Give kids a concept to work with, in front of the camera.
In a previous blog post, I talked about photographing your kids when they aren't doing something memorable - that catching a quiet moment can be so special.
The opposite can also be true. Personally I prefer a balance. I love finding my daughter doing something quietly and capturing her emotions and expressions. But, she's also such a performer, that I want to equally capture that side of her!
Have you ever complained that all the photos of your kids look the same? That the context may change but their pose or expression doesn't? It's hard, on the spot, to think of something to get your child to do, so that you don't end up with the same image over and over. You may end up wondering how all these photos on Pinterest have kids doing funny, silly and strange things that look awesome, but your child just stands there and bares their teeth at you.
I think the reason it's hard, is because most people, including and especially children, don't really know what to do in front of a camera. You may relate to this when someone pulls a camera on you. Unless you're a person who just loves the camera, one of 2 things might happen - you will get your pose on (particularly popular amongst teenage girls, with the duck faces and the 'smize') Or, you will feel weird and awkward and that you have to do something but it may all feel unnatural. Nothing in your immediate environment has changed, but human nature has kicked in. Someone is watching you, and this does funny things to us!
Kids have a tendency either to ignore the camera (which usually happens gradually after the novelty has worn off for them) or they will over-perform. For example, my daughter may start to dance and do pose after pose with squinty eyes and all teeth showing - and I have to remind her that I'm not taking a video and I need a freeze from her to snap the shutter!
A helpful hand to direct their energy and focus does wonders. In the photo above, I had a natural opportunity. I had just purchased my daughter's new goggles for her first swimming class. Trying on the goggles right away was the first thing to do as soon as she dropped her school bag! And of course, for mommy to pick up the camera.
Once she had them on, she was jumping and spinning and looking at the world that had turned pink. I brought her over to the window for better light, then I said we'd 'practice' swimming underwater. A few fish faces and laughs later, I got this natural smile.
Giving kids a concept or an idea is a tried and true way to get them engaged in activity. Posing for the camera is no different. The ideas are endless, and the bonus is that you can tell them you'll catch the fun and then show them on the back of the camera. They can't see what they're doing when they do it, so it's always fun for them to see what you caught.
So next time you're feeling in a photo rut, get creative. Have them try on their winter clothes in summer. Or summer clothes in winter. Or daddy's cap and shoes. Or mommy's heels. Have them put their clothes on backwards, or put on every single piece of jewelry from grandma. Not only will you get some great performing and laughs, you'll also get some great photos!