I wanna tell you how to take better images of your own children, because taking photos of your own children is hard. So much harder than taking photos of a family you’ve just met. I learned this the hard way. And I didn’t even realize that I was making all the mistakes I never make with clients until I had it pointed out for me by one of my best friends, Michaela during this recent shoot with my own daughters Stella and Mila.
I’m gonna share the story of my shoot with my girls as it was a big eye-opener for me. A real learning curve and by sharing it I hope it’ll give you ideas and an explanation of why you might be failing yourself taking images of your own kids. Cause the blame is not on them, it’s on you.
Now in hindsight I should have known all of this, because I never ever behave this way when shooting my clients. I let them be who they are, I tell the parents to relax and leave their kids to explore on their own. And then I shoot. Play along, get goofy. Lightly lead them into the places and positions I want them to be in. Make the shoot pleasant. Take my time.
Yet, with my own kids, all of that had somehow flown straight out the window.
On a beautiful but cloudy autumn day we went to a park in Laajasalo, Helsinki to take some images of my own kids as their birthdays were coming up, Mila turning one and Stella four. So I had this whole shoot planned, I had actually been planning it for weeks: what they would wear, (for that we went shopping together with Michaela as she helped me match Mila’s clothes to Stella’s) in what kind of a location I’d want them to be, to do and so on. I had a vision in my head of all the images I’d like them to create, not realizing that this shoot would be a big eye-opener for me and a learning curve.
A lesson which I’m now gonna share with you all.
So of we went, kids were fed, Mila had her nap, everything was going great!
As I started to first take images of Stella, I quickly noticed that she wasn't paying attention to me at all and was just running around, excited about the park and all of the fallen leaves from the nearby maple trees.
I knew this was to be expected because the kids are familiar with me and used to me taking their photo on almost a daily basis either with my phone or camera. So, she’s just gonna ignore me as per usual as she doesn’t really understand or can’t tell the difference when you dress them up with pretty outfits you’ve been planning for hours and take them to a location for a special shoot.
After a few minutes into our shoot, Michaela quietly pointed out and said, “Do you realize how many instructions you’re giving her?”
I had no idea. No wonder Stella wasn’t concentrating as I was giving her like a million different directions! That was awful, I felt awful.
After stepping back a bit and addressing the situation to myself, I noticed where I was going wrong the whole time. I’m also familiar with them. Meaning I forgot the side of me that is the professional photographer and act just like a typical parent would behave trying to take images of their own children.
So then I forced myself to relax a bit and remember all those little tricks and ways of making the kids listen and then slowly the shoot started rolling out better.
In the end I now have beautiful images of my kids, acting naturally and looking just like themselves.
Stella looking all curious, witty and playful big sister and Mila being the quiet, observant little one.
Now, I’ve put these tips together for you guys, because I made all the mistakes you shouldn’t make.
Scroll down for two bonus tips!
1. Forget Pinterest
When taking photos of your own kids you need to learn how to let go of your own expectations. Those specific ideas and poses in your head that you might’ve gotten from Pinterest or from your friend’s Instagram post.
You want to make the shoot enjoyable for the kids, an adventure and let’s be honest, them not listening or turning to look at the camera when you call their name dozens of times might, sorry WILL get annoying really quickly.
Don’t get me wrong I love Pinterest, but instead of the poses just soak up the inspiration for the clothing, hairstyles, locations or how the light is coming to the photo.
2. Don’t direct
As I mentioned in the first tip, calling their names and trying to make them look at the camera will just make the situation really frustrating for you and the kids. “Stand up straight”, “Don’t make a grin like that”, “Stay still for a while” etc.
Avoid giving them any directions and instead of that just let them be themselves and explore their surroundings. Kids love to explore nature, touch things and just… have fun.
This way you’ll have a relaxed and fun experience for everyone.