I especially love taking natural and unposed photographs of my children. However, sometimes I need to get the kids smiling for the camera. For example: family shots and Christmas photos.
But what is a smile? A “Say Cheese” smile is just muscles moving, but a real smile is all about emotion. And that is what I want to capture on camera.
I want to capture the light behind their eyes as their face lights up.
I want to capture the curve of their face as they express themselves.
I want to capture the sway of their body as they move.
I want to capture their personality.
For me, reflecting personality in photographs is all about two things: emotion and interpretation. Catching a smile can be easy but capturing emotion is much more challenging. The best way I have found to achieve this is to allow my subject the room for interpretation. Nothing I can fabricate can ever come close to the real thing.
Here are my tips for (not just getting a smile but) capturing a child’s personality and character in still life.
Note: I’m not a professional photographer (at all) but I’m interested in photography and I enjoy learning as I go along.
1. Drama of Words
One of my favourite things to do is to give the child a word to interpret how they like.
Picture 1: Think of the word “Cute”
Picture 2: Think of Mummy
Picture 3: Think of Daddy
Picture 4: Think of the word “Special”
I also use phrases like these too (especially helpful with younger children aged 2-5 years):
- Think of rainbows
- What’s your favourite thing?
- Cars and trucks
2. Give an Action or Emotion
Allowing the children to interpret an action or emotion gives me so much more than I could fabricate myself. For example, when I say “love each other” to my kids, rather than “put your arms around each other” I can capture such beautiful emotion. Take a look at these:
Or when my two youngest were in a wedding party:
And this one of my four at a camping trip, all scruffy and happy:
3. Say “I love you”
Sometimes getting a smile is as simple as saying:
“I love you.”
“I think you are so special.”
4. Look Up/Look Inside
One of Katherine’s tips in her guest post is to ask children to look inside the camera lens to see what they can find. This is a great way to get kids looking right at the camera. Another idea is to hold something up for the kids to look at. This works especially well if you need to get multiple children looking at the same time. A bell is my favourite tool.
5. Do Something Silly
This was the reaction from my kids to their father’s silly antics behind me. Always works a treat.
There nothing quite like interaction to get a reaction from children. This could be tickling, talking or playing.
I want to look back and, not just remember, but feel too. Photography: It’s not just about memories, it’s about moments.
Other Posts about Photographing Kids
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