Getting Kids (and Grown-Ups) to Cooperate for Photos


Hello, friends!
I’m coming to you from sunny California, where my crew and I just completed our cross country move.  I’d love to say I took lots of photos of our journey but, alas, only my phone camera made its appearance.  Sometimes the craziness of life keeps us from focusing on photos, and that’s OK.
Now that we’re getting settled, I’m back to give you some ideas for making your photos better. (Whether you use a DSLR or camera phone!)
It's summer, and I'm sure you’d love to get some amazing photos of your time.  But, maybe the young people in your life couldn't care less about getting photos.  And even worse, they are bothered and uncooperative when you grab the camera.

I wish I could say this never happens to me.  I wish I could say my kids are completely cooperative and happy when I grab my camera.  But it's just not true.  See above for just a small sample of what I experience.

But fortunately, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve to share with you.  Hopefully, they can help you to capture some great moments with your crew this summer.

1.  First, DON’T get them to cooperate.  Let’s take a few steps in their sweet little shoes.  How would you feel if you were engaged in your favorite activity (maybe building a Lego castle) and someone interrupted you, told you to stop everything you were doing and look at the camera????  I bet you'd be annoyed. That’s how our kids feel, too.
So for my first tip, rather than ask them to smile for a photo, just take the photo. Don't interrupt.  Capture the moment as it is, trying not to attract any attention from the kid if you can help it.
Some of my favorite photos are of my kids engaged in their activities.  I'm able to capture them and life as is, not posed for the camera. Sometimes that might involve some creative positioning on your part.  You might have to lay on your belly or stand on a chair to get the correct perspective.  But that can add to the interest of the shot, too.


2.  Remember to keep being the mom (or dad).  With your camera in hand, act the same as if you didn’t have it.  Keep talking, listen to stories, and pour the milk if they need it.  I totally understand that it takes concentration to think through everything you know about photography to get a great shot.  But, if your kids know you’ll ignore them once a photo session starts, they won’t like the camera.
3.  Hold the cheese.  You know your “say cheese” smile isn’t your best smile, right?  The same holds true for our offspring.  Telling them to “say cheese” produces, well, cheesy smiles. 

True, in tip one, I suggested you DON'T make your kids look at the camera and smile.  But there are times we want the shot with great eye contact and a genuine smile.  In these moments, I get the genuine smile through the genuine laugh.
So make them laugh.  This is the time to pull out all the stops.  Feel free to use potty humor or ask about stinky feet.  I’ll often have my husband help me out on this one.  He’ll make a super silly face with his head right next to mine.  My kids will crack up, and I’ll get some great expressions in my photos. 

The photo on the left was taken while my kids were looking at the face on the right.  


4.  Be ready.  If you want to take some photos and get some cooperation, have everything ready before your subjects show up.  Remember, patience won’t last long.  Get your settings ready ahead of time.  Sometimes you can find a cooperative “helper” who might be willing to pose while you get the settings correct.  (And if so, praise that person profusely!)  You DON’T want to have to “redo” the shoot or ask your kids to wait around while you adjust aperture. 

Do you have any other tips?  How do you get kids (and grown-ups) to cooperate when you take the photo???

My #1 Tip to Improve your Photos

Registration is now open for the April session of Your Camera & Your Life.  This will be the LAST session for awhile (and the last session in Virginia) because we are moving this summer. (Don't ask me where because I don't know!)  Sign up here and enter code "EarlyBird" before February 29 to receive $20 off!

Last week, I spoke at a local mom's club and shared my top tips for taking better photos of their kiddos.  

The number one tip I shared with them is revolutionary in its simplicity, but I guarantee incorporating this tip will make a huge improvement in your photos, no matter what camera you use.  

The tip is "include and exclude."

Any time you pick up your camera to take a photo, ask yourself the question, "Why am I taking this photo?"  Then, INCLUDE the elements that answer your question and EXCLUDE the elements that distract from that answer.

