First never… EVER!!! tell your child to say cheese for the camera, well you can but you will probably end up like something you see here on this page. You may see your child sitting on the couch reading or interacting with a sibling. They have genuine expressions, something you can feel
through a picture. This is what makes a great image…not say cheese! Quick take your shot before they see you. You have seen me work with your children. Next time really watch what is happening. The best images are the camera unaware moments. Most parents are so concerned that their children are not giving me the reaction that I want, that they often go overboard during the session, trying to get their children to smile… Or worse, say cheese. This makes things harder for everyone. Most often the relaxed natural look will be the image you will fall in love with…this is really your child's best expression.
Sing! Certain age groups will laugh if you sing either in a silly voice, or if you get the words wrong. I never sing a song correctly…. I’ll tell them I just learned this song yesterday and could they listen for me and let me know if I’m getting it right. Somewhere in there they start laughing and telling me how badly I’ve messed it up. And I’ll capture those smiles and laughter. I can use this a few times, throwing in different mistakes every time. For babies and toddlers, do it straight. This age group love songs, so get familiar with a few favourites that are easy to remember and you’ll always get smiles.
You can talk about something you ate, making it as disgusting or weird as you can. “I’m so full, I had a broccoli milkshake for breakfast with monkey hair and dirty socks!”. I’ll tell them I’m really hungry and I feel like some soup. Ask them for soup ideas, throw in a few disgusting suggestions, and watch them take it from there. The idea is to get them focused on anything besides the camera.
Ask for a high 5, up high, down low, too slow. Keep pulling your hand away at the last second and capture the laughs and smiles in between. This also works with siblings, ask them to play a clapping game with each other like "patty cake".
So when I’m about to take a photo, I’ll say "If I could change my name, I would be Sponge Bob Square Pants, what would you change your name to? Any other ridiculous name will work… Go around to each child and let them answer so everyone feels included. MOM & DAD can play along too!
Ask them to try and scare you. Little ones will often do this by playing peek-a-boo, and when they say “boo!”, over act with fright, and be ready to capture their laughter. This is a very popular game with ages 3-6.
Kids love games, play a game of "Simon Says" that involves them telling you what to do. Like stand on one leg, or make a monkey sound, give them some examples of what they can have you do. They will laugh at you but they will be facing the camera, smiling and not actually being the ones in full motion.
I hope this gave you a fresh perspective on how to tackle some snap shots to share on social media or even a quick update on how the kids are doing to relatives that may not be local. I always say, the best camera is the one you have with you. TAKE THE SHOT! Of course practice makes perfect. This is what I do everyday. Keep in mind there is a reason you get your hair cut by a professional and a reason don’t do your own taxes…even though you could!
When it’s important to capture that innocence that will disappear all to soon… Leave the job to a professional. This is what we are trained to do.