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.

Follw Them

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.

Grab your Fall Photo Guide here!

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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!

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Teaching kids about photography has so many benefits. Not only is it a great way for children to express their creativity, it’s also a fun way to help develop their voice and identity. Photography can teach them how to see things from a different perspective. They’ll learn to tell stories through their photos. Plus it’s a confidence booster. Photography is art so there’s no right or wrong way to do it. There are no mistakes in photography. Only ways to grow.

It’s also a wonderful way to bond with your kids. If you explain to them that they aren’t just snapping a picture, that they are freezing time and capturing a moment that will last forever, all of a sudden cameras become magical.

Last year on Take Your Child to Work Day, I let Jaime, my 12 year old, stay home from school and help me photograph Olivia for her one month pictures. We talked about camera settings and light and she loved experimenting with angles.

She also loves to bake so we’ll often take pictures of what she makes.

When Olivia was born, both girls started taking more of an interest in getting behind the camera. They love to get shots of her smiling and I love that they are interested in what I do for a living.

If you’ve got a child who’s interested in photography, I’d love to share a few simple things you can teach them to help develop their skills. Before I do that, let’s talk about what camera they should be using.

what’s the best camera to use?

The easiest way to teach kids about photography is to let them use your smartphone. I know, I know – aren’t we supposed to be getting them OFF cell phones? But, there are basic rules you can learn about light and composition that don’t require a fancy digital camera and an iPhone is a great way to do that.

If they want something of their own to practice, try an instant camera like the Fujifilm Instax Mini. It’s inexpensive and they get the instant gratification of seeing their photos in print. Plus, it’s great to have for doing some of the photo projects I’m going to share with you at the bottom of the post.

Also, don’t be afraid to let them use a DSLR too. Maybe you’ve got an older model laying around. Or think about buying a used one. That’s what we did for Julianna, my oldest daughter, as a Christmas gift a couple years ago. We bought a used Canon Rebel T3. That camera is discontinued now, but any of the Rebel models are great for a beginner. If you’ve got young ones, I still think it’s ok to let them use a bigger camera as long as you make it a rule to keep the camera strap on at all times.

5 simple rules for good photos

Now that you’ve got an idea of what camera to use, let’s talk about some rules you can teach your children. Some of these concepts might need to be tweaked according to your child’s age. All of these rules assume you’re going to be using a smartphone.

1. Teach them how to focus and what to focus on. Most smartphones have the ability to move the focus around by tapping the screen. This is pretty easy even for young kids and it makes such a huge difference when what they want in focus is actually in focus. You might also want to explain that what they are focusing on is called their ‘subject’ so that when you talk about their pictures later on, you can ask questions about why they chose their subject.

2. Teach them about exposure and what it means. A picture is overexposed if it’s too bright and underexposed if it’s too dark. Your smartphone should have the ability to adjust the exposure of a picture. On an iPhone if you tap the screen and hold it down, a little box with a sun icon will pop up and you can slide the bar up or down to brighten or darken your image. Have your kids experiment with this. Exposure will adjust automatically if you tap on certain parts of the picture too. Tap on a bright spot and the rest will darken. Tap on a dark spot and the rest will brighten.

3. Help them learn how to find good light by showing them how to keep their main light source behind them. You are more likely to get well lit pictures this way. So, for example, if you are taking a picture using window light indoors, have them keep the window behind them. It’s also important not to block the light as they stand in front of the window.

4. Teach the ‘rule of thirds’. For parents, the ‘rule of thirds’ is a design concept where you divide your photo up into 9 squares. By doing that you get 4 intersecting points. The idea is to place the most important part of your images on one of those 4 intersecting points. You don’t have to necessarily explain this to your kids. Just tell them that their subject doesn’t always have to end up in the middle of the photo. You can help them practice this by turning on the grid on your iPhone. You’ll find it under Settings.

5. Tell them to move around: Kids actually move around more naturally than adults when taking photos so it’s a pretty easy concept for them to grasp. Encourage your kids to get high, get low, get close, get far. As they start to move, they’ll see more ways to capture a photo. They should also be thinking about whether they want the photo to be horizontal (landscape) or vertical (portrait).

Now that you know how to teach the basics of photography, click here to download a checklist of 10 fun photo projects you can do with your kids. Print it out and hang it on the fridge for those days when you’ve got nothing planned.

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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!

10 Ways to Spark your Creativity. Simple photography prompts you can use to help inspire and motivate you. www.stacymaeandco.com

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.

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