I will begin with the obvious. Patience is a must in any photographic situation. Waiting for the right moment is key in capturing the casual smile or glint in the eye and I think this is the hardest for parents. Time is of the essence, usually, and trying to get those perfect moments with kids can be very stressful.
One of the greatest challenges with photographing families is the parents, not the kids. I am not saying this is true in every case, but even in capturing my own kids, parents desire cooperation from our children. I believe that children can sense this need and do almost anything to deny their parents a well-composed image.
So, what do we do to channel our kids into good subjects? The first thing we do is to shed our preconceived notions of that perfect family photo and making our children sit still and look just so. I find that the most beautiful of images come when I sit back and let my children be themselves.
When photographing families I will tell the parents that they need not worry about their child. I am there to capture the true moments of beauty which include silliness, thoughtfulness and even moments of frustration. I do capture the images that the parents want, but I also capture those little antics that give a more rounded view of the child.
When I was planning the design for my business I knew the image I wanted that, to me, would convey who I was as an individual as well as a photographer. I needed my daughter's assitance. My darling eldest child cooperated for all of 10 minutes and then grew frustrated with my directions. She is a very independent child and does not appreciate being asked to do anything she would rather not do. I grew frustrated myself... but only for a moment. I stepped back and tried to sink into the background as I could see she was losing herself in the moment of dirt and digging. I remained quiet and unobtrusive and felt almost giddy watching her play. I thanked her profusely at the end as she gave me more than I could have asked for. She also loved viewing the images of herself later.
***Be a fly on the wall with your children. Take photos of the spaces they call their own. Take a photo of that beloved stuffy; the corner where they sit and lose themselves in a book; the structure or village that took hours to build. Capture a moment that defines their childhood, not a stiffly posed image set up for others. It is wonderful to have those images of siblings posing nicely for the grandparents and other relatives, but mix it up a little. I imagine my children looking back at all the photos that I have taken over the years and I hope they see a more complete picture of what was important to them and the spaces within which they existed.
Here are a few photos from the shoot for the images I use in my business:
Eldest daughter put the brakes on early on.
Wait!!! She found a worm and wants to show me.
I love this image. She is lost in a world of her own.
Boredom sets in. She is done.
This is her payoff. I had to take a photo of teddy on her little stick swing. I think it is a good deal.