Let me share an example.  A few weeks ago at dinner, Dennis was reading a book to my kiddos.  It was a sweet moment and I grabbed my camera to capture it.

I asked myself "Why am I taking this photo?"  

The answer: to capture this moment with Dennis funnily reading a story to my three kids.

In this first photo here, I did a terrible job answering the question.  There's way too much going on, and we are unable to focus on the story.  It's just a mess.

In the next photo, I got MUCH closer and I filled my frame with just the elements that really matter, my people and the book they were reading together.  This photo isn't perfect, but it does a MUCH better job answering my question, "Why am I taking this photo?"

I could have gone even closer, but if I went too close, I wouldn't have INCLUDED enough to tell the story.

When you pick up your camera, before you shoot, really think about what you are taking a photo.  What about the scene in front of you should be included and what should be excluded?  

Scan your viewfinder (or the screen on your phone) and ask, am I including all I need to include?  Are there elements of this frame that distract from my subject?

Distracting elements can be a big problem in our photos.  When we look at a photo, our eyes move around. Distracting elements can draw our attention away from the subject.

Look at the photo below to see what I mean.

The trashcan in the middle of this beautiful field is distracting.

IF, there were a trash can in the middle of this beautiful field, Monet would have just left the trash can out of his painting. 

Unfortunately, our cameras don't work like paintbrushes.  EVERYTHING we see through the viewfinder will show up in our photos.  That means we need to be purposeful when we shoot!

We need to work really hard to keep distracting elements out of the frame.

Look at the photo below.  See how the truck in the background pulls our eyes away from my two sweet girls?  If I had noticed that truck before I took the photo, I could have turned my body just a little bit to the left or moved in closer to keep it out.  (I was able to crop this one and get rid of the truck!)

In this photo with Sam, the watch and lamp on the side table distracts us from this sweet little reader.  

By simply moving my body to the left a bit, I was able to remove the distractions.  Now, our attention is on Sam.  

Sometimes we can use a shallow depth of field to keep distractions out of the photo.  Here, the focus stayed on Madelyn.  I used a shallow depth of field and was able to keep the background out of focus.  (If you want to know more about creating a blurry background, sign up for my workshop!)

Give this tip a try.  When you pick up your camera, start by asking yourself, "Why am I taking this photo?"

Then, include and exclude to get the photos you want.  

This tip and so much more will be covered in my Your Camera & Your Life workshop

Where is your camera? (And why it matters)

Where's your camera?

It is an important question and I will tell you why.

The other night, I was giving Sam a bath.  Normal stuff.  

But then Dennis came home from work and decided to jump in the bath.  With all his clothes on.

This was a photo worthy moment for sure!  I could have grabbed my phone to snap this shot.  But, I knew my phone couldn't handle the low light and weirdo color temperature of the bathroom lights.  

So I grabbed my DSLR.  

This photo makes me happy!  I shared it on FB that night, and the next day at work, several of Dennis's friends came up to him and said, "Dude, I saw you took a bath with your clothes on last night!"  Ha!  That makes me happy too.

What's the point of all this?  You need to be able to grab your camera at a moment's notice! Your camera needs to be ready to go so that when these crazy beautiful moments happen, you can capture them.

My DSLR hangs on a hook in my kitchen.  I consider it perfectly secure, out of the reach of little two year olds.  (My husband on the other hand is scared to death that it will fall to its doom but I promise it's totally fine). I'm in the kitchen all the time so it's easy for me to grab.  I have my favorite lens on my camera.  I even think about the settings I might need when shooting indoors (higher ISO, lower aperture).  

You might not want to hang your camera on a hook on the kitchen wall, but you definitely DON'T want it hiding on the top shelf of your closet.  When your crazy beautiful moments happen, you want to be able to grab that camera and capture them.

The goal for today: find a safe spot for your DSLR.  Get it ready.  And then next time you come across a Kodak worthy moment, capture it.

Have a  very Merry Christmas!