April 17, 2024
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April 17, 2024
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How Not to Say ‘Cheese’ When Photographing Your Little Ones

It is a well-known phenomenon that when it comes to taking pictures of our own children, we can expect anything from a ‘say Cheese’ smile or a cool thumbs-up pose to expressive frowns and outright melt-downs.

When we begin our parenting journey with a tiny, miraculous bundle of joy, we suddenly find ourselves battling the urge to record and preserve for posterity every beautiful smile, the cute new pearly-white, the silky lock and that chunky little pair of legs. When they’re that young, it’s relatively easy to keep them happy and in one place––after their nap and feed, so you can capture the cutest smile there ever was.

But the terrible twos… and threes…and was that fours too? This is when the fun begins. Little Lexi thinks running toward your cell phone and poking the screen with her fingers will make a more novel picture than her standing by that tree over there, while Coby thinks it’s such a fun game to run off into the distance every single time you finally framed him up nicely in your viewfinder.

You bribe them with sweets and treats and a last-resort time-out threat before you give up and realize that they won the battle.

Let’s look at it from their side of the battlefield. “Why does Mommy always seem to be pointing her phone at me?” “Why is she always telling me to keep still in that increasingly loud tone of voice?” “And the more she tells me to say ‘cheese,’ the more my mouth will feel like I’m in the dentist’s chair.”

As a portrait photographer who works with children of different ages and temperaments, allow me to suggest that your kids are right. By being well prepared for your picture-taking venture, you will not only have happy kids by the time you put your cell phone or camera down, but a lovely set of pictures of your little ones playing, having fun, or just being wistful, with natural expressions that portray your child’s true personality. (Which makes for a more interesting photo than the usual “dentist chair” or “just stopped crying” look.)

It’s imperative to thoughtfully plan the lead-up to your picture-taking session. Project a calm, upbeat mood to your child well before you head out the door. By having him well rested and fed before your planned picture-taking venture, you are likely to have a relaxed, contented child by your side. Tell him with excitement something along the lines of, “Matti, we’re going to have a fun time in the park today. We’re going to see how many stones you can find.”

Photograph him while he crouches down to pick up an interesting stone and savors the feel of it in his hands for a few moments. Keep on chatting while you snap away; ask him what color it is and can he come over and show it to you. Play a game of peekaboo behind the tree-trunk and grab that look of surprise and delight you still see after the fourth time you’ve appeared from behind the tree. Let him lie down in the grass and capture him from above or at eye-level while propping his chin up with his hands. Bump up the action for a very active child and let Daddy swing him in the air, making him feel like an airplane. Watch and take your cue from your child as to when he’s had enough and it’s time to put your camera down. The younger the child, the shorter the session will generally be.

Young children who are naturally more quiet will give you a beautiful range of expressions, from that soulful, off-into-the-distance look to the happiest of smiles when he reaches the top of the ladder and looks down at you with pride.

So, you won’t be getting many pictures of your young child with that formal, perfectly posed look, but you will be getting pictures of him or her at ease in their environment, doing what they enjoy doing best, whether it’s snuggled up in a corner with a favorite stuffed animal, or running circles around the tree. That’s your child, and years down the line, those pictures you took will be a testimony to how he felt and looked at that moment in time when he didn’t have to say “cheese.”


Esti Lamm of See That Photo by Esti is a custom headshot, newborn and family portrait photographer living in Edison NJ, and servicing NJ and Metropolitan NY. For more information, visit her website www.seethatphotobyesti.com  or email her a: [email protected].

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