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Does the thought of taking photographs of your children make you crazy? Are you stuck somewhere in between knowing “yeah, this is an important memory happening right now” and trying to decide “is this really going to be worth the fight?” Do you often leave for vacation without a camera because, “why bother?” Nobody wants to pose for any of your pictures anyhow?

If you are a parent reading this and thinking to yourself, yep that is me! Trust me. I am right there with you. While I may be a professional photographer who specializes in children’s portraits, that doesn’t mean it is any easier for me to photograph my own children!!! When they are acting like crazy maniacs, remembering to breathe and not yell at them takes a small act of God.

My little monkeys on Easter, taken with my iPhone.

The photo above was taken on Easter when we returned from church. I knew they were hungry, but we were late getting to my mother’s for the family gathering and I needed a photo of the two kids without baskets, candy and eggs! I knew it would be a challenge, but I went for it anyways. I put my happy face on and said “hey kids! before we head to Nana’s lets take a really cute picture so that way you can get all dirty at her house and not worry about it!” HA! I played to my strength, put them in the grass under a tree, and took only 3 images! They hugged and posed perfectly. Damn it was my lucky day!

I know how important these memories are for me and my family and I know they are for you as well. That is why I thought if I shared the 7 Silly Mistakes Parents Make When Photographing Their Children, it could help you have better results the next time you set out to capture a memory.

  1. SAY CHEESE! – I put this as number one because I always hear parents tell me “Look at his fake smile, I hate that smile!” Well guess what … Nothing creates a faker smile than the word cheese. They are taught it from a young age and know to just show teeth and grimace. So just don’t do it. Resist the urge to say “Say Cheese”, or “Smile”. If you want your child to give you a genuine smile or laugh you need to be silly or get them to say something silly. Potty jokes usually work!
  2. YELLING – I know this sounds obvious, but you know as well as I do that when our kids start misbehaving or don’t give us the results we are looking for our tempers start to flare up and the urge to yell at them comes out. In over 15 years of photographing children I can tell you that never, ever, ever has yelling at a child produced a happy kid with smiles that will light up a room. When you feel the urge to yell at your child, stop, breathe and remember it ain’t gonna work.
  3. BAD LIGHTING – Photography is the art of painting with light. Proper lighting is what separates the quality of images. A beautiful smile in a poor lighting situation is simply a bad photo. The first thing I teach parents when photographing their own children is to look for good light. Don’t back-light them (don’t put windows behind them), try and find a shady spot out of the sun, and avoid situations with extreme contrast from light to dark.
  4. AWKWARD ANGLES – Children are short little humans. While we spend most of our day looking down on them and they are looking up at us, what engages you with a photograph is the eyes. Get down on their level to photograph. Can images work shot from above or funky angles? Of course … but as a general rule, squat down (yes, it can be a workout) and get on their eye level to photograph. This gives the best perspective and true to life proportions of your child.
  5. BUSY CLOTHING – I know, you don’t want to fight the clothing battle with your child over what to wear, but in this case it is really important. The right clothing can make or break a photograph. Busy patterns, big graphics and unflattering colors can distract you from the beauty of your child and leave you focusing on their clothes instead of on their adorable faces. If your child is a picky dresser, give them 3 options of acceptable choices and let them choose.
  6. BAD TIME OF DAY – We are all busy. Between work, school, sports and a laundry list of tasks we must accomplish every day it is easy to demand our children take pictures when it is convenient for us. This is a huge mistake, especially for our littlest of children. Well rested kids are happy kids. If you try and take photos during nap times, after high stimulated activities or when they are hungry you are just fighting an uphill battle you will never win. Schedule your picture taking when your kids are fresh and happy! On a recent trip to EPCOT I knocked out most of my “memory making” picture taking after the first ride but within the first hour we were there. This way I had my photographs before they got cranky and sweaty and was able to enjoy the rest of my day without worry!
  7. BRIBES – People always ask me … Jeanine … should we bribe our kids to get a photo. The answer is “maybe” and “sometimes”! Essentially, It needs to be a well timed bribe. If you are start with the first picture telling your kids “if you just do this for mommy I will get you a treat” you are going to have a long miserable picture taking time. Kids feed off of your stress and emotions. If you go into the picture taking activities and build it up to be something fun, then you won’t need to bribe them!! Save the bribe for the very end when you want “just one more shot” or “mommy has one more idea”.

There you have it!! 7 Silly Mistakes Parents Make While Taking Pictures and how you can fix and/or avoid them. I hope this helps you to de-stress the next time you take on the tall task of photographing your children or having them photographed. Remember, taking pictures should be a fun, family bonding experience. You are capturing and creating memories that will last a lifetime. Don’t make the experience one that you and the kids hate … laugh, enjoy and then everyone will “smile”!

Jeanine McLeod

Jeanine is the author of Don’t Blink and owner of Cloud 9 Studios in Wesley Chapel, Florida.