Are you stuck at home and need something fun to do with the children? And while you see them all day, every day at the moment, do your kids still seem to be growing up in front of your eyes? This is a great time to capture fantastic photos of your children. Then you won’t miss out on saving precious memories of them at the age they are right now. And if you prepare carefully and keep your sense of humour, this could be a fun way to kill a few hours of being stuck at home. And let’s face it, we could all use that right now.
It goes without saying, that these are the strangest days I can ever remember. Thankfully my boys are home safe with me and we are all in good health. Having said that, it has been very upsetting to have to cancel all my family photography shoots for the coming months. Obviously, it’s not great for business. But beyond that, it makes me sad to think that for my clients, milestones will be missed. And that people won’t have great photos of their children during this stage in their development. So I’m sharing some top child photography ideas to help you create great portraits at home.
Preparing for your photoshoot
Firstly, think of this as a fun activity to make the most of time stuck at home together. No, really! It’s just up to you to make is something the children want to do. Let’s face it, they aren’t always in the mood to have their pictures taken. While some children are naturals, others are awkward in front of the camera. And obviously marshalling more than one child for a portrait can be tricky. Not only do they sometimes refuse to wear what you’d like them to. But they also refuse to smile or stand still. And that’s why you need these child photography ideas.
Secondly, the idea is to make this seem spontaneous while actually planning things quite carefully. After all, you always get the best results in photography when you are prepared for your photoshoot. To start, decide where your children’s portraits are to be taken. Inside? If so, have a quick tidy up of the room in which you plan to take the portraits. Outside? In that case, make sure the garden is tidy, grass cut etc. If both, I’d start indoors as often after a bit of posing indoors, children really need to get outside and move around.
Next, it’s time to get them in the right mood.To this end, getting out the dressing up box is a good idea. Once they are dressed as their favourite character, they will hopefully be favourably disposed to having their picture taken. Alternatively, it’s also a good idea to get out some props. For example, this could be favourite cuddly toys, books or musical instruments. And when you incorporate a favourite activity into the photoshoot it becomes something they want to do, not just something you want them to do. On top of which, it’s nice to record their favourite toys and activities for posterity.
Try your child photography both indoors and outdoors
Initially, start by unobtrusively capturing photos of them doing these things that they love. Just get them to look at the camera occasionally. And most importantly DO NOT ASK THEM TO SMILE. When children are asked to, it’s amazing how difficult they find it. They always look completely different from when they smile naturally. So your job, as photographer that day, is to elicit that smile spontaneously. Helping you do this of course will be all the fun activities you have set up for them. And by telling jokes, getting them to laugh at your dance moves, etc. Sometimes I find that commanding them NOT TO SMILE has exactly the opposite (i.e. desired) effect. Bubbles and balloons add an element of fun. And don’t forget to include the family pet!
Often, spontaneous portraits are better than posed ones. But if you want to have them in an orderly pose, then try asking them to arrange themselves by whatever means they choose. Empowering them to take a lead in this can pay dividends as they feel invested in the results. Using the bed, sofa, chairs, even stairs is easier and more interesting than having them stand in a row.
And when you’ve done enough indoors, it’s time to move outside. Contrary to popular belief, bright sunshiny days are actually not desirable. This is because the sun makes photography difficult in terms of avoiding light in everyone’s eyes. Undoubtedly, a slightly sunny or overcast day are better. And often it’s tough to get the light right when the sun is overhead so avoid noon. So stick to earlier in the day, or closer to dusk for choice. Even if it’s raining, you can get charming portraits of them in wellies or with umbrellas jumping in puddles and splashing about. Just don’t get your camera wet!
Top professional tips for better portraits of children
- Firstly, try getting down on the ground (you, not the children). The idea being to photography your children at eye level rather than shooting downwards. That way, you’ll get a better connection and perspective.
- Next, take photos with the camera held slightly away from your eyes. It helps when they can see and react to your face which they can’t do if it’s hidden by a camera.
- Then, engage them by getting them to chat to you about /show you their favourite toy or book. Or ask them to sing, tell a joke or dance. Usually, music helps them loosen up.
- When possible, find a plain or textured background. Brick walls, wood fences and bushes all make interesting but not distracting backgrounds.
- Also try to frame their figures if you can. I’ve had success with children poking heads outside a window of a house or door of a wendy house.
- Next, keep them moving, don’t expect them to stand still and be happy about it. For example, I often take photos of children climbing trees, kicking a football, jumping and standing on benches or logs.
- However, while asking younger children to pose is not always successful, for older children and teens, ask them to bring the sass. Throw a few shapes, show off their best catwalk pose. Or even imitate their favourite emoji. It’s all about engagement and making it fun for them. It’s likely that they feel self conscious at this stage of their lives. But you just have to find a way to make it fun for them. And if you are lucky, you will have some blossoming trees in your garden which make an enchanting background for teenage girls. For more ideas on how to photograph teenagers, have a look at some of my teen photography.
- Finally, for babies and younger children, there is relaxing yet playful bath time and book reading before bed. And I have found this to be a wonderful time to snap a few relaxed and charming photos.
Always remember in this exercise, that this is a FUN activity which will hopefully result in some amazing pictures for you to treasure for a lifetime. So don’t expect professional quality portraits. Just do your best and when Covid 19 has left us, you can always book a professional child and family photographer. The most important thing is that you don’t miss out on capturing these moments in their childhood.
“Photography through the lens of a storyteller”
LONDON CHILDREN AND FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHER