Here in Niagara, the weather has been absolutely beautiful - truly the perfect fall climate for amazing family photos. This is probably my busiest time of year for family sessions, and I LOVE FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHY! I love the energy children bring into a session, but I'll admit, I'm spent after a day of back-to-back mini sessions! It's work - fun work - but still work.
I know a few things about managing children during photos, since I have 4 kids of my own, currently ages 4-11. I don't always get it right, but I wanted to share some of my tips with you! My hope is that you'll take some of these and apply them to your own picture-taking...and/or realize when to hire a professional. (Even I have a hard time taking my own family Christmas card photos...and they never turn out like I want them to...as evidenced last year when I gave up - see previous blog post.)
There's alot more that goes into getting the best candid family shots, but these are my top 5 tips that I use all the time:
1. THROW PERFECTION OUT THE WINDOW
Ask yourself if you really want that perfectly posed shot. If you do, it'll be worth your time/money to hire a professional. But even then, it's a good idea to redefine what makes a beautiful photo. In my opinion, the best family photos are the ones that show emotion and warmth. If you can keep the mood light and fun, the emotions you'll capture will most-likely be positive. Focus less on getting "the shot", and work towards maintaining a fun mood.
2. TIMING IS KEY
If you have small children, it might not be a good idea to plan photos during naptime, after a long day at school, or right before a meal. If you've been a parent for more than 30 minutes, you've probably gathered that strategy is key, especially when you have more than one child. Align your own stars by having snacks ready, choosing a time that is typically peaceful for your child, and plan ahead so you are not rushing the photos.
3. AVOID TRIGGER WORDS
The best family photos happen when the child forgets we're there to take pictures. Focus on having fun with your child, and put your photography ninja skills to work. Don't use phrases like, "look at the camera", or "smile for the picture". Many children are allergic to these words and will do the opposite when provoked with them. Instead, use phrases that pull their attention towards you, like, "Aaaaa! Is there a bug on me?" or, "Do I have something in my teeth? or, "What kinds of things do you see in the sky?". I always try to be a little goofy when I'm taking family photos, strike up conversation with the kids, and snap photos in between...all while subtly avoiding the fact that we're actually here for photos.
4. EYES ARE EVERYTHING
Never underestimate the power of the eyes in a photo. The entire photo can be so-so, but if the eyes are crisp...and showing emotion...that's a win. Keep focused on the eyes, especially when they are looking at the camera.
5. KEEP SHOOTING
Once your settings are good, and you have the child where you want them, take multiple photos. During a typical family session, I expect to shoot about double the amount of photos that I would on an individual portrait session. Kids are quick, and that adorable moment may only be seconds long. And the fact is, kids never repeat the same moment twice during a session. Especially if you try to recreate it. So you have to calculate, and then shoot more frames than you think you'll need of that one particular scene.
I hope this has been helpful! You can get beautiful candid family shots this fall if you do a little planning and alot of letting go! :)