Are you the “say cheese” mom that runs over to her kids when she sees them do something cute? I get it, it makes sense! You want to document a moment and that’s how you’ve learned to do it. I mean.. most of us grew up with parents or family members always telling us to “say cheese” as they snapped a photograph during our adolescent years. It’s a learned behavior for sure!
Here’s the thing though… if you are the “say cheese” mom, you’re not going to get very authentic photographs and your kids are going to grow to hate the camera. Yelling out “say cheese” in the middle of a moment destroys the moment itself, turns the moment into a negative thing altogether, makes your kid stop doing whatever it is that they’re enjoying and they have to slow down to smile. What a vibe killer! Odds are.. you do this enough times, and your kids will start to HATE the camera.
Not only will your kiddos start to hate the camera, but you’ll start to get upset at your kids for not cooperating. You’re human. Trust me it will happen. But here’s the thing.. it doesn’t have to! Change your approach. Search for the candid moments that will give you a true testament to your children’s childhood. Let your kids know that they don’t have to look at the camera; they can play as if it isn’t there. If you miss a shot (trust me, it will happen) don’t get bummed. Just say something like, “gosh that was so funny, can you do it again?!” Nine times out of ten they’ll happily oblige.
By embracing this candid type of photography you’ll become more accepting of imperfections. In life, in photography, things don’t always go as planned, so we can use that to our advantage. Often times, pictures will end up better than we pictured in our head anyways. I recommend that you don’t tell them to “act natural” and instead you converse with them. Make jokes or ask questions about what they’re up to, and know that there will always be a next time to get the shot you may have missed.
If your kids ask you to stop taking pictures, respect that. Let them know that they have a voice, and that it is heard and put your camera down. Again, there will be a next time. Sometimes you might want a particular photograph, and so it might be helpful to tell your kids that you’ll only use the camera for five minutes and set a timer. Make an agreement with them, that way they feel heard and are more likely to cooperate in the small timeframe you’ve both agreed to. When you’re done, make sure to thank them. They’ll feel appreciated, respected, and they will remember it for the next time you pull out your camera.
Here’s the thing, it’s real similar to promising your kid that if they do XX, then they can do YY afterwards. If you don’t let them do YY after they did XX, then they’re less likely to trust you the next time you try to prompt them in the same way. This remains true in photography. Keep your word. Kids remember that!
If you’re looking for a picture of them looking directly at the camera, it can sometimes help to set up the shot you want, and as you look through the viewfinder, whisper their name and they’ll turn to look at you.
If your kids are already frustrated with the camera, then I have a challenge for YOU. We’re all in quarantine right now, and it’s a great time to practice your skills. For the next 30 – 60 days, I challenge you to not ask your child to look at the camera, and instead find the candid moments and embrace them. Retrain your child that the camera is not a bad thing. It might be kind of fun to even show them the pictures you took later on so they can be a part of what you’re doing and see the end result.
YOU’VE GOT THIS MAMA!