School portraits are a wonderful way to capture your child at a specific moment in time, year after year. The resulting developmental timeline provides joy and brings on the smiles for years and generations to come. Here’s the thing, though: not every day is picture day and not every child loves the lens. If your camera roll features more tongues, tears, turned heads, and tantrums than glee, then read on.
Roll With the Flow
The first rule of photographing uncooperative children is this: be flexible. And let’s face it, you’re a parent, so you’re already a pro at this one. You’re not going for a studio portrait here, you’re looking for that moment where your child is at his or her happiest. If that moment happens while making mud pies, so be it. If that moment happens while holding the poor family cat in that classic child dangle, snap it. Take a deep breath, and roll with the flow.
Location, Location, Location
It sounds obvious, but select a few locations where your child is at his or her happiest. Perhaps it’s gazing at the elephants at the zoo, hanging upside down at the playground, tearing down the sidewalk on a bicycle, climbing that backyard magnolia, or running full-speed towards the ocean. Once you’ve decided on your favored sites, spend a few weekends visiting them, having fun, and hitting the shutter button.
No More Cheese
After untold generations of family snapshots, “Say cheeeese!” is genetically encoded in our DNA. Fight the urge. No smiles at all are more honest than fake ones. Let your kids play, wander and roam. Snap. Talk to them, get them engaged. Snap. Take the time to let them be kids. Snap.
Look, it’s a Plane!
And then there are those days when play isn’t an option, roaming isn’t appealing, they’re not talking, and they not interested in being a cute kid. It happens. It’s time to pull the distraction card. Put down the camera, and play. Tell jokes, tickle, roll around on the ground. Laugh. And, if all else fails, drop to your knees, point to the sky and shout, “Look, it’s a plane!” If nothing else, you’ll have captured at least one sweet moment of wide-eyed gullibility.
Most digital SLR cameras and smartphones come equipped with a burst mode. This setting essentially takes several shots in rapid succession each time you press the shutter button. Your kids are on the move, so your photography should be as well. While this mode is most effective for catching movement and motion, it’s also very useful for catching those subtle, quiet changes in your child’s expression.
To Heck With It
Okay, so here’s the thing: sometimes, our kids just aren’t feeling it. If breathing, playing, bribing, and distraction have all failed, then it’s time to get crafty and call it a documentary session. That big quivering lip? That shimmering crocodile tear? They’re gorgeous, really. And they won’t last forever. Honest. Step in for the close-up and catch those fleeting moments.