One of the most common questions I get as a family photographer is how to photograph a child that won’t sit still. I feel your pain mamas. And I’m in a unique position now to offer some advice. As a fellow mom to a can’t-sit-still-kid, I have a lot of pictures of the back of Olivia’s head. She’ll be 18 months old in a few short weeks and she’s a busy child. She loves to walk and explore. When we go to the park, she may sit in the swing or go down the slide, but those moments are short lived. She’d much rather wander off and do her own thing.
But, I still manage to capture her smile and personality in photos. So, my answer to how you photograph a child that won’t sit still is simple. You don’t. At least not in the way that you’re used to.
The best advice I can give you is to change your approach. Follow them instead of asking them to stand sit and smile at the camera. Eventually something magical will happen. You just have to have the patience to let it.
As they explore, be ready with your camera. Anticipate what they’ll do next.
For these pictures, we were playing in the backyard and I wanted to bring my camera out to take a few photos of Olivia’s cute ponytail. I knew that part would be easy (remember – I’m a pro at taking pictures of the back of her head!). I figured that anything else I was able to capture would be a bonus. She saw these little white flowers (weeds) in the grass and bent down to scoop one up. I knew what she was going to do next so I got my camera ready. Sure enough, she put the flower up to her nose and made the sweetest little face.
Introduce a prop
Sometimes a distraction from whatever activity they’re engaged in will give you enough time to snap a few pictures. Right after I took the photo above, I remembered that we had some sunflowers in the kitchen so I ran in and grabbed one. I didn’t make a big deal of it. I didn’t show her. I just stuck it in the grass and waited for her to see it. When she noticed it, she did exactly what I thought she was going to do. She put it up to her nose to smell. If she hadn’t, I would have asked her just to see if she was willing, but most of the time I try to let things happen organically. I ask once and then move on.
Put the camera down
This is so important if you want your kids to enjoy having their picture taken. That’s why I only ask once (maybe twice!) when I want Olivia to do something. If she’s not into it, I’m not going to force it for a photo. It can be disappointing when you have a vision in your head, but I’d much rather keep things light and playful than end up with her in tears and me upset about not getting the photo I wanted.
One other trick you can try, but only after you’ve exhausted all other efforts, is to play a game of back and forth. You take a picture, I take a picture. Include them in the picture taking process and they might hang around long anough to get a few good shots. This won’t work with Olivia right now because she’s too little to handle my big camera, but I would definitely try something similar with my smartphone. Show her how I’m taking a picture of something – a toy or a doll of hers – and then turn the camera toward her and see what she does. It might hold her interest, it might not, but remember not to force it.
Ok mamas, now tell me. Was any of this helpful? Do you have a busy toddler that won’t stop for a photo? Are there any tricks you use that I can add to this list? I’d love to hear from you! And if you’re interested, I’ve got a free guide to help you while you’re out on your next fall adventure.
The first day of school is always filled with nervous excitement and jitters. For moms and kids! Usually by the time August rolls around, I’m ready to get back to the routine of a school day. Then I sit around and wait for them to get home and tell me about their day. Lol!
We still have a couple more weeks of summer here in NJ, but I know it’ll fly by. Here are a few photo tips for capturing your kiddos first day of school.
Have everything ready! Your kids will carefully choose the perfect outfit for the first day back-to-school and you need to do a little prep work too. Have your camera battery charged and an empty memory card ready to go. It’s also a good idea to know ahead of time the photos you want to capture. Don’t just wing it that morning because there will be too much going on.
Don’t forget the details. New shoes. New clothes. New backpacks. The pencil case they picked out themselves. Their lunch bag. What’s inside their lunch bag. All the fun stuff that comes along with the first day of school. If you’re allowed in the classroom with your child, take a quick snap of their desk too.
Don’t stop shooting. If your child walks to school, stay a few steps behind and snap some pictures. If they ride the bus, grab a shot of them piling on. Maybe even their cute little face in the school bus window.
Start a tradition. Choose something to do the same way every year so that you can document the big changes that happen over the course of a school year. We always took a picture on the same set of steps in the front of my house (until we moved!). You could do the same. Or, make a sign for the kids to hold that says the year and the grade they are entering. Caitlin from The Mama Notes has a great roundup of ideas for back to school traditions. Things like having pizza after the first day at the same spot every year (take a picture and watch them grow) or maybe ice cream is more your jam.
