Treasured memories

Make a Connection Make a connection with the siblings. You don’t need to be a stand-up comedian or a children’s entertainer but keeping the atmosphere light, fun and happy will enable you to make a bond with the children. Be yourself but talk to them, ask questions (silly questions like: «Does your brother snore?» or «Does Alice have a boyfriend?») keep them smiling and interacting with you, laugh and be involved. Avoid stirring up any sibling rivalry or strong teasing, they will respond better to each other and to you if everyone feels happy and relaxed. Even if Mum and Dad aren’t being photographed it is still essential that they participate as more than just observers or supervisors — their connection is just as important. Dad might be great at making them giggle, Mum might be able to recount an interesting tale that grabs their attention, they can even talk and laugh about their parents (teasing parents is allowed and actively encouraged!)

Keep it Natural Some gentle direction is fine and might persuade subjects to stay in a particular zone or on a bench for example, but strong instruction or rigid poses simply won’t work for children. Even if you did manage to get them to remain in one spot together and pose a certain way, the final images will most likely have an awkward and ‘wooden’ feel about them. Encouraging interaction between them and being ready to capture their expressions, their connection, real smiles, funny glances and quiet moments is far better.

Use a Prop A prop could be a favourite teddy that the children have brought along or something as simple as a daisy or leaf. Finding the object, whatever it may be, looking at it and playing with it can be effective in concentrating the attention of all the children present. If the youngest child, for example, is not as willing to participate in the shoot then this can give them a sense of purpose and responsibility: «Tom, do you think you could find a buttercup for Millie?»

Older children can then be gently guided to interact with the ‘finder’ and encourage the activity further.

Ask the Older Children to Help Older children often love the responsibility of being the one who is ‘helping’ the photographer. By directing them to be in a particular place or to stand a certain way it may entice the younger sibling(s) to respond in a similar fashion.

Look for the Quiet Moments It may be that at the end of the shoot, the mood has quietened a little, there is less energy and more of a gentle pace. The children are more relaxed with you and don’t feel any pressure at all to pose or play to the camera, they are just being themselves. They might discover something of interest on the route back or casually hold hands and walk together. Be alert and ready to capture those quiet moments that might otherwise just pass by if you are engrossed in a conversation with Mum and Dad. Avoid disrupting the situation if you spot a perfect moment of interaction, parents will understand if you quietly get involved in capturing the scene without explaining everything you are doing.

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