Photographing Children or Pets...Shhhhhh!

January 14, 2020

Parents and Family, This is For You

In my experiences photographing children, families, and pets, I encounter one thing that creates more unusable outtakes than anything else. It's not closed eyes, goofy faces, poor weather, or any of the usual suspects that might first come to mind. Here's what the scenario usually looks like:

Family Portrait, Nanaimo

I'm getting everyone ready for a family group portrait, the formal one most families request where everyone is looking at the camera. It includes grandparents and parents and aunts, uncles, and children of various ages. Everyone is positioned to make faces visible, composition and camera are ready, it's time to shoot. I say something to the kids to get them to look at me, maybe I do a silly thing to get their attention... AND HERE IT IS FOLKS:

The adults all look down at the children to tell them to look at me.

Now NO ONE is looking at me, everyone is shifting their positions and looking down at the kids. The kids are stressed because numerous people are ordering them around at once, the adults are getting stressed with their kids in the interests of a perfect family portrait, and it takes even longer for me to get everyone ready and looking happy for the next shot. I've been through this enough to advise people of this in advance when they're booking family portraits with me, but here's the gist, dear reader:

If a photographer is engaging with your kids to get them to look towards the camera, bite your tongue & keep your eyes on the photographer, where everyone, the kids and yourselves should be looking.

Dog Portrait, Pender Island

Pet Portraits

I'm getting ready to photograph a pet. I have a treat and a toy, they're finally still and positioned, the lighting is just right, I'm ready to shoot, and then I begin asking the pet to look at me... AND HERE IT IS FOLKS:

The owner starts telling the pet to look at the camera.

Now the pet is not only looking at the owner instead of into the camera, often they'll get up and start moving towards the owner, then we have to start all over again and here's the gist, dear reader:

If a photographer is engaging with your pet(s) to get them to look towards the camera, bite your tongue & stay still, anything you try to do to help is more likely to be an interference.

Children and Pet Photography

If your photographer has done pet and child portrait photography that you've seen and liked, your best bet in a portrait session with them is to let them engage directly with your kids and pets without your interference. It's hard, as a parent and a pet owner - I get it - we are used to telling our kids and pets how to behave in public settings, except in a portrait session this tendency can be distinctly unhelpful.

This really mostly applies to the formal family photo where everyone is meant to be looking at the camera. Often the best family portraits that grow in charm over the years are even more so because of the one kid who won't look at the camera, made somehow more quirky and cute when everyone else is. Pets and children photograph best when they're relaxed and enjoying the photography session...and truthfully, the parents do too! This is much easier to accomplish when the calling of the shots is entrusted to, and left with, your photographer.

Family Portrait Photography at Poet's Cove, Pender Island