One year I drew little red hearts on each of our hands. If they got sad or lonely, they could look down at their hand, see that little red heart, and know that I was thinking about them.
The idea is to take pictures that tell a story from beginning to end. Kids love to look back at pictures and remember certain things about their childhood. While writing this blog post, my 12 year old was looking over my shoulder and said, “I remember that backpack!” And don’t worry if you don’t have a fancy DSLR to take pictures. Your cell phone will be fine. Just remember to print the pictures once you’ve taken them!
And don’t forget to grab your free fall photo checklist!
Can I ask you something? What’s keeping you out of photos with your kids? Let me guess – it has something to do with the way you look. I get it. I really do! I use the same excuse. But it’s a lame excuse. Your kids don’t care what you look like. They care that you’re there every day loving on them. Wouldn’t it be nice for them to have photos that show that?
So I’m going to ask you a favor. I want you to make an effort this Mother’s Day to step in front of the camera. It’s not that hard. Really! You just need a few ideas and that’s why I’m here.
I asked a few of my favorite mom bloggers/instagram rock stars to share tips and advice to encourage you to get in more photos with your kids.
First things first though, I want you to silence those voices in your head telling you you’re too heavy or you hate your smile or you’ve got bags under your eyes. Wait, those aren’t the voices in your head? Just mine? Mmmkay.
Check out what some of my favorite mamas on Instagram have to say.
First up is Alyson Owen of @the.owen.life. This sweet mama of 3 does an amazing job of wrangling 3 little ones for photos. She also makes sure to get a picture with each one individually so they have some special time with their mom. Alyson took time out of her busy schedule to answer these questions for me.
What would you tell a mommy friend who was interested in taking better photos of her kids?
“I try to ONLY use natural light. Sometimes it’s hard because it’s a dreary, rainy day or night time, which means you are limited on when you can actually shoot. I try to catch them doing their cute little everyday moments that I never want to forget, and then quietly sneaking upon them and then snapping the photo. Those are the photos that I love the best, just them in the moment. Of course, I do love a good staged photo too, but lets be honest here: those staged photos of kids will put your stress level at its max! Try to capture the real and the raw and make the photo look beautiful.”
How do you include yourself in your photos?
“I try to get in a few photos a week with my kids. I try to switch it up a bit and take an individual photo with each of my kids and also take one with all three of us together. I want them to remember that I was there too and I try to balance out getting in the photo with both of them. I always use the self timer to capture myself in the photos because my husband never takes them as I want them, and it always just ends up in a fight. So, the self timer has been the best thing for me.”
Why are photos important to you as a mom?
“Photos are important to me as a mom because I want to look back and remember the little moments with my children and remember this stage of life. I don’t only want to have memories of the big events like easter, Christmas, birthdays, etc. I want to remember the everyday. The moments that make me so happy. Also, I think it’s sort of a therapeutic thing as a mom too. It is a new found hobby of mine and brings so much peace and joy to my life. It gives me a drive to create and to have fun creating and capturing beautiful moments of my children that I hope to look back upon someday and smile.”
Do you think photography has changed the way you look at or feel about motherhood?
“I believe photography definitely has changed the way I look at motherhood. When I capture the beautiful moments that I never want to forget, it helps me get through those really tough days as a mom. When I have a hard day, I get to look back on all the good moments and remember that the good definitely outweighs the bad times. I also feel like it makes me look for the everyday magic in childhood because I am always looking for those little details that I never want to forget rather than just surpassing it daily. These are the days and I never will forget them because I have plenty of photos to spare.”
Next up is Emily Yewchuk, a lifestyle photographer and mom of 3. Emily inspires me everyday. Her instagram account @yew.photography is filled with beautiful images of her and her children. And the photos are always so creative. Emily has an online course called “Life in Pictures,” where she teaches mom how to photograph their families beautifully. Inside the course there’s a bonus guide on self portraits and here’s just some of the amazing advice.
Think outside the box. You don’t always have to capture a front on portrait of yourself. Just capture your hands holding your babes, or your feet or the back of you, just something to show you existed!
