, and we realised almost immediately that she was not going to tolerate having her photo taken under any circumstances.
Nothing we did (in sheer desperation) seemed to help and I still have no idea to this day, how we ended up with not just one perfect photograph, but a whole set of them.
Smiling, laughing, running around with her siblings. Cheeky grins and bashful glances – All optical illusions achieved via stealth.
So is it possible to take professional-looking shots yourself …..
The short answer is Yes.
While you might decide that you want to invest in professional family portraits every now and then, you can’t exactly call up a photographer every time you want a cute photo of your little one drawing, playing or reading a book.
You really can take good photographs yourself - even if you have the most camera-adverse child.
And you don’t need an expensive DSLR or editing software.
You just need to remember a few tips and tricks.
21 Tips for photographing small children
Over the last 14 years of parenting small humans, I’ve had a fair bit practice at taking photographs of small children (and not-so-small too).
Photobooks and photo gifts have become something of a default gift. Personal, thoughtful, and beautifully presented.
They also solve the age-old problem of “What on earth do we buy them this time”?
Especially if you have Grandparents who have no particular interests and are really tricky to buy for.
They’re not the quickest or easiest present to give though. Photobooks do take way more time and effort than you think, but still, they always seem to be appreciated.
Just remember that natural is always better. Don’t tell them to stand and look directly at the camera and smile, unless you’re aiming for strange frozen grins and awkward expressions.
So here’s 21 photo hints, tips, tricks and ideas. What have I missed? I’d love to know.
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