There they are looking so adorable, doing the most amazing thing or looking just that way giving you the look that you just love so much! You grab your camera as fast as you can because you’ve been waiting for just this moment and as soon as you bring that lens up… they look away! ugh fail!
At least that’s how I feel when Linc does that to me, and trust me he does it all the time!
It’s one of the hardest tasks to accomplish when we photograph our own kids, getting them to look this way right at the camera! I am telling you, Linc will do it 20 times on command any other time until I grab my camera! Then he’s off and avoiding me like I have some weird cootie virus or a diaper I’m ready to change him into!
So what’s the trick?! How is it that photographers can capture that look we love so much? How is it that they capture those special moments and get those beautifully toothy grins and sparkling eyes?!
How do you get them to look this way?!
Honestly it’s really a few simple tricks and being in the right place at the right time! And luck… really and truthfully, it’s luck! There’s a trick to being open to that kind of luck and I’ll share that as well but first let’s talk about a few tips!
Toddlers: Whew these guys: so much fun and always on the move! These guys love to groove and shake and they move to their own beat. The best way to get their attention is to play along with them! Be silly and let loose. I have blogged about this a lot but I honestly can not say it enough! The more you can let loose and just play the more focused they will be on you as a person and less on your camera! Since these guys are always on the move and their moods change just as fast as their feet can move; there are a few things that usually help me when I’m out during sessions!
- Play with their toys! By play with their toys, I mean be silly with their toys! It might sound gimicky (is that even a word?!) but I will take stuffed animals, trucks, anything and put them around me in the silliest ways. I will wear them on my head, I will try to balance them on top of my camera, I will even play hide and seek with them! As long as the game gets their attention on me and I can hold that attention for a few seconds, I can usually find a way to make eye contact with the camera!
- Seriously bizarre noises! I know I blogged this before but it’s so worth mentioning again! Bizarre noises work especially well for toddlers, LOUD bizarre noises! You want to get their attention so just for a quick second make the most crazy noise you can think of and I promise you they will turn around and stare! Once you do that it then becomes a game! I usually ask if they can make the noise, what other noises can they make?! I usually get pretty great belly laughs out of this one! The best part about this trick is they will break up their focus: sometimes they will look right at me, sometimes they will look away! This always makes for the best candid tricks as well!
- TAG! Ok hear me out on this one! When I was trying to take pictures of Linc dressed as Clark Kent and Superman he refused to look at me! He didn’t even want to step on my back drop at all that I spent hours setting up during his nap time. And that cape… no way! But I was desperate to take these photos for Tuck while he was away. So I took a deep breath, closed the playroom door and decided I was going to run across the playroom floor (camera in hand) high five the backdrop as loud as I could and then run back to my sitting position. I did this several times and Linc was cracking up at me! He totally got the idea and decided to join in, for hours! We continued to play this game and each time I was able to sit back down after my turn of tag and he would jump or stare right at me to make sure I saw his “turn.”
- The power of praise! Never underestimate the power of praise! When your little one does look at the camera and smile or make the face you love so much, clap and make a huge deal! Praise them for what they have done and then show them their image on the back of the camera if you are able! It helps them see that this is what I love. I’m a big believer in appreciating all of our kiddo’s looks and unique expressions, so I am constantly showing Linc and my clients their images and explaining what I love about their facial expressions. I find that once I do that they are way more open and comfortable to show me more time and time again!
- NEVER PUT THE CAMERA AWAY! This is such a huge huge tip! I see so often people checking the back of their camera’s to see if they have the shot, or to see what they captured! I always want to scream out loud… NOOOO you’re missing the best moments! You’re missing the moments you are going to frame in your house! Always keep the camera up and ready because you just never know when they might steal a glance your way! Always keep the camera ready because you just don’t know what moment lies around the corner!
School Age: These guys are easy to shoot if you give them the freedom to be who they want to be that second! Let them have as many choices as they can! That’s my biggest tip! Let them lead you and just follow them wherever they want to go with it!
- Whenever I have a session with these guys, I always just want to talk to them as much as I can! I want to know about school and what they like to do and all their interests. These guys usually love to talk so I let them and I keep my camera up so that I can shoot while they are giving me all the details!
- Ask them for their best faces! Silly faces always make the best ice breaker! Sometimes a big camera can be intimidating! I usually start off by letting them be as silly as they like and make the most horrible faces, scary faces, silly faces etc until they are rolling in laughter!
- Go with their mood! Sometimes you just don’t feel like being in the picture and we have to respect that! Keep your camera ready but take a step back and just chat for a while!
- Any of the above ideas usually work for these guys too… I’m not above animal noises for school agers!
Teens: Some of my most favorite sessions are teenagers! I usually draw a lot of my posing inspiration from teenagers! They are so intuitive and they know what they like and what they don’t!
- Get them talking! The best advice I have for this group is to have them involved as much as possible! When I’m on a senior session, I always ask what they have in mind or what they want! I usually ask if they have looked through magazines or what they like to read etc. When you have an idea of what they like and are willing to try it with them, they are much more willing to be open and outgoing!
- Let them play photographer! I usually get their perspective and will ask them what they would like from my perspective. If your a momma, let them have the camera for a little bit! Get them involved in documenting their own family history so they can start to understand why it’s so important!
- Instagram and Selfies! Do I need to elaborate?!
- Direction! I find that when I explain exactly what I want and then also show them what I’m looking for by demonstrating with my own self, I usually get that and soo much more! I get a little bit of them with what was in my head! Don’t be afraid to be specific with your directions, it helps when you know what’s expected of you!
- Jokes and silly stories! My senior clients probably think I’m a ridiculous crazy person! I tell the most embarrassing stories about myself: how I love Harry Potter and showed up to a midnight book signing in college as Hermoine Granger, how I got caught dancing and singing with my windows down in the car by my future boss on the way to an interview! I ask them the same questions as well and once they start to know me they usually open up and share. If nothing else, at least they are laughing at me and looking right at the camera!
There are tons of little things that you can do to help your kiddo’s look in your direction when you’ve got the camera ready for action! It’s just a matter of knowing them, what they like and then allowing yourself to be a little silly!
And remember… always keep that camera up and ready! It’s the unexpected moments that we often find are the most beautiful (and sometimes it’s those where our children aren’t looking at the camera, completely absorbed in their own world that are the most precious!)