Get ready to delete a lot of images! Don’t be discouraged about the number of images that you immediately delete. Sometimes I’ll have 100 images to go through and only keep two or three…especially if children were included! Everyone makes funny expressions, and body parts don’t always look right, especially if you’re posing yourself with no one directing you, but if the end result is one image that you love that YOU ARE IN, then it’s all worth it!
Photograph the moments that mean the most to you, that you want to remember. For me it’s how my babies feel in my arms after bath time. Make sure you capture all the little moments, reading stories, putting lotion on their soft skin, cuddling, feeding, nursing etc.
Ask for help. My husband would never think to take a sweet portrait of me and my kids unless asked. Sometimes if I have a concept in my mind that would be tricky to achieve on my own, I will get everything set up in place, set the camera settings exactly how I want them, and then I will hand my camera to my husband (could be a friend, sister, mother etc) and tell him exactly where to stand where exactly to put the little focus square and what button to press. The whole process is 3 minutes for him. By removing all the guesswork of this activity he doesn’t mind helping and it produces the image I want because I’ve done all the prep and planning. This image was captured with the help of my husband, directing everything 🙂
Have fun and practice practice practice! You’ll get so much better at it the more you do it! It will also start to be quicker and less of a ‘thing’ the more you do it. I adore having lots of images of my kids to choose from when building our photo books or hanging our photos on the wall. And as the years go by these images become more and more valuable to me, as they will you.”
Next up is Kasia with @motherlandblog. This mama of 2 does a beautiful job of capturing the everyday. Whether it’s breastfeeding her baby or making silly faces with her toddler. Like most of us, she has a hard time getting in front of the camera.
“I honestly struggled with it for so long also, but decided I wanted to be in the frame because I want my girls to remember me being there too! I realized I took so many pictures of them and my husband and I often wasn’t in a single one! I started even just taking selfies and then moved to using a tripod and a remote timer to try and capture those moments! My husband very rarely takes my photos so it’s just me and the tripod! I usually try and think about what kind of photo I want and then plan for how to best capture it. I’ve taped up my phone to the ceiling to get a top down shot or perched it on a tripod out in front of our garage. One final thing I’ll add is that at the end of the day, I like to capture these images so my daughters will have something to look back on. It’s not just for an IG post for me, I really do appreciate the memories they’ll create.”
Valerie from @chasing_nostalgia is a girl mom who shows up all the time on Instagram. She shared her favorite editing apps to give your photos a boost.
“I love taking photos. It’s a way for me to express my creativity while also preserving precious memories of my girls. I keep it simple and easy by taking photos with my iPhone. I use A Color Story app and the Lightroom app to edit my photos to give them a nice pop of color. The simplest photos to get of my girls is when they are just playing. The candid ones are really the best and most meaningful to me.”
Jenna from @rootedjoy is another photographer mama who feels being in photos is important.
“Being in photos with my little ones is important to me because, I feel like there’s not enough of my mom and I when I was little. She has so many photos of us and my sisters, but very rare that she is in any. I love to see how she looked when I was little. Her hair, outfits, smile, etc. The earliest I remember my mom I was probably 13 years old. I honestly can’t describe how she looked any younger. I hope my girls will appreciate the photos of me with them and can see how much I loved them when they were little.
I’m in the frame a decent amount on my camera roll. Do I post those? No. The other day I snapped a picture of my daughter sleeping while her nose was touching mine. She always falls asleep with her hand on our face and it’s just the sweetest. Did I have 3 chins with no makeup? Yes. Will she notice that when she looks back on? Nope. It was a really special moment that I want to look back at. I make my children photobooks online that they will have when they’re older and all of those unfiltered photos are always included.
Honestly, I just flip my camera and frame it up and snap a few. I like snapping a few because Isla’s face changes so much in each image and it’s hilarious to see. I need to get my big camera out more and take more portraits with them. Some of my favorites are ones my husband takes of us where we are looking at each other, laughing and kissing. I feel awkward to always smile right at the camera sometimes.”
Abbie Orr from @ourorrdinarydays is “journaling her life through photos.” She’s making sure to include herself in her family’s story. Otherwise it’s not complete.
“Get a tripod for your camera! DSLR or iPhone! Either way it really helps. It’s one way I have gotten myself into photos. On top of asking hubby to snap shots on occasion. Also just occasionally snapping a selfie whether I am by myself or with my girls. Sometimes those random/in the moment photos end up being my favorite.”
