Tell that kid to stop smiling!!


They’re adorable, I love them, they tend to be very photogenic; but let’s face it.  Getting a kid to sit or stand still and pose for a picture is like herding cats in the rain.  Inevitably you get heads pointed away from the shot, fingers up noses, and bunny ears abound.  My solution is simple:  Let the kids be kids while you sit back and photograph what happens.  They’re plenty interesting all on their own, and there’s no need for me to mess with a good thing.

When I was a kid, my family always took pictures the same way.  I’m sure you’ve all seen the same.  There are probably millions of photo albums across america filled with pictures that all subscribe to the same set of instructions (usually barked by parents in an attempt to make the little buggers seem cuter than they are).

  1. Stand in front of this thing/place and everyone squeeze in together.
  2. Put your arms down at your sides
  3. Say “cheese”!

It’s that sort of picture that says “I was here, at least once, with these people; and I can prove it!”  Well, our goal at OPA is to make everyday photography better.  The pros have their own tricks to get really good, genuine photographs of children.  Here are a few easy tips to achieve the same thing.

Tip 1 (Leave them alone) —   First things first; let’s not make this picture into a major spectacle.  More often than not, as soon as the camera comes out and someone shouts “Everyone get over here for the picture!” you’ll see half the field scatter to the four winds, only to moan and groan through the whole process when finally snared and brought into the frame.  At least one will be hiding with his or her head in your jacket, hoping no one notices.  I find it best to have the camera out the entire time.  That way they’re used to it’s presence in the area, and they go on about their business.  This gives you oppertunities to catch them when they’re genuinely having fun.

Tip 2 (Get down there) —  Kids are small, no surprise there.  So why are we always taking shots of the tops of their heads?  Get down on their level for a while.  I like to sit on the floor or ground. and watch them play.

Here we see a common mistake. This shot was taken from the perspective of a standing adult. All we see is two kids eating, with not much in the way of emotion or expression.

Here we’re corrected the mistake by kneeling down to capture this lovely little princess smiling. This shot was taken from a distance, through a crowd so as to add to the “stealth” factor. If you need to use a flash, you should bounce it wherever possible.

Tip 3 (Eyes on the prize) —  That little window on the back of your camera, it’s called a view finder.  Ideally, when you’re in “picture taking mode”, it should be glued to your eye.  Some people prefer to use the LCD display over the view finder; but I came up in the film era, and I find a greater level of intimacy through that little window.  It’s also the best way I’ve found to keep track of your exposure information.  You should be riding the shutter button, constantly refocusing as you search for something.  Good photo ops are fleeting, and this level of readiness gives you the best chance at success.

If you find yourself in a situation where you simply MUST stand the kids in a line a take a pic, I always get the shot composed, focused and ready; then yell “STOP SMILING!!!” while possibly pointing at the kid in the crowd who is most prone to getting the giggles.  Spend any amount of time with them and you’ll learn who that is.

Well, hopefully these tips will help lead you in the right direction when it comes to kids.  There are more, but we’ll stick with the big, easy ones for now.  Keep an eye out for more updates in the future.  Until then, happy shooting!