How to Photograph Your Kids...Fashionably

by Frederick Egan Castleberry

Childhood is over in the blink of an eye. Take a picture—it certainly lasts longer. Modern parenthood practically corners you into taking up photography. You might as well learn to do it well given the one-upmanship landscape of Instagram and Facebook. Photographing your kids is no walk in the park though. They’re often unfocused. Poorly composed. Unruly. And that’s just your images. Here, a few personal tips on how to photograph (and temporarily tame) your kids.


Have a Plan: Pull tears from magazines, scour Tumblr, thumb through coffee table books of your favorite photographers' work in it. What you're looking for here is inspiration—ideas for posing, expressions, styling, concepts, etc. What's that? You’re into taking pictures and don’t have a favorite photographer? Find one. In fact, find several. This shot is likely the culmination of countless Peggy Sirota portraits I’ve pored over the last seven years.

Style the Shoot: No one wants to look back on photographs of themselves 15 years from now wondering, "What was I wearing?" Your kids won't want to either...because they'll be 25. Aim for timeless and classic. Drop in to Ralph Lauren, Crewcuts, and GapKids for shrunken takes on grown-up classics. Just ensure the clothes fit your kids right now…not 6 months from now. Some kids’ clothes designers make this as challenging as possible. The boys and I cut over five inches off these Old Navy chino shorts just so they would hit a handbreadth above the knee.

Little Bribes: I prefer the more civilized term "incentive" since that is how the world actually works. And your kids are better off knowing that the sooner the better. If you do x, you will be rewarded with y. When my boys were 4 and 5, it was candy—instant gratification candy. Toddlers need that in order to comprehend the arrangement of being rewarded for the request made of them. Now that my boys are Tweens, it's "I'll drop $15 into each of your iTunes accounts after we nail this shot.” Just don’t show your entire hand upfront. They learn to negotiate eventually.

Sink to Their Level: Some of the best portraiture is shot around eye level of the subject. Kids are no exception. Get down on their level. You can ice your knees (and lumbar) afterwards.

Get Wide, Get Close: Reach for a wide angle lens and then fill the frame with your kids. A wide angle lens practically forces your hand to get up close and personal with your subjects. Here, in the backseat of my ’87 Bimmer, I opt for a 20mm…yet, I’m still filling the frame with my boys.

Work Quickly: No matter how incredible your bribe incentive, the law of diminishing returns quickly erodes its perceived value. In other words, you have 30 minutes (tops) to nail your shot. Go!