Picture Perfect Kids, Hold The "Cheese" December 18 2013, 0 Comments

Picture Perfect PhotosThe following is a guest post from Nick Kozel - a professional photographer based in Minnesota who specializes in kids and family photography!

Now that we’re in the middle of the Holiday Season, I know that many of you will want to take great pictures of your kids. But it can be challenging to capture that perfect shot! I hope that I can help by offering a few suggestions: Let me start by mentioning that I frequently photograph kids. As a professional photographer, I am paid not to take standard snapshots, but to ‘stage manage’ the collaborative process to capture kids when they are their most authentic, real and honest selves. I’ll try to help you increase your odds of getting the special photos, by identifying a few keys to success.

Time. Kids look incredible on camera when they have had the time to settle in to something that interests them. Let them explore. Let them hang out and engage their minds in their play, exploration, or quiet contemplation. Snap a photo and perhaps gently ask them to glance over to the camera. Most importantly, let the time go by slowly and shoot the frames without intruding into their mood, body position or activity. And remind yourself to be patient. Relax and let it happen!

No Flash. Kids have a natural curiosity about what that interesting, flash-y light-y thing is. If there is enough light not to use it, then don’t, as it can become a distraction. Related to this rule is that I encourage you to not worry that your camera is not good enough. Great equipment will not rescue a bad photograph and miraculously make it a good one. Conversely though, less expensive equipment won’t necessarily ruin a great moment. So don’t worry about your technology (phone cameras can work just fine), don’t fuss with your settings and options and flashes; just pay attention to the moment in front of you and capture it. You’ll end up being happier with the results.

Throw Away The Cheese! One of the biggest challenges I face photographing children is convincing them that a smile is not created by saying “Cheese!” It’s not natural. It’s not authentic. And it makes for less than successful photographs. The photographs that you will love are the ones where the smile starts in your kids’ hearts and leaps out through their grin, their eyes, and their whole body. So don’t try to create photos with “cheese” because a beautiful real moment will not happen if they are trying to listen to and follow your guidance.

Play! Another imperative to photographing kids is to just let them play. Kids have an innate desire for and tendency for joy, play, and fun. Encourage that. Even to the point of just setting the camera to the side and joining in. Enjoy the time with them when your goal is to get their picture. By creating an atmosphere of play, you unleash your kid’s incredible creativity and imagination. Photographs that reveal these attributes are almost always beautiful. And hey, have some fun yourself! A corollary to this is to be prepared to facilitate play. Have a prop or a toy that is meaningful or likely to be meaningful to that individual child. Hand over the prop, hopefully in a place with good light, and then recede to the background as the child gets excited about their new adventure.

Take A Lot of Pictures. Nearly everybody is photographing in digital now. So don’t be bashful about using up those bits and bytes. Children can change their mind and their mood so quickly, just keep snapping away throughout so you don’t miss those magical and very photographable moments along the way. Because some-times those moments are very brief, aren’t they!

These are some initial thoughts that may help you get more of the photographs that you really want. You are also always welcome to contact me for advice at
nicholaskozel@hotmail.com. I’m happy to help!

Nick's clients include Tumblewalla, Children’s Hospitals & Clinics of Minnesota, and many families in the Twin Cities area. His website is