I hope these mamas have inspired you to take action this Mother’s Day! I’d love to see how you get in a photo with your kids. Head over to instagram and post a photo! Use the hashtag #moms_getinthepicture to share and encourage and other mamas! And feel free to tag me @stacymaeandco.
I have a private Facebook group just for clients of my family photography business and over the holidays I asked everyone what their biggest struggle is photographing their own children. One of the most popular answers was getting good shots of their kids together. I totally get it! You’ve got one who isn’t looking, the other one isn’t smiling or, they just won’t sit still! It’s enough to make any mama put down the camera and say ‘why bother?’. What if I told you that you’re going about it the wrong way?
I think we’ve become obsessed with perfection. The perfectly posed, everyone-looking-at-the-camera photo. But what does that even say about your family? There’s no connection. If those are the only photos you’re taking, you’re missing out on so many images that show off what makes your children special and unique. Most of the photos I love of my own children are ones that capture some part of their personality or their relationship.
Still, I know you crave those genuine smiles. I do too! I’m just not willing to have it end in tears. Once I changed the way I approach my kids with my camera, things got a lot easier.
The very first thing I think you can do to get better sibling photos is to cultivate a positive attitude about pictures.
Talk to your kids about why they’re important to you. Pictures are a way to tell stories. They connect us to our past and help us remember what it was like growing up. Let them know that you’re going to be taking more pictures, but that they don’t have to stop playing or look at the camera. If you leave the camera out and snap pictures regularly while they’re playing, eating, or even sleeping; pretty soon they won’t even hear you click the shutter.
So how will this help? Like I said before, if you’re only taking your camera out for big events like the annual Christmas card photo, they’re going to associate picture taking with stress and frustration. Come on, you know what I’m talking about. Getting everyone all dressed up and praying that they behave for just.one.photo so you can send a perfect card is not always easy or fun. By bringing the camera out more often and making it a fun experience, they’ll be more likely to cooperate when it comes time to get everyone smiling.
Easier said than done when it comes to our own children, but the more you sit back and observe, the easier it gets to anticipate moments that are frame worthy. Plus, you’re not forcing a moment to happen. You’re just waiting for it to come naturally and that’s when you get the best photos. Look for a physical or emotional connection. A physical connection is when they’re close. Maybe playing together, reading a book, walking together, hugging, etc. An emotional connection is all about the bond that they share. Maybe big brother is teaching little brother how to throw a football or sisters are playing dress up. Olivia loves to pull Jaime’s hair and I knew I wanted to capture that memory. All I had to do was wait for it to happen 🙂
Make it fun!
If you want to capture genuine smiles, you’re going to have to do a little work. And by that I mean, play games, act silly, make fat noises, anything that will get them laughing and not thinking about the camera. If your kids are little a great game to play is Simon Says. This way you can line everyone up and they’ll all be together in the frame. Also, give everyone a turn to be Simon so it holds their interest a little longer. Ring Around the Rosie is another good one. A fun shot is to wait until they ‘all fall down’ to take the picture. For this shot of Olivia, we played ‘so big’. She loves to show off her new tricks! And it kept her from crawling towards me and off the bed!
If you really want a nice picture of all of your kids smiling, have someone help you. Your husband, partner, friend, or family member can be the one to act silly so you can click away and pray for a keeper! My niece and nephew were with my while I took this picture at my mom’s house on Thanksgiving.
And there you have it. I hope these help a little! I’d love to connect with you on Instagram and see your photos. Come find me and say hello!
In my last two posts we talked about a simple exercise you can do to help unlock your creativity and also how to find your creative voice. The idea behind this blog series is to get you to think more creatively about the world around you. As a mom, I’m sure you are busy with the chaos of everyday life and there’s not much time to explore your creative side. I’m hoping this series of posts will inspire you to see the beauty in the world around you and maybe motivate you to pick up your camera more often. Or write in a journal. Or paint a picture. However you like to express yourself. Since I’m a photographer, we’re going to focus on taking pictures.
In this post, I want to share some ideas I came up with that can help spark your creativity. I’m not going to give you a ton of direction other than to explain what the photo prompt means. I’d love for you to share any pictures you take too!
