Everyone who has ever tried to get that “perfect family photo” for their holiday card can tell you first hand just how challenging it can be to photograph kids. So how can you get that photo that seems to perfectly capture the personality of your family? That freezes the essence of who they are? And how can you do the same for your clients’ families? As we head into the holiday season, here are a few pointers that have helped me in the past. (Notice that none of these tips have anything to do with the make, model, color, or size of your camera. It’s all about relationships!)
Step 1: Sing that Frozen anthem you’ve heard a million timesand “Let it goooooooo.” Let go of the urge to make everything perfect and “just so.” Let go of the vision in your mind of what your perfect family photo looks like. Find the best light, then find the best background. Start there, take a deep breath, and one more time, “let it go.”
Step 2: Once you’ve positioned your client(s) in the best light you can find, in front of the best background available, give them action steps to interact with each other. Resist the urge to pose them immediately, instead first encourage them to connect with one another, whether that be a family group hug, or a short walk while holding hands, dad throwing his two year old daughter in the air and catching her, etc. I’m not saying not to pose at all; however, I am suggesting that you don’t start the photo session with a pose. Begin the photo session as a friend, then become their photographer. Giving action steps, rather than posing, gives your clients the opportunity to relax and be themselves. It gives you the opportunity to photograph them, not anyone, but who they are. Observe how they naturally interact with each other, then let that dictate how you interact with them and how you pose them. They will naturally hug how they’ve hugged a million times before, they will hold hands how they are comfortable doing so, mom and dad will know how to get their child to smile by just being themselves.
Step 3: Everyone likes to know that they are heard, noticed, and appreciated; children are no different. Take any extra time needed to draw them out and take time to play with them. My philosophy when photographing kids is that you have “on time” and “off time,” meaning that as soon as they do something I have asked to get the photo that I wanted, I put the camera down and we do something that they wanted to do. When photographing kids especially allow yourself space to step back and observe life as it unfolds, because those are often the moments that provide the best photo opportunities!
Step 4: Repeat Step 1 and let it go. Have more patience than you think you’ll need, let go of that creative vision, and wait for something even more magical to happen in front of you. Embrace the mess and chaos, because when you do you will truly capture the personality of a family in a photo, as well as the individual personalities in your photo!
Mary Brunst is a full-time professional portrait photographer based in Maryland. She is a 2010 Graduate of RMSP’s former Career Training Program and worked as a Summer Intensive teaching assistant in 2011; now she works as an instructor in RMSP’s Professional Intensive program. Mary finds sharing her passion for photography with others both fun and rewarding. Her work has been featured on: The Knot, Grey Likes Weddings, United with Love, Mountainside Bride, Charm City Wed, Bayside Bride and other wedding blogs & publications. Check out more of Mary’s family photos below!