Let me start by saying I am NOT a professional photographer. I am pretty sure that goes without saying, but wanted to let you know early on this will NOT be a technical post with recommendations for camera settings, lenses, equipment, etc. Let me follow-up by saying this…I wish I was a professional photographer. I long to be so knowledgable about my camera…to know exactly what to do to get a certain shot, a certain look, or achieve a certain effect. To have all the right equipment…lenses, tripods, lighting, reflectors, the list goes on. Nope. I am just a mom with a camera who wants to capture “moments” with her kids.
I have “that” child…the one you CANNOT tell to smile because you will get the cheesiest, dorkiest, worst possible smile. It started when he was really young and at first, it was super cute. At first. Seven years later, and we are still struggling. Ugh. Love you Aaden!
Now, before you start judging me and thinking how awful I am for saying something like this about my child…have a look for yourself.
Seriously? Throw me a bone here!
I have found the only way to get a genuine smile out of him is for him to be genuinely happy. Whether he is with his best buddies, playing in the sand at the beach or ready to dig into a piece of birthday cake…it has to be authentic.
So, over the years, I have compiled a few “go-to” ideas to capture these moments.
What kid can resist a pile of leaves? Every Fall, I am amazed at the joy my kids get from playing in the leaves. When the leaves start to fall, I grab for my camera. It can be a little tricky with the kids moving around so much, but there are a couple of things you can do to get a good shot. Try to stay in one spot and keep clicking. Have them lay in the leaves, or hide in the leaves and pop out. Ask them to grab as many leaves as they can and throw them up in the air and capture their expression as the leaves fall. At this point, they are so happy, you can probably ask them to stop and get a genuine pic.
2.Water Balloon Fight
My kids go CRAZY for water balloons…I mean, seriously crazy. So much so that I have to fill them the balloons in private and surprise them. Otherwise they maul me as I make them and beg to take just one…just one…fifty times. The next thing you know, I have spent an hour filling balloons and have nothing to show for it. If you are looking to capture some moments of true happiness, fill your cooler with water balloons, invite a few neighborhood kids over, and let them loose! You have to be quick! Have your camera ready before you give them the balloons…they go fast! In my pictures, you can see I don’t really get a front-on shot of their faces, but their expressions are priceless to me. So, I will take it!
I am always looking to get that perfect picture of the kids sharing a tender moment. When I “stage” the scene, it never works. So now, I just tell the kids to get close to each other. I say something like “go put your cheek on Addy’s cheek” or “see if you can put your nose on Aaden’s nose”. Ask them to hug, put their arm around one another, look at each other really close up, etc. It totally works. The pictures I have captured doing this have been some of my favorites.
4.Take a bite of something
I don’t know about your kids, but 99% of the time, my kids are happy when they are eating some of their favorite treats. So, I get out the camera. It is almost as if they are proud to show me how they eat it. Some of these pictures will turn out silly…and that’s ok too. What I really love about the food pics, is the eye contact you get from the kids. They look right at the camera. Give it a try.
Lay on the ground. Ask the kids to make a circle around you, put their arms around each other, and have them lean over you. They will think it is kind of fun, so their smile is usually genuine.
I know one thing…kids like to make faces. Put a camera in front of them and ask them to show you their happy face, mad face, sad face, silly face, serious face, etc. You will not be disappointed with the result. Keep your camera in the same position and keep snapping. This is also a good way to the kids out of a “cheesy smile” funk. Suddenly, they are naturally smiling and laughing because of the faces they are making. And, if you need to really get them motivated, let them see the pictures while you are taking them.
Need I say more?
Be discreet…but get the shot.
Whether you are at the beach, at the park or in your home, kids are happiest when they are playing. Don’t miss out on these opportunities. Sometimes, the best pictures are the ones you capture without them even knowing.
One last thing I will say is this: It is ALL about the lighting. If you can get outside to take some pics, you will love the result. In fact, a cloudy/overcast day is, hands down, the best lighting for pictures.
Those are some of my tricks…I would love to hear about how you get great pictures of your kiddos!