The truth behind the camera--5 hints to get kids to be genuine.

8:20 AM

The other day a close friend of mine said to me, "All of the pictures of your kids are so genuine. They always look so happy." Yes, it's true, both of my kiddos are genuinely happy kids but when it comes to all of their photos, I have to be truthful here...what you see isn't always reality. gasp. I know.

Often times while I'm "working" (as in being a photographer) I need to get a specific shot or I need to capture a certain mood in order to portray what I am trying to teach or demonstrate. More often than not I'm using my own kids to take the pictures. And also more often than not, they are not particularly thrilled to be my personal models. Shocking, I know. :)

SO needless to say, for me to capture those natural, happy, real shots (that I love) I have to put a little effort into it....especially with Maddie. She can be a hard cookie to crack.

And because I like to be "real" I have to admit...if my kids are not "looking" or "acting" the way I need them to, I have (and will probably will in the future) resort to:

and my personal favorite...bribery

have you ever resorted to any of these tactics?

Sometimes it works like a charm! (especially bribing Lyndon with candy!) But frequently it backfires and if they are not "in the mood" or are forced to do something or act a certain way it will always come through in the pictures. Which in turn I get pictures like this:

Not exactly the pictures I'm hoping for. 

If bribery, begging, pleading and threatening doesn't work what do you do? 

Glad you asked, I've come up 5 ideas and tips to help get those happy, natural, cooperative pictures that we all strive for. Here you go...

1. Let the shoot be about them. (at least them them think it's about them!)

So many times I make the mistake of rushing around the house grabbing things for the photo shoot and at the last minute (after I threw the clothes of my choice on my poor child) I rush them out the door racing against the sun to capture the perfect picture with the perfect lighting. But unfortunately I missed out on a key component...letting my child participate in the shoot rather than just being another prop.

I've found that if I include Maddie and Lyndon in my planning and not just instruct them where to go, how to stand, how to look, where to look etc...they are far more likely to cooperate. So in the planning stages I will talk to them about what I'm doing, why I'm doing it and if they have any idea's they would like to add. (On many occasions I've used their useful advice!) When I slow down and let the shoot actually be about them I'm usually 95% more successful than if I just tote them along against their will.

2. Let your child help in picking the location of the shoot.

This may not always work but at least they feel they are being a part of the action. I like to tell my kids what kind of "mood" or setting I'm looking for and then ask them where they think we should go and take the picture. It makes them feel empowered that you would want their input on such a big decision.

If their suggestion isn't feasable, I simply tell them the truth about why that particular place won't work. i.e. " That's a great idea! However, the light just isn't good at that time of the day but maybe we could use that place for another shoot."

Here's an example of when I needed some certain pictures of Maddie. She wasn't in a particularly helpful mood that evening so to get her on my side I asked where she wanted to go and take the pictures. She came up with the idea for us to go and see the trains and get some pictures there. It turned into a win/win situation.

3. Use fun props.

This always proves to be a huge success. Not only are props fun for kids to hold and use but for a shy child (like my Maddie) in their minds it helps to take the focus off of them so they aren't so self-conscious.

Here are some examples of when using a prop came in handy to capture their genuine selves:

Here are some more examples of using fun props: Balloons and cupcakes and recently the mustache Valentines.

4. Show them several of the pictures on the display screen throughout the shoot.

Most every kid I've met loves to look at themselves. So that is why if I'm coming to a road block where I just can't seem to get them to look or act natural, I tell them that after every 5 pictures I take they can come and look at themselves on my display screen. Works like a charm. every time.

5. During the shoot continuously talk to them, asking them personal questions and making funny comments.

Like I mentioned previously, many kids are just plain self conscious and don't feel natural in front of a camera. SO obviously if they don't feel natural, they certainly won't look natural. So that why I try to constantly keep a conversation going. I try to ask them questions like, "So what's your favorite tv show now?" or "How does Kermit really feel about Miss Piggy?". I also will start singing one of their favorite tends to keep them on their toes.

By having a light and easy conversation with them it takes the focus and pressure off of them and helps them to relax and be natural. And then you will hopefully get some pictures to turn out more like this:

I'll admit, there are some times it seems that NOTHING will work. And in that them my puppy dog eyes and begging usually does the trick. (if not, at least it will make them laugh.)

(NOTE: Want a step-by-step cheat sheet for crisper, colorful and eye catching pictures? Download the Key to Pictures Cheat and stop guessing on your camera’s manual settings.) landing-page


Carolyn at Moose Mouse Creations said...

Thanks for more great advice! I actually love the largest photo when your daughter wasn't cooperating! Some of my favorite pics of my 5 year old are his pouty "you are not going to get me to smile for another picture" poses - but nothing beats a big old genuine (or candy induced) smile!

sassy said...

Perfect advice and I just ordered your book! had a hard time deciding between e book or paper :)
I so wish I could go to vegas for a workshop in person :)someday I will!

Pieces of Sunshine said...

Wonderful. I'm not a fan of "posed" shots, your tips help make a positive outcome much more likely.

Altax said...

Lovely tips and awesome photography.

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Hirsita Dixit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jessica Lucas said...

I love your work - I can't wait to invest in a better camera. You do a great job. I will be ordering that book now, I think! I didn't realize how much better my photographs could be until I started my blog.

jess @

Hirsita Dixit said...

This is Very Help Full..........So nice & Great Post...Thanks....
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