Why is it so stinking' hard to take pictures of your own kids?

When you take your children to a photographer they are nervous. They don't know what to expect and the thing is a little frightening for them. Almost every session with children I have ever done follows a similar progression. At the beginning of the session the child is nervous and shy. Something interesting happens after a few photographs. The child will loosen up and hit a magic balance between nervous and overly excited. This magic balance is a wonderful thing. This short window of time between nervous and comfortable is where a photographer gets their best images. This is the time when a child will laugh, smile and enjoy the session. This time is perfect for taking photographs, but it doesn't last long. Within a few minutes the child becomes overly comfortable. Once they are comfortable, they will act silly, and will be having too much fun to follow directions. This is when a professional photographer will end the session.

What does this have to do with taking photos of your own child?

The professional will make children a little nervous. When it's Mom or Dad behind the camera the child is not nervous. They have no reason to be. Without that bit of nervousness or hesitation, kids are much harder to photograph. There is no nervousness, and no perfect timing. Children are comfortable with Mom and Dad right from the start. That means they will be silly, and harder to manage from the beginning. Of course there are a few other important factors that decide how difficult it is to get great photographs of your own children.

Does your child's age matter?

Yes. Yes.  And Yes!
The 2-3 year old is almost always be the hardest age to photograph. If you don't ask them to sit still, they will likely smile, have fun and the result is great photographs. However something scary happens when you tell them to stand still or sit down. Your lovely child suddenly becomes possessed. Kicking, screaming and yelling will soon ensue all because you asked them to do something they don't really want to do.

The good news is that around their 4th birthday, they can be bribed. A 4 year old is emotionally mature enough they will often sit through a parents photo session to get some type of prize (McDonald and Ice Cream being the most popular).

What about the number of children?

Again, yes. With each child you add to a photograph the harder it ill be to get them all to coöperate for a photograph. Unfortunately, giving away a child isn't a solution most people want to consider.

Does this mean that photographing your kids is a lost cause?

Photo sessions with Mom, often end in an argument complete with threats, frustration and a promise to never try that again. It can be extremely frustrating, but it doesn't have to be. You can improve the experience for all involved. Here are a three tips that will help you improve your photography, allowing the entire experience to be a positive and not a negative experience.

  1. Adjust Expectations - Don't expect the perfect photo. Expect to have fun and enjoy what you happen capture. The more fun everyone has, the more likely you are to get another chance in the future.
  2. The more the merrier - Rather than expecting perfection on the first try, make it fun and try often. Carry your camera with you more often and capture the fun times. The more photographs you take, the more keepers you will have in the end.
  3. Embrace your silly side - Your kids are instantly at ease with you. Take advantage of that and capture those silly moments. These memories will be cherished in the future.

Photographing your children may be one of the hardest task you have ever met, but don't let the difficulty of the task cloud its importance. These photographs will become a legacy that your family will enjoy for decades and generations to come. Have fun, and create lots of memories.