Four Corners Photography

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At Four Corners Photography, we believe in documenting the little moments. It is in those moments that the bigger story of your life's adventure is told.

The Myth of the Perfect Child Portrait - Atlanta, Georgia Family Lifestyle Photography

I am absolutely in love with these portraits of the Bowen family. The beautiful morning light, the wonder in the faces of the little ones, and the joy at their finding big sticks made for fantastic portraits! I couldn't have asked for anything better! But these kiddos took a little while to warm up to the camera and I've had this question come up a lot lately, so I wanted to talk a little bit about my philosophy on child portrait photography.

"What if my kid doesn't sit still and smile for the camera?" Not only do I get this question all the time from clients and friends, but this is also a question I asked myself recently when it was picture day at my child's day care. So I have been considering this question, thinking through the reasons why this is a fear for parents, and trying to come up with solutions to the problem. To save you reading time, let me just say that what I discovered was the problem isn't our kids, it's us as parents and I also don't have a solution. Okay, now that it has been confirmed that we are all terrible parents and there really is no perfect answer, you can either just scroll through the pretty pictures or keep reading to find out why and what you as a parent can do about it.
So first, what is the problem we are trying to solve? The problem is we want great photos of our beautiful children. Throughout this journey of child and family photography, I will tell you that I have had kids who will sit still and kids who won't, kids who cry and kids who laugh, kids who open up in front of the camera and kids who don't. For the most part, parents have no control over how kids are going to act during the session. As parents, we kind of know this about our kids, and it can make us nervous!
Now, what are we afraid of and nervous about? We are afraid our kids will act poorly, that it will reflect on us as parents, and that it will be a waste of time, money, and effort to hire a portrait photographer. I want to point out that these are all valid fears and I don't want to make parents feel inadequate for feeling these things. However, it is simply not possible to ask a two year old or even a ten year old to solve this problem of wanting great photos that we as adults have. This is an adult problem, our kids can and should not be responsible for the outcome. But maybe it's not the experience and the outcome itself that needs to change, but our expectations of a child portrait session and our perception of the end results!
So how do we conquer these fears and solve the problem? I don't think there is anything we can do to solve our problem of getting great portraits until we change our perspective and expectation of what a great portrait of a child is. Our experience with child portraits is often limited to Target ads or child portraits on Pinterest. We see these images and expect our children to pose and smile/ laugh the same way we saw other kids do it. When we see a still portrait of a child or family, all smiles and fun, we fill in the rest of the story with thoughts like "look how happy they all are together" or "what a good kid sitting and smiling for the camera." As a child and family portrait photographer, I need you to know that these thoughts are often very far from the real story. What you need to know is that I have a very fast shutter speed and sometimes take fifty images to get one good one. You also should know that a good portrait is not defined by how big the smile is, but rather, how real the moment is.

I think those ads or Pinterest images are just barely scratching the surface of amazing child portraits and seeing those images and believing they should be the ultimate goal for child portraits is a myth. Real child portraits tell us the story of a little person's life in one image. The personality, character, and stage of a child's life are all important pieces to telling this story. And since every child is different, we should expect (and even want) their portraits to be different too!  I challenge you to think about portraits of your child in a new light this week. Great photos of your kid don't have to be ones where they are all smiles, but they can be the ones where they are having real life experiences and just being who they are: curious, sometimes angsty, silly and awesome kids!

I will share another post with you soon on HOW to take better portraits of your kids later, but for now, I just wanted to get you to think a little bit about what makes a great child portrait! I hope you enjoy these images as much as I do!