Getting Authentic Expressions from Children at Your Photo Session
My Top 4 Steps to Getting Authentic Smiles
Are you tired of seeing the same stiff, posed smiles in your children's photos? Do you long for genuine expressions that capture the essence of your child's personality? Are you worried about your moody toddler or angsty pre-teen? As a professional photographer who specializes in working with kids, I can tell you that getting those authentic expressions is easier than you might think! Here are a few of my secret weapons to help you get the best photos of your little ones:
Tip #1 Be Prepared
When you are thinking about having a photo session with a small child there is a little more prep work involved than with a typical portrait. First we need to make sure that they are comfortable. This means that the children are dressed in clothes that they can run around in and shoes that don't pinch their toes. Also consider the weather. Being in Missouri, we all know that it can be 80 degrees and snowing in the same week. So utilize layers to help with last minute changes in the weather. Gloves, jackets, scarves, and hats make for cute layering pieces for a photo session.
Next we need to make sure they are fed. We don't want to start a sunset session right at your normal dinner time and they haven't had anything to eat since early afternoon snacking. If our session falls around a meal or snack time, please make sure to feed them a little bit early to make sure we don't have hangry kids looking to cause trouble.
Lastly, help them be well rested. As the ever coveted "golden hour" changes from 4:30pm to as late as 7:30pm there are time of the year that we may want to start shooting close to bed time. In order to utilize the beautiful soft light of sunset, try to get a late nap in on the day of the session so that kiddos can be well rested for those later summer start times.
And one last note, as much as getting your self ready for a photo session is difficult (and getting the kids ready too!), please do your best to stay positive about the session and don't arrive in a cranky mood, dads especially. Kids read everything we do and if they are getting the bad vibes from you then we are already starting off at a loss.
Tip #2 Let Them Be Themselves
One of the biggest mistakes parents and photographers make during a photo shoot is trying to force the children into a specific pose or expression. Instead, I try to capture them doing what they love. Let them run around the park with their siblings, doing tickle fights with mom and dad, playing peek-a-boo, or explore this new environment you are shooting at. By doing so, we will be able to capture their true personalities and get those unique expressions that only you as a parent will notice. The sweet way that she scrunches her nose when she is concentrating, the way he looks up at mom, the big smile that brother gets when he sings his favorite song. These are the memories I want to capture. These are the reason I started doing photography and I want to give that gift to each family I work with.
Tip #3 Get Down on Their Level
When photographing kids, it's essential to get down to their level. This allows you to capture the world from their perspective, which can lead to some truly amazing shots. Plus, it helps to create a connection between myself and your child, which can lead to more natural and relaxed expressions. I always try to introduce myself to your child as soon as we meet. I treat them just like an adult because who really wants to be treated less than that?
Tip #4 Games and Props
I have an entire library of fun games to play at my photoshoots for all different age ranges and personality types. I will say that bathroom humor is a number winner when it comes to getting some big laughs from the kiddos and a close second is me making an absolute fool of myself. Peek-a-boo, singing songs, talking about booger pizza, who in the family is the stinkiest, tickle attacks on parents or siblings, running under the blanket, etc, etc. Parents are often joining in on all the fun as well which makes the photos even more magical. Props can also be a great way to get your child's attention and keep them engaged during the shoot. I think that if a child has a special toy that they absolutely love, bring it along. Why not capture this moment in time when they have that special blanket or bear. It doesn't need to be in every image, and I usually will save that as a last resort, but looking back how precious is it to see their tiny hand holding that teddy bear?
Tip #5 Be Patient
Remember, kids are unpredictable, and they have their moods. Some days they might be more cooperative than others. So, it's essential to be patient and go with the flow. If they're not in the mood to be photographed, we will take a break and come back in a few minutes. I am often letting kids get up and go run around in the middle of the session. It's actually a great time to grab a long needed photo of the parents, or get individual shots of the rest of the family. If we are trying to get a "smiling at the camera" shot I always try to follow that up with a game or a big break because those are always the hardest shots for the littles ones to endure. Often the adults want a little break too but don't get frustrated because, remember, they watch everything you do and you chose me to do the hard job for you and I pride myself on getting those authentic expressions.
For a recap, capturing authentic expressions in children's photos is all about creating a comfortable and relaxed environment. By letting your child be themselves, getting down on their level, keeping it fun, and being patient, we will be able to get those truly magical shots that you'll treasure for years to come. And if you're looking for a professional photographer who specializes in working with kids, I am your gal. Lets work together to capture those special moments that you'll cherish forever.