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There are tons of tips for photographing your family, siblings, and younger kids both in lifestyle and posed sessions. But sometimes I feel stuck for ways to get creative shooting my only (and slightly older) child. Here are some tips that I use to help me out of a shooting rut.
1. Photograph the Child Engaged in an Activity
This has got to be one of the easiest ways for me to photograph my child nowadays (when he won’t go for bribes unless they include pretty high priced items like a huge Lego set or staying up past midnight or something else crazy like that!). I stalk him and wait until he is engaged. This includes the everyday things like homework, playing on the iPad, hanging out on the couch, and eating breakfast. It also includes things like the weekly soccer game, boogie boarding at the beach, hiking, exploring at Disney. You know the things we do that are easy to overlook because they might seem mundane as well as the things that he will want to look back on someday & remember.
The below image was taken on a Saturday morning when we were out of coffee at the house. I asked my son if he wanted to grab breakfast (and coffee for me!) to take to the beach to watch the sunrise. The beach is a place he likes so I knew we would have time to just hang out there for a bit. We spent more time talking, looking around & just being together with just a few minutes of photography. I took my new Lensbaby Composer Pro + Sweet 35 for some practice and it worked out for us both.
2. Ask the Child to Help You Plan Something
This doesn’t work 100% of the time, but when it does work I have found that getting the buy in from my son can make all the difference in the world. I just ask him directly for his ideas and thoughts about a photo session (and by session I just mean any time I am going to pull the camera out for more of a planned shot rather than shooting our every day). I’m going to be honest & say that he doesn’t always give me an answer and it becomes more about me giving him a multiple choice option. Something like, “Hey, how would you like to go explore that cool looking Regional Park that we saw off the freeway….you know the one with the huge trees…at sunrise tomorrow morning?” And, then off we go. He thinks of it as exploring & I think of it as expanding my photographic horizons and increasing my chances of getting an updated portrait of him that I like. We both win.
The below photos happened just like I described above. I had seen a new location that I wanted to try and brainstormed some ways to make it more fun for my son so that it wasn’t all about me. My son loves to read and loves Disney. I had this box of antique books from my grandmother with the main Disney characters like Mickey & Donald. I asked him to help me plan a way to photograph him reading the books that I loved when I was a child. It worked because he had something to do while I tried out a few new ideas and we were both happy.
3. Look for the Light
This one seems simple on the surface. Because really, as photographers aren’t we always on the lookout for good light? But what I mean is to look deeper at the possibilities of the light you have. Turn off the lamps during homework time & watch how the shadows fall. Throw open the garage door and explore the wonderful possibilities that are waiting in that amazing space. Use the shadows that fall on the ground during a mid-day walk to the park & use them to enhance your image. You don’t have to wait until the golden hour to get amazing photos, you can be creative at any time of the day!
The below image was taken in my garage using natural light.
This next image I took just because I liked all the lines that that light was making.
And in this one I used window light at a coffee shop.
4. Invite the Neighbor Kids Over
I am so incredibly lucky to have met a local photographer, Kimberly Skeen, who has two kids that are the same age as my son. Finding someone local who you can shoot with and/or chat about photography with is a bonus all on it’s own. So I feel really lucky that I found someone who is willing to try out crazy ideas with me with our own kids. One nice thing is that while we are setting up the gear, talking about camera settings, and generally boring the kids they can play with each other. The other nice thing is that it gives me a chance to photograph more than just one child. Plus the chances that I have a cooperative subject increase greatly since he sees his friends being cooperative.
The tip here is to combine the above tips + bring in more kids. Find an activity, enlist the child to help you plan, find (or create) interesting light, and then invite over a few more kids. That’s what happened one random summer night with my friend Kim. We waited until dusk, set the kids up with instructions for sparklers (they were super excited) and shot like crazy until the fun was over. My son is still asking when we can try this again.
5. Look for new perspectives.
If you usually shoot your child straight on in a traditional portrait fashion, then try shooting from the ground up or standing on a chair and shooting down. I love getting in close for detail shots of things. It also gives my son a break from having the camera in his face all.the.time. if I am shooting something in his hands or just getting his feet in a shot. Try to get in close, shoot from behind, pull out and get a really wide shot. Look for ways to capture your child with variety. It is challenging to come up with new ways to photograph one subject but it will also give you a new way to capture those memories.