1. Photograph a day in your life. From start to finish. Keep your camera accessible or just use your smartphone. Photograph your routines and document the things that you do everyday that don’t normally get recorded. Breakfast. Saying goodbye to the kids at the bus stop. Where you work. Chores. Storytime. All of it!
2. Take a faceless portrait. Normally a portrait involves your subject’s face, but I’m challenging you to photograph something other than their face. This is a great opportunity to focus on details and get creative with your composition. One way to do this is to get in nice and close to your subject and isolate just one part of them. Hands, hair, lips, etc.
3. Edit your phone photos. If you use your smartphone for most of your pictures, are you editing them? There are a ton of really great apps out there that can take your photos to the next level. A couple of my faves are Lightroom, A Color Story, VSCO, and PicTapGo. Start by increasing the overall brightness or exposure of your image. You can also play around with the contrast and shadows to make your image more dramatic. If you like a lot of color, check out the saturation slider on these apps or apply a filter. Flex those creative muscles!
4. Go on a photo scavenger hunt. All it takes is a simple Google search and you’ll be met with tons of options for items to photograph on your scavenger hunt. You can make it seasonal or search for items in your home. This is a great one to get the kids involved in and excited about taking pictures.
5. Use an interesting backdrop. You can find all sorts of great backdrops outside or you can make your own. When you’re out and about look for color, patterns, and textures that would make a cool background for a photo. If you want to get crafty, create your own backdrop using a fun wrapping paper, pretty fabric, blanket, or even a chalkboard.
6. Take a blurry photo. I’m talking intention blur. Not the kind that happens by accident.Most of the time we want our photos crisp and clear, but an intentionally blurry photo can be beautiful. To do this, set your camera to manual focus and twist the ring until your subject is blurred. If you are using your smartphone, tap anywhere on the screen that is not your main focus and your subject should stay blurry. When you are deciding what to take a picture of, think of capturing a feeling or a gesture.
7. Photograph your home. I’ve been doing a lot of this lately. Especially since we are getting ready to welcome a new baby into our home. Your home is where you spend most of your time and everyone is always so reluctant to take pictures of it! Why? Because it’s not perfectly clean or styled? Who cares? It’s your home. It’s not supposed to be. If it was, it wouldn’t look lived in. Still, I understand the hesitation so here are a few things you can do. Take it one room at a time. It’s much easier to tidy up one room than it is to deal with your entire house. Decide if you want to capture the whole room (with a wide angle lens) or just a small portion of it. Use natural light if you can so that means pulling back the curtains or opening a door to let more light in.
8. Try food photography. You’ve probably already done this. Think about the last time you were out at a restaurant and you had an amazing meal. Did you take out your phone and snap a photo? I know I’ve done it. Mostly with desserts. What does that tell you about me? Lol! Food photography is a great way to practice composition and how to arrange the elements in your frame. Here are a few tips when snapping pics of your food. Try different angles. Get up on a chair and shoot from above. Get in nice and close to highlight the textures. Make it come to life! Pour syrup on your stack of pancakes. Take a bite of the cupcake you just made. Or sprinkle cheese on your favorite pasta.
9. Style a flat lay. A flat lay is arranging items in your frame and shooting from above. If you scroll through instagram you’ve probably seen a million flat lays. Fashion bloggers use them for clothing. Beauty bloggers use them to showcase makeup. If you’ve ever taken a photo of your food from above that would be considered a flat lay too. So, give it a try for yourself. Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind. Shoot in square mode on your phone if you’re going to be posting on IG. Stick with an odd number of objects in your frame – 3, 5, 7, etc. Larger items should be towards the edge of the frame and the bottom too. Keep the background simple. And use natural light whenever possible.
10. Photograph your pet. Talk about a challenge. Lol! Make sure you’ve got lots of treats on hand for this one. Or just practice some patience. You can wait until they are tired from playing and don’t mind having a camera in their face. Or try to capture the action. Just keep your shutter speed super high!
I hope you enjoy these ideas! My advice would be to pick your favorite and give it a go! Or go through the list when you’re feeling stuck. I would love to see what you come up with so please feel free to tag @stacymaeandco on Instagram or post your pictures in the private Facebook group.