Let Innocence Shine

There’s not much more maddening than trying to get a kid who doesn’t want his picture taken to smile. Except maybe trying to get a kid who can’t get enough cheese! to lay off it for a minute. Or trying to get a baby who doesn’t know what a camera is to look anywhere in your general direction. You get the idea.

Photographing kids can be challenging but, truth be told, it’s the parents who make it really tricky. They hover and coax, beg and plead, clap and coo, anything to get their child to smile for the camera. I confess that I, too, have some experience in this area. But whether you’re a parent or a photographer you know these antics rarely work. What you may not realize is how unnecessary they are.

My friend Jill Cordes blogs for parents.com and earlier this week she blogged about trying to get her two-year-old daughter to pose for pictures. Her post, Milestone Monday: (Not) Posing for Pictures, got me thinking about what makes a great portrait.

To me, a truly beautiful portrait is not one that merely captures a child’s smile, but one that radiates the child’s uniqueness and conveys all the excitement, mischief, wonder and joy of being a child. Every moment is photo-worthy—nap time or play time, ball games or parties, rehearsals or holidays—and anything goes, missing teeth and cheesy smiles included.

The day will come when your child is ready to turn her eyes to the camera. When it does my job will get a little easier. But as Jill realized, until that day it’s okay to simply let their innocence shine.

I’ve included a few photos here which I think do just that, not one in which the child looking at or smiling for the camera. You can see more examples of my kids’ portraits here.

Linda - January 14, 2012 - 6:11 pm

I’m so guilty of trying hard to get them to look and smile. With my slow digital camera it was next to impossible to catch those fleeting baby smiles! When Claire got older I resorted to bribes. I remember trying to get a Christmas card picture and bribing her with cookies. Finally she got so frustrated with me, she yelled out, “Don’t want ‘ny cookies!” :-)

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