Monday, September 17, 2007

don't say "cheese"

Just in time for those annual christmas-card portraits (yes, it's that time again) and back-to-school pictures, BabyCenter has come up with some really good advice for taking family portraits and candids of our kids.
The first thing they recommend is NOT to formally pose everybody and command "say cheese!" Have you noticed the wierd smiles you get out of kids that way? Daniel mugs for the camera, and I confess to sometimes pretending to snap the shot he wants me to take while I wait for him to return to his play. THEN I actually start shooting, and I get much better pictures that way. It's no big deal for me to sit still and wait, watching for the moment when he turns toward the camera with an excited "Look what I'm doing!" smile. THAT's the shot I want. And one of my favorite portrait-studio shots of the two of us doesn't have either one of us looking at the camera. We're facing each other, laughing into each other's eyes.
BabyCenter also reminds us of the benefits of going digital. I remember one of Daniel's early photo sessions - I wanted a great shot for his first birthday. THe photographer took 350 photos! But sure enough, there was one that I glanced at and said "That's it." Sure, I had three or four others that I liked and was able to make a scrapbook page out of, but that one photo was the money shot. So don't expect to take one or two pictures and get what you want.
Baby Center also recommends the following:
Don't go for perfection. Our kids aren't perfect - it's better sometimes to see the "real" family. This approach is especially great with kids (and grownups)who hate having their photo taken anyway.
Do go outside. I love taking pictures of Daniel in trees. Maybe it's just because climbing trees is such a boy thing. MAybe it's the way the light plays through the leaves on his blond hair. Maybe it's just because he's so darn HAPPY. Whatever, everybody looks good in early-morning and late evening light. It's almost better than candlelight.
When the kids get tired of the photo shoot, give them a break. You're not going to get good shots with unhappy campers anyway. And who knows, turning them loose to play might net you the shot you're looking for. Because taking pictures shouldn't be a chore.

For more useful advice on photography, check out Danny Gilleland's blog "Almost in Focus." Go to and click on the link.

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