“I’d love to take great pictures of my kids without spending a small fortune on a professional photographer!”… “My kids won’t sit still for even a second!” … “Do I have to go to clown school to get my kids to smile for pictures?” I’m sure many moms out there have had these same thoughts (these are actually the very thoughts I had after my daughter was born, which sparked my interest in pursuing photography as a serious hobby). You’ll be glad to know that there is hope!
No, you don’t have to go out and buy any fancy camera equipment.
No, you don’t have to sign up for every park district or community college photography class available.
And no, you certainly do NOT need to go to clown school!
You simply have to have a camera (point and shoot, basic DSLR, even phone cameras work great these days!) and some creativity! Everyday point and shoot cameras and most cell phones have the ability to do some basic photo editing, too, to create a desired effect (black and white, vintage, etc.). You may not be able to get those bright, eye-glistening portraits like you see in magazines, but you sure can get some great photos of your kids actually being themselves! Remember, don’t think too hard about ideas to get “perfect photos”. These are some tried-and-tested ideas that should work for even the most active kids!
Here are a few ideas to taking your own great pictures of your tiny tots:
1) Play Peek-a-Boo!
Kids of all ages love when you please silly games with them. Peek-a-boo is a great way to evoke some adorable, real smiles! You can play it with your hands, with a blanket, behind a tree or couch … pretty much anywhere is a great spot to play peek-a-boo with any age child. And with peek-a-boo, repetitious patterns are quickly formed, so you will know exactly when you’ll be able to capture those grins!
2) Give your child something new and exciting to play with.
A piece of paper and crayons or paints will often keep any kid amused for quite some time, and you can get some incredible shots. This will keep them relatively stationary for more than half a second, and will also keep them distracted from the fact that you are trying to take their picture (I know my child always stops what she is doing as soon as I bring out the camera). Great pictures aren’t always of children looking into the camera, they could be looking down and concentrating, or gazing off in to the distance. After all, you will probably not only want to preserve the memories of your child’s toothy smiles, but also of the way that they stick out their tongue slightly when they are concentrating, or the way they hold their pencil awkwardly.
For some reason, I think most kids are extremely ticklish! Personally, I cannot stand to be tickled, but kids of all ages seem to LOVE it! Some kids love the full contact tickle wars, others give some great smiles when you even just “threaten” to tickle them. So try to start a tickle war and you’ll find your kids will be more than happy to give you some great action to photograph!
4) Reverse psychology
I have photographed a friend’s child several times and we have learned that if we say “Don’t smile! Don’t you do it!”, her daughter gets a huge kick out of it and will often give the biggest smiles and giggles. So try some other reverse psychology techniques: If there is a particular spot you’d like to try to coax your child over to to get the perfect shot, try telling them “Don’t make a mess of that leaf pile!” or “I think your brother might want to play with that toy.” You’d be surprised how fast you can get your child to do exactly what you don’t want them to do!
5)Give your child a small piece of tape.
This is something you may not have ever thought of. Of course, your tiny tots should always be monitored closely when given small objects that can be put in to their mouths, but I have found that a piece of clear tape provides an excellent photography tool and distraction! My child could sit for hours (read: stays still!) playing with a tiny piece of tape, trying to figure out what it is and how it works. It also aids in getting some adorable poses. While your child is playing with the tape (often with both hands together), call their name or make a noise so they will look up, and you’ll get some sweet poses. And the tape is hardly visible, if at all, in your pictures!
6) Sing Songs, play an instrument, or listen to music.
Kids of all ages generally love to hear music. Some will sit still and sing along, while others will wiggle and dance. Either way, singing songs or playing music is often a great way to have a little fun and take great photos at the same time! Be sure to focus on the movement—the way their mouth forms the words to the song, the way they bend their knees or dance on their tippy toes, the way they twirl around and raise their arms, the moment they realize that their very own action produced a wonderful sound.
Hopefully this list gives you a couple more ideas of ways to get great pictures of your kids. Remember, some of the best photographs are not necessarily focused on a child’s face, nor does the child even have to be looking at the camera.
So stop waiting for “the perfect moment” and start having fun! It sure is worth a shot (pun intended)!
*This post was brought to you by Christine Chalko
Christine lives in a western suburb of Chicago and is still getting used to the long, hard winters! She often gets asked why she moved here, when people find out she was born and raised in Bermuda! But life is good here. She and her hubby are the proud parents of sweet Rylie, who was born in June 2011. Since the birth of their daughter, Christine has discovered her inner photographer and has been working hard on developing her camera skills and building a photography business. Her true passion is capturing special moments for family and friends through Bellies to Babies and Big Kids. She also has a burning desire to one day be self-employed, whether by becoming a full-time photographer, or opening a store of some kind (either paper products, photography props or a children’s consignment store). You can see what she has been up to by finding her on Facebook (Christine M Chalko Photography and Design) or by visiting her blog (chalkophotography.blogspot.com).