How Not to Say “Cheese” When Photographing Your Little Ones

0
241
Photo by author

It is a well-known phenomenon that when it comes to taking pictures of our own children, one can expect anything from a “Say Cheese” smile or a cool thumbs up pose to expressive frowns and outright meltdowns.

When we begin our parenting journey with our tiny, miraculous bundle of joy, we suddenly find ourselves with the urge to record and preserve for posterity every beautiful smile, cute new pearly white, silky lock, and that chunky little pair of legs. When they’re that young, it’s relatively easy to keep them happy and in one place—after their nap and feed—so you can capture the cutest smile there ever was.

In roll the terrible twos…and threes…and was that fours too?

You bribe them with sweets and treats and a last-resort threat of a timeout before giving up and realizing that they’ve won the battle of “Don’t Say Cheese to the Camera”.

This is when the fun begins. Little Lexi thinks running toward your cellphone and poking the screen with her fingers will make a more novel picture than her standing by that tree over there, whilst Coby thinks it’s such a fun game to run off into the distance every single time you finally have him framed up nicely in your viewfinder.

You bribe them with sweets and treats and a last-resort threat of a timeout before giving up and realizing that they’ve won the battle of “Don’t Say Cheese to the Camera”.

Well, let’s look at it from their side of the battlefield. Why does Mommy always seem to be pointing her phone at me? Why is she always telling me to keep still…in that increasingly loud tone of voice? And the more she tells me to say “Cheese”, the more my mouth feels like I’m in the dentist’s chair.

As a portrait photographer who works with children of different ages and temperaments, allow me to suggest that your kids are right! 

But by preplanning and being well-prepared for your picture-taking venture, you will not only have happy kids by the time you put your cellphone or camera down, but a lovely set of pictures of your little ones playing, having fun, or just being wistful, with natural expressions which portray your children’s true personalities—much more interesting and pleasing than a frozen “dentist’s chair” look or a “just-stopped-crying” one.

Project a calm, upbeat mood to your child well before you head out the door. By making sure he is well-rested, fed, and watered before your planned picture-taking venture, you are more likely to have a relaxed, contented child by your side. Excitedly tell him something along the lines of “Matti, we’re going to have a fun time in the park today! We’re going to see how many stones you can find!” 

Watch and take your cue from your child, so you know when he’s had enough and it’s time to put your camera down.

Photograph him while he crouches down to pick up an interesting stone and savors the feel of it in his hands for a few moments. Keep on chatting whilst you snap away; ask him what color it is and if he can come over and show it to you. Play a game of peekaboo behind the tree trunk, and grab that look of surprise and delight after the fourth time he appears from behind the tree. Let him lie down in the grass, and capture him from above or at eye level whilst propping his chin up with his hands. Bump up the action for a very active child, and let Daddy swing him in the air, making him feel like an airplane. Watch and take your cue from your child, so you know when he’s had enough and it’s time to put your camera down. The younger the child, the shorter the session will generally be.

Young children who are naturally more quiet will give you a beautiful range of expressions, from that soulful, off-into-the-distance look to the happiest of smiles when they reach the top of the ladder and look down at you with pride.

So, maybe you won’t be getting many pictures of your young child with that formal, perfectly posed look, but you will be getting pictures of him at ease in his environment, doing what he enjoys doing best, whether it’s snuggling up in a corner with a favorite stuffed animal or running circles around the tree. That’s your child, and years down the line, those pictures you took will be a testimony to how he felt and looked at that moment in time when he didn’t have to say “Cheese”.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here