Tips for Family Portraits With Young Children
Does the thought of scheduling a family portrait end up leaving you stressed and anxious, and therefore simply avoiding the whole experience? Unfortunately, it does for many parents, and that doesn’t have to be the case!
First, remember that a family portrait is just as much for your children in the future as it is for you now. You’ll be able to not only decorate your home with beautiful images of the people you are most proud of, but your children will be able to have and cherish photos of their parents and siblings during the different stages of your lives as they grow up.
Two of the biggest stressors caused by family photos are
1: What to wear
2: How to get your children to cooperate and smile.
On both of these counts, fear not – your trusty photographer is here to ease your worries
One of the most stressful aspects of portraits for many families is deciding on what to wear. I am a big fan of coordinating outfits that aren’t exactly the same. Think about it: would you and your family attend any other event while all wearing black shirts and dark jeans? Most likely not.
But most times, you want to look nice and coordinate together. Consider dressing your children in prints while the parents go more neutral, such as printed dresses for the girls, a patterned shirt or sweater for the boys, and black, brown, beige or other solid colored tops for Mom and Dad – easy and looks great!
One of the best ways to ensure your child's cooperation and a natural smile is to prepare your children by telling them all about the experience. Try this: you’ll be having some nice pictures done (many of my clients add “by a nice and pretty lady,” of which I am not at all opposed), that it won’t take very long and that it will be really fun. Many parents even promise their children a trip to the ice cream store afterwards if they are well-behaved, which I encourage – I see this less as bribery and more as a way for the children to view the entire experience as a positive one.
Consider what makes your child smile their true, natural smiles, and convey this and any other tips to your photographer beforehand. Is there a certain joke or phrase that makes them laugh? Don’t have your child practice saying “cheese” because this phrase often invokes, well, a “cheesy” smile! A word such as “monkey” can make for a more natural smile.
Along those same lines, with really young children and toddlers, please don’t rely entirely upon the photographer to be able to make your child smile, especially at the beginning of the session. We are strangers to your children and though we can be quite entertaining sometimes, you know what makes your child laugh, smile and become comfortable with situations.
I encourage parents to “play” with their children throughout the session – toss them up in the air, tip them upside down, give them a piggyback ride and more. These things make children comfortable, make them laugh and ensure that they are having fun, which you promised them in the beginning!
However, when it comes time to get that posed family portraits where everyone is looking and smiling at the camera, that’s exactly what Mom and Dad need to be doing the whole time – when your baby or child is sitting with you, he or she can’t see your face, so when you are making a silly face in an effort to get them to smile at the camera, it does nothing but leave you with a photo of your potentially goofy expression…probably not one that you will want to use for your holiday card!
Many times, children can feel overwhelmed by the photographer and both parents trying to get them to pose and smile. If your child is comfortable taking a few steps away with the photographer, he or she might cooperate more if they’re not on display for everyone. I’ve gotten some fantastic smiles and expressions from children in the 4-10 age range just by working with them one-on-one and asking them to tell me their favorite joke.
Above all, trust your photographer! Beautiful photographs are very reliant upon ideal lighting. Rather than having your heart set on photos in front of a particular wall or flower display, express that you might want a “bright or colorful background” and let your photographer find the best lighting for that. It will make a world of difference in your images.
Submitted by Springfield Moms Advisory Board member, Courtney Westlake, who is mom to Connor and wife to Evan. She is a freelance writer, portrait photographer and the owner of Westlake Photography.
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