One of the questions I’m asked a lot about Instagram, is how do I get my children to sit still and co-operate for Instagram photos.
In answer to that question, the truth is, my children rarely sit still for a second and cooperation isn’t necessarily in their DNA. Nor would I expect it to be. All I have done to make things easier, is come up with a few simple ways to make it a fun experience for all of us.
Well, actually, in the interests of full disclosure, it’s not always a fun experience, but when this happens, my advice is to give up and try again on another day.
So, if you’re left feeling a little bit disappointed by your current family photos, these tips are for you. Whether you’re looking for a more styled ‘instagram’ feel, or something more candid, these tips can easily be applied to all kinds of photography where children are involved.
1. Plan Ahead
The photos I take of my children for Instagram are usually quite styled and by that, I mean they often aren’t taken in an everyday setting. For example, if you look at the photo above of Elodie and the decorated branches, it’s obvious that this is very staged.
For these photos, I like to set the scene before getting the kids involved, but the same could be said of more candid or outdoor photography too. For the latter, I try to find a nice spot to take a photo before grabbing my camera because it means less time faffing with children involved.
2. Use Props to Hold Their Attention
One of the best tricks I have learned from taking thousand upon thousands (yes, I am the kind of person who has 28,000+ photos on their phone) of photos my children, is that distraction is key. If you have a scroll through my instagram feed you’ll notice there are quite a few photos in which my children have something in their hands. Sometimes it’s a book, or a cup, or maybe a flower.
I’ve found that this is a great way of holding their attention and getting them to stay still long enough for me to take a photograph that doesn’t end up just as one big blur. It’s also quite a nice way of adding a little story telling, while connecting them to whatever scene it is I’m trying to create.
3. Don’t ask them to smile
Another tip I’ve learned from my unhealthy addiction to photography, is to avoid asking your children to smile … unless an awkward grimace is the kind of look you’re going for.
The best way to get a natural expression, or a big beaming smile from your child is to entertain them. Whether it’s by asking questions about the props around them, or by telling jokes to make them laugh. Creating a fun environment always trumps overly directing your children or asking for forced smiles. I know I’m not a fan of being told to smile and I’m sure children are no different.
If that all sounds too distracting for you while you’re trying to take pictures, then just ask someone to stand behind you entertaining the children as you carry on doing your thing.
4. Turn it into a game
Another tip to help you get great photos of your children, is to turn the whole process into a game. So whether it’s a make-believe tea party or throwing flowers into the air, turn your photography sessions into something your children enjoy and actively want to participate in.
For example, my favourite ever Instagram photo of my children is one where we were pretending that Elodie was a Christmas gift wrapped in paper (above).
5 .Photograph their everyday moments
Another tip that can help you to take a natural looking photo of your children, is to photograph them doing things they do every day. For example, I quite like to photograph Elodie enjoying a slice of cake or biscuit with a drink. The only difference being that I make the scene a little bit prettier than it might look at any other time.
Elodie will happily sit eating her snack and drinking her drink, while I stand on the table, hovering above her with my camera.
6. Pick your moment
When taking photographs of children, its a good idea to choose your time wisely. So you not only have to consider whether you have enough daylight, but you also need to make sure that it’s a good time for the kids.
Trying to take photos when they are over tired, grumpy or hungry will only end in tears. Trust me.
7. Take lots and lots of photos
The ratio of good to bad photos I take of my children is very small indeed. I can take tens of photos at a time and only end up with one or two good shots. Whether its because they’ve moved suddenly and the photos are blurred, or they’re pulling a funny face (although sometimes these are the best photos) or they’ve disappeared out of shot entirely, the key to getting a good photo is by taking as many as you possibly can.
For many of my Instagram photos, I’m usually sit on the floor chatting to them, while taking photos all the while. Once we’re finished, I then narrow these down to a couple for editing, before running them through VSCO and making my final selection.
If I’m not sure which one to post, I usually ask my husband’s opinion or run them past a group of lovely Instagrammers I’m in a chat group with. I find it can help to get a second opinion, because sometimes they’ll spot things I could do to improve the edit.
8. Don’t force it
This is common sense, but if you’re children aren’t in the mood for having their photo taken at a particular time, then it’s probably best to save it for another day. This is one of the reasons why you’re hardly ever see Noah in any of my Instagram photos. It’s rare that he will ever want to have his photograph taken and so most of the time, the only photos I take of him are the usual family photos when we’re on days out and even then he’s still not that keen.
9. Choose your focus setting carefully
In my experience, children don’t like to sit still for very long. So to give yourself the best chance of getting a clear shot, select the option for continuous or tracking focus in your camera settings. This will help your camera to track moving objects, i.e. ants in their pants kids, and help you to avoid blurring.
You could also try shooting in burst mode. This option allows you to take multiple images while holding down the shutter. Most DSLRs have this feature, so its worth having a play with it to see if it helps you to get the shot you’re after.
I’m categorically not an expert on camera settings and technical photography, but the great thing is that there are a load of helpful resources out there that make learning super easy. For example, here’s a YouTube tutorial from Nikon, showing you how to capture fast moving objects:
Finally, when all things fail, there’s always bribery …
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