Family Photography for Free

By Becky Emerick
When my first child was born, I had the great idea to get monthly pictures taken of her at a local studio. A few months into it, I realized that my dream wasn’t working. It was a stressful, expensive, unsuccessful venture. Abby usually started crying the second she was placed on the set for her ten-minute slot. We’d catch pictures in between tears and pretend she was smiling. Overall, I look back at those pictures and roll my eyes. What an ordeal! When she was almost a year old, I decided to try taking pictures of her myself, and that is where my photography adventure began. Eight years later as a mother of four and owner of my own photography business, I’ve learned a lot about how to take pictures of my children, which ultimately saves money and creates lasting memories.
Here are the who, what, when, where, why, and how of taking pictures of your own kids.
First, the why. Put simply, taking your own photos of your children saves money and time. Photo sittings are pricey and time consuming for the entire family. Taking them yourself also gives you the rights to the pictures, so you can print them, email them, or put them on a T-shirt. The best reason I’ve found, however, is that I create a memory, not just a picture. The rocking chair I use is from their great-grandma, not a studio. The event itself is a memory, and looking at a picture of my daughter Katie at a local garden where we played brings a smile and is much more meaningful than a fake flower backdrop.
The first who is you! You wear many hats during the day: cook, teacher, cleaner, chauffeur, maid, friend, disciplinarian . . . so for a time, during the photo sitting with your child, put on your photographer hat and get rid of all the others. So often parents are the worst part of a photo sitting. If you get impatient, grow angry, yell at your child to smile, and threaten with punishments, your children will reflect your mood, and it will show. Put away all scolding and disciplining as well. If your toddler hits his older sister, cheerfully say “no, no!” and make it a silly game. If he sits on the table when he knows he’s not supposed to, pick him up, spin him around, and bring him back to the photo shoot. Keep a cheerful voice, even if you have to fake it. Don’t worry—a few minutes will not negate all the child training you’ve been working on for years, and you can go back to it as soon as you’re done. For a few moments, you’re a photographer, not a mom, so have fun with it! Remember, you set the tone for the sitting.
The first thing you need is a strong pair of thighs. It’s easiest for us to take pictures from our height, but the pictures will transform instantly when you squat or kneel down to the children’s level. The second item you must have is a camera! There are many options, but if you haven’t switched to digital yet, I highly recommend it! Before the shoot, you’ll also want to gather some toys, props, and attention getters. Keep props for the children simple. You want to have a beautiful picture of your child, not a guitar or light saber or giant dog. I often let my children hold their favorite toy. It adds personality and an element of fun, and when I look back, I remember what they were like at that age.
Take the pictures when your child is happy. If he starts to get grumpy, put your camera away and try again later. This is the beauty of taking them yourself! As far as lighting goes, if you are taking pictures indoors, choose a time of day when a lot of light shines in through a window. If you are taking them outdoors, the morning or later afternoon—when the sun is no longer at its highest—is the ideal time. An overcast day is actually easier than a fully sunny day, because you do not have to worry about squinting and harsh shadows.
If you choose to take your pictures outside, select a background that is uncluttered. As with props, the focus is your child, not the waterfall behind him. I like to choose locations that mean something to me, such as behind our house or at a park where we often play. Also, select a location with light shade—under trees or near a wall. You want the sun to be behind you and shining on your child. If the sun is behind your child, the picture will be silhouetted. If you are taking pictures inside, use as much natural light as possible, from either a window or glass door. Kids are active, so use that motion to your advantage. Play a quick game of Simon Says, ending with her hands on her lap to get the pose you want. Have him hide behind a tree and peek his head out as a “peek-a-boo.” Have her turn away from you and spin around when you count to three. Have him close his eyes and open them when you get to a word in a song. Have her say silly or fun phrases, such as “I love Daddy,” which is what my daughter was saying when I took this picture. Here are a few final tips. • Be sure your camera is charged and ready to go. • Go online and browse Web sites of other photographers to get ideas.
Relax. These are just pictures, and remember that your children are more important than an image over the fireplace or a perfect Christmas card. So get your camera and your kids, and head outside to make some memories. And while you’re at it, take a few pictures. You just might find out that it can be a lot of fun.
Becky Emerick is happily married to her high school sweetheart and is a homeschooling, SAHM of four wonderful children. She owns a part-time photography studio called Natural Moments, “Capturing Natural Moments That Sparkle With Emotion.” She has a passion for Jesus, her family, and friends. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, acting, singing, and playing Scrabble. You can find her on Facebook, or visit her Web site:

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