Nowadays, I get so much joy out of taking pictures of my own children, but admittedly it hasn’t always been this way! I wanted to capture all those little quirks and the little things they do, documenting the precious years. But it always felt like more of a test of patience than anything, often resulting in tears (and that was just me!) Addressing this has helped tremendously in knowing how to relate to other parents who were frustrated or embarrassed that their little ones were not striking that perfect pose at the right moment or who couldn’t sit still for very long, more than anything it taught me to respect the child’s feelings and have a little fun in the process! Particularly in regards to my own boys, to not put perfection above enjoying a moment. Creating a safe environment and an enjoyable experience will go a lot further than you may think. My aim in this post is not to give endless tips and tricks on how to photograph active children, but rather for us to focus on how to enjoy it.
Though,the question does remain, if you are being paid as a photographer to get those shots, and in a certain time frame, what do you do when the children are not interested in sitting in that ideal spot and far more interested in running wild and free?
As I am constantly reminding myself; one size does not fit all!
In this scenario, my son was far more interested in doing beachy things that most 5 year olds would like than sitting nice and still for mama! If we look to use what they are showing interest in than purely our own photographer-interests, it can work as our advantage. In turn you can encourage interest in something such as an object to help them to focus, rather than using words such as ‘sit here’ or ‘look at the camera’; this will often spark more curiosity.
Joshua had been playing by the water for a while, but I was hoping for some sand & dune shots. Simply asking him to leave the waves behind and come sit on the sand would never work! It could turn into a battle. It would be a process. After noticing he had started a collection of shells, I asked if he’d like some help finding more of them, naturally in the general direction I’d hoped to get to ;-) Then, when I felt like we’d found a good spot I sat down. ‘I like the sand on my toes!’ He sat down and mirrored me, ‘Me too!’ He looks down. Beautiful. Shot 1.
And to my delight, the sand holds his attention long enough for me to move around a little and play with different focal lengths. My joy comes from seeing just how happy he is, unforced. No candy bribes or belittling needed.
Something really beautiful happens when we let go of perfection in the right moment. These pictures are perfect to me as his mother and hopefully the same would be true of most parents whose children you are photographing.
Allowing a child to be them self AND using your photography skill is not one we can master over night, there is no secret formula that will work every single time, and this brings us right back to the reminder that ‘one size does not fit all’.
If you do have some practical tips you find useful on how to photograph active children then please share in the comments!
You can read more in Part 2 of How To Enjoy Photographing Active Children.