When Sarah, owner of The Studio 29 Designs, asked me to write this blog post, I was just absolutely thrilled! A lot of people have been asking lots of questions on how to photograph different aspects of life and looking for photography advice. So, Sarah asked if I would share with everyone my tips, tricks and ideas for photographing children at home this holiday season and really, any time of year! I'm NO pro by all means, but I do have a couple of pointers and tricks up my sleeve that have seemed to work for photographing my 7 and 4 year olds over the past few years! I promise that I'll keep this short and sweet and hopefully it won't be information overload! :) I have a few very basic tips, then at the very end, a couple more advanced. I also did snap pictures of my kids while decorating our tree to give visuals along the way so hopefully it helps explain things a little better! But remember, these tips can be used for any occasion or season. It doesn't have to be Christmas!
First off, the biggest thing with kids, obviously, is that they hate the day when it come to put on those itchy christmas sweaters and pose in front of a dozen giant bright umbrellas. I personally don't like it much myself! The idea of the perfect pictures has been set in the minds of all of us that it has to be the perfect pose, with the perfect backdrop, with the perfect lighting AND the perfect smile. WRONG! When your kids have as much character as mine do, get them out of the studio and let them be themselves! I find that I capture the best memories and moments when I just let them be who they are. My little peanut, Jordan, loves putting the candy canes on our tree. So, when it came time for them, I was ready, camera in hand, to start firing away! He decided he wanted to give this one a quick "hug" before he put it on the tree. If he was my only child, this would be the christmas card picture! lol....but since he's not, we'll just blow this one up for at home! :)
If you are looking to capture a moment similar to this, be sure to always have your camera ready, in hand, with the power on and your finger on that silly auto focus button that we have to hold half way down! Some of the cutest moments happen very fast! And remember...children are not very tall! Get down on their level...we don't want all of our pictures to be of the tops of their heads or with them looking up at us. ;)
My favorite part about photographing my kids is capturing the moments when they are doing the things that they love to do. "Movement" is not always the enemy in photography. This is probably one of my fav's of my oldest son, Alex, setting up our Nativity. This is his favorite part of the whole decorating process....the part he looks forward to doing. So, I know that this was a photo opportunity...one that I had to have for my december daily. When I use photos with movement, I always add a caption or journaling to it so that it explains exactly just what it is that they are doing or what just happened. For example, this one will definately go into detail on how he just put baby Jesus into the manger. And if you'll notice, I'm at his level! Literally laying on the floor! Standing or kneeling sometimes isn't the best solution :)
Another simple memory moment is when they hang that special ornament on the tree...the one that they know has their name on it and that their brother isn't allowed to touch. Find funny moments and don't be afraid to capture those as well! If I hadn't mentioned this, you would have never known that the photo below was of anything humorous because of the fight that happened right before this moment! But with the perfect caption and journaling, this boring photo will definately bring smiles to everyone for a long time.
Don't have siblings? Don't need them to capture the funny times! I'm sure that every tree trimming, holiday or birthday will have that time where someone gets tangled in lights or tinsel...or the silly pose when mom or dad is putting the skirt on the tree...or when the dog snags that corner piece of birthday cake with the balloon on it that all the kids wanted! There's always fun times in every occasion. That's why the number one tip I can give anyone is to make sure "the photographer is always ready!" Because if you're not ready, you'll never have that moment to share <3
Another tip is that it is perfectly 'ok' to shut your flash off. Here is a prime example! No flash on the top and with a flash on the bottom...
The top may be a hare blurry in some places, but in my opinion, it captures the moment better because of the appearance of all the christmas lights around him. It also gives the picture a "warmer" feeling as opposed to the blue, "cool" feeling the flash gives the lower picture.
The final tip I have is to change up the color every once and a while! Change the mode on your camera to black and white or sepia tone! It adds a really cool touch sometimes!
In a nutshell, the basic tips that I have are these...
1. Always be ready to capture the funny moments-keep that camera in your hand if you're adamant to capture the right moment
2. Let them be themselves-forget the poses and let them have fun!
3. Take them outside! Sometimes this gives them the opportunity to feel more comfortable and it gives you the best lighting!
4. Are they camera shy? Tell them to close their eyes, squeeze them really tight and think of something funny. While their eyes are closed, get the camera in position! Then on the count of 3, have them open their eyes and give you the biggest laugh, smile or funny face they can give...chances are, they are already laughing, which gives you the smile you're looking for, AND then they know cameras can be fun!
5. Don't be afraid of pictures in motion. Those always have the best stories.
6. GET DOWN TO THEIR LEVEL!!! Even if it means you're laying on your stomach in the grass! lol!!
7. Photographing babies or infants? Put them in something giant! Like...a big box, a big chair, a big shirt or even big shoes! Captures the cuteness of them being so tiny <3 That also makes for a great photo opportunity when they are older to photograph them again in the same item :)
8. Don't just take one or two pictures of the same moment! Jordan's candy cane picture above...I took it 12 times until I got the perfect one! Chances are, out of 100 pictures that I took of them trimming the tree, I'm only going to print 20 because one thing or another. There's always the time where their eyes are crossed or our finger is over the flash...things just happen! lol!! We are digital now-a-days and it doesn't cost anything more! Just delete it later!
9. Shut your flash off once and a while...and if you're not sure if you should or not, take the picture twice...once with a flash and again without.
10. Change up the color! Turn your colored photo into black and white or sepia tone!
11. And finally....don't put the camera down when they start crying or get tired. Sometimes the cutest facial expressions come from these moments or the moments that follow when they realize that picture taking is finally over and you can maybe catch that moment of celebration with a half pouty face :)