Are your family photos a bit disappointing? The images not quite capturing the reality of a lovely family time or your kids’ gorgeous smiling faces? Too many closed eyes and ‘aw mum!’ grimaces in a whirl of arms and legs and dark shadows?
Here, professional photographers and parent bloggers adept at capturing their children’s best moments give some suggestions to help you take fabulous family pics.
Get that loving feeling
The best pictures come when you capture the love and laughter within a family group.
“When I take family photos I want to capture the interaction between family members,” says professional family photographer Annie Armitage, whose photograph of her son Peter, 16, and husband is above. “I don’t want soldiers in a row all staring at the camera, so I’ll ‘layer’’ family members, asking some people to sit on the floor and others to stand behind. I’ll ask them to look at each other to capture authentic expressions and that precious connection. I always take three to five shots because inevitably someone will blink.
“I try to create some hilarity, asking the family to say something like ‘smelly feet’, not boring old ‘cheese’ which makes people look awkward. Getting them to tickle each other works too.”
Photographer, blogger and entrepeneur Kat Molesworth agrees. She takes nursery and school class photos all round the Winchester area. “I tell the children to sit up straight, put their hands on their knees, think of someone they love and smile for them,” she says. She also has a repertoire of great jokes guaranteed to give kids the giggles, including this one: Knock knock. Who’s there? Europe. Europe who? No, you’re a poo.
Pick your moment
To capture natural unposed pictures of your children, Kat recommends always having a camera in your pocket. She carries her iphone and a smaller point-and-shoot Canon G7X Mark II on her at all times. “It’s about sitting back and observing them while they’re engaged in something else and capturing their enjoyment,” she says.
Professional family photographer Katie Lister advises: “Pick your moments carefully to take photos - preferably when your child is well fed and rested and not being pulled away from an activity they are interested in.”
Annie Armitage says she tries to schedule home shoots with small children in the mornings when they’re bright eyed and bouncy. And if thet are even slightly unwell, she recommends rescheduling.
As we all know, small children have a small attention span. “I aim to be in and out within an hour with small children,” says Annie Armitage. “The quicker the better, as they get bored.”
Katie Lister has some clever tricks for capturing children with short attention spans: “For an authentic natural smile, wait a few seconds longer before you click the shutter - a child might give you a cheesy grin initially but if you can make them laugh and snap your photo just afterwards, you’re more likely to get natural smiles.
“Asking young children to pose is really difficult - staying in one place is really not a priority for most little ones. Two good ways to anchor them to the spot are to ask them to stand on a tree stump (if outside) or a stool/chair (if inside) and this might buy you a minute or two to take your photo before they climb down. (Obviously only do this if your child is old enough not to risk falling off!). Photograph children at play interacting with others, rather than trying to pose them.”
Katie also, quite rightly points out: “Embrace imperfection. That’s what we look back on with fondness!”
Help your children feel comfortable in front of the camera
Kat Molesworth says: “Get your children on board with taking pictures. Every year I print a photo book for the family, which we all love looking back on over the years and they know that’s why I want to take their photos.
“My biggest advice would be to take lots of photos but show your children that taking their picture is about loving them, never humiliating them.” The lovely picture below shows her children Milla, nine, Monty, seven, and Betsy, five.
Put yourself in the picture - really!
Annie Armitage says one of the greatest problems she encounters is persuading reluctant parents, particularly embarrassed dads, to get in the picture. “I have to say it’s for your children too, who will treasure these photos of the whole family even more as time passes.” The same applies for your own family snaps - ask someone else to take the picture or do the selfie arm stretch, rather than being the invisible parent always behind the camera.
Kat Molesworth points out how important it is to put ourselves in the picture. “If you screw up your face and proclaim ‘I hate having my photo taken’, firstly you’ll have some terrible pictures and secondly, your child will be watching and learning bad self image messages. We shouldn’t be sending the message that we hate the way we look, especially as we always look back at photos and think we look great.”
Seek out the light
Katie Lister says the right light will improve the quality of your pictures immediately: “Find as much natural light as you can - either go outside or photograph your children close to a window. I love this shot of two sisters (above) because it conveys sibling love for one another, and the setting and light were just perfect!”
Enjoy your family photos
And when you’ve taken a photo you love, display it proudly, whether in a printed photo book, framed or canvas print on the wall, or as your screen saver, so those moments of joy continue to resonate through the years while your children grow up and change dramatically.