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Tips for photographing kids and for family self-portraits

Haven’t posted any tips for self-portraits during the last several weeks. 
Time to change it. 

Today I’m going to focus on the entire family: How to take pictures of yourself plus your family members. 

My last photo session with my family taught me a few lessons, and I want to share them here.  

Last week we had No.2 B-day, and I had this neat idea for some cute pictures which of course ended up not as I had planned. I mean, TOTALLY not as I had planned. Well, this should be a lesson for me and for all of you out there who plan photo sessions with kids and husbands.

Most of the ideas that you have probably won’t work out!  

Here are pictures from the session. 

Family portraits used in this post are from the same day, but about an hour earlier when everybody wasn’t hungry, tired and cold. The best thing would have been to stay at the same place and continue with my ideas, but I had different vision in my head and the only place I saw in that vision was the second location. So we had moved, and by the time we got there the weather had changed from nice to not VERY nice🙂 – cold and windy.

Before dragging all those balloons and the basket (which is kinda heavy), I tried it at home, and No.2 was very happy to sit in it. She actually didn’t want to come out. Every time I took her out she would climb back inside.

Guess what she did during the photo session?

The very first second after I put her inside she got the hell out of there and she did not want to get inside. From there my entire vision was ruined and I was ready to go home. In addition the wind tangled all the balloons and it was a TRAGEDY. 

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So, the conclusions are:

do not expect a lot while planning session with kids – at least have more than one back-up plan!!! 

do not use balloons in windy days – or at have a good plan where you’re going to place them. 

have plenty of food for the kids – and for the adults as they tend to get the same grumpy when hungry! 

have warm clothes, no matter how warm the weather is when you start the session.

one location is probably enough. 

give everybody a break from the camera.

do not panic – which is hard when you take pictures for money at the session turns into this kind of mess!

do not get angry – which is hard when you take pictures of your family (kids and husband)!

So far I’ve made all those mistakes and probably will do them again! 

As for the family self-portraits. 

Well,

First of all you must have a partner  who does not want to kill you (or you him) during the session.  

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Second of all plan your session according to the endurance not only of your kids but of your partner also! I figured that for my husband one locations is already ONE TOO MANY! And a session that is 2 hour long is about 1 h 40 min too long for him.

Knowing that you are going to take some family shots WEAR SOMETHING NICE. Make it a reason to pamper yourself a little. Do not wear or let your husband to wear anything that later will be a reason to reject the pictures.

Prepare yourself to run back and forth, from the camera to the family, many, many times.
Prepare yourself that most pictures are not going to be pretty, and I am not talking about “pretty looking” but pretty as “technically correct”.

In addition, if you have a dog who acts like it has fireworks shoveled up her/his rare end… well… then it is extra hard!  Probably it’s better to leave her/him at home.

If only the light wasn’t shining on N-o.1 face I would consider this picture as the best one:
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and probably this one IF (again), the dog wasn’t looking like she just saw a squirrel, and No.1 is making very silly face:

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Finally we moved to a different place and this I consider a good shot, although the dog is not in it:

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1/160 sec., f/2.5, ISO 320

and No.1 is a little out of focus as she started to wiggle like a worm. 

To be sure that all members are in focus even if they move a little, use smaller aperture – f/3.5 (and up), and faster shutter speed – 600 sec. for example. At this point you might have to bump up the ISO also.
In case if you have people standing in front of each other, using aperture f/1.4, f/1.8, f/2 simply won’t work. There will be always somebody out of focus.

Of course, if you have a perfect light and a great gear that allows you to bump up your ISO to 1000 and up, then you could set your shutter speed to above 2000 and that would make easier to take photos with less blurriness.

During my year of self-portraits I found out that my 18-55mm f/3.5 – 5.6 lens doesn’t produce very stunning shots, the background is not as pretty and and the depth of field isn’t blurry and shallow, BUT it is more likely to take pictures where I am in focus even if the focus was a little bit off from the start. While with 35mm f/1.8 you have to be very precise with the focus if you want to get a sharp picture. 

One rule that is very helpful in taking family portraits is to keep everybody close to each other. KEEP IT IN A TRIANGLE. Bring the family together! 

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Considering that there is nobody standing behind the camera, waving, making silly faces or using his/her voice to catch the kids attention the best way would be to use something like those lens creatures for the kids to keep looking at the camera:

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Simple, “Hey, Smile at Elmo” would do the trick.

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Of course, I did not take it with us, what is very clear looking at all the pictures here. 

And as I always say, “do not expect perfection”, but if you still have the time and the energy, and if you haven’t killed each other already, try for better picture, again, and again, and again. It is free.

Finish the entire session with a nice dinner in your favorite restaurant 

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That will calm everybody down, and the frustration will go away with the first sip of a hot coffee!

Nurture Photography Challenge - Spring 2013 Edition

30 thoughts on “Tips for photographing kids and for family self-portraits”

  1. The only thing I’ve learned in life is that nothing ever goes according to plan. And yet every single time I’m surprised and angered by that. You think I would learn. The one with her climbing out of the basket crying made me smile. You try so hard. It always shows. My favorite I think is the one in the restaurant with only Jay looking. Especially since he’s the one that usually doesn’t like having his picture taken, I thought that was ironic and magical!
    But all of them, no matter the facial expressions or what the dog is doing are really great! I mean, they show the characters of your family. And that my lady, is a good shot—frozen in time.🙂
    Lovely as always. And comically written.

  2. Great info! It’s just plain difficult to capture a 1-year-old. I do love the photos where she’s crying — so cute! After my family’s photo session, we stopped for ice cream for all. Yummy! Good times!

  3. Great advice! I’m so thankful that I have a SIL who’s a professional photographer do our family pics. The reasons you listed are part of why I never really attempt to do our family pictures myself. 🙂

  4. I found myself nodding my head and cracking up for most of this. Certainly not an easy task, but great tips.And you even managed some lovely family pics! I’ve actually been assigned to share some tips on this very subject for next week’s Challenge Post. I’m a little worried about the pics, haha. Wish me luck!

  5. Ewa, you are amazing! I love your work and the way you right about all the things that can got wrong made me laugh, especially the dog!

    Mollyxxx

  6. Wow, I guess I might want to think twice about buying a DSLR. I’m totally disappointed with my point and shoot, it’s a Nikon so I’m not exactly sure what the deal is. May be I’ll upgrade in a year or so…

    Nissa

  7. What a fun session filled with great lesson and tips…I love your Elmo’s Camera dress-up.🙂 You have a beautiful family. Thanks for having stopped by in my blog!!! Wishing you a great weekend.

  8. First of all you must have a partner who does not want to kill you (or you him) during the session. This words and the expression of the picture below it, make me lough. thanks for the tips, i do hope one day i will be a best photographer!

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