Photographing newborns, as I do here in Los Angeles, always means photographing older siblings. These can be toddlers, who are their own challenge. But as a newborn photographer, families often ask for images of their much older kids too. Here are a few tricks I use to get natural looking images.
1. Allow Kids to be Part of the Design: Family photographers understand that many images are taken, but few are chosen. This is just part of family photography. The good news is: kids do not know that! So ask your child how they would like to be photographed. Ask if they want to make a silly face, or sit in a funny way. Snap away and tell them what great ideas these were. Then, on the sly, take images of their expression when you tell them what a great photo designer they are. These will be natural looks to accurately represent how your child looks at this time in her life. Another trick is to say things to them like "I have an idea too. Can we try it? How about if you sit/stand....." This is another way to make kids feel included and not just an object of photography.
2. Explain What You Are Doing: It may seem obvious, but so often kids are left out of the conversation. We assume that we can just expect them to do this and that without any context. So, take 5 minutes and explain why these newborn and family photographs are important to you, and what you want to do with them. "Mommy and Daddy want these pictures so that we can make an awesome wall display of you (and whoever else). These are going to be printed in a special way." (Of course, there is no 'special way'...but talk the photography session up like it is this B I G, H U G E thing. It usually helps.
3. Play the "You're the Older One" Card: In my newborn photography studio, it is my job to get older siblings to "perform" pretty much on demand. One way I do this is to congratulate them on being the "older" sibling. I mention that they get to boss their younger sibling around, play tricks on them etc. But then I remind them that the younger one is going to be looking to them for help and that they will be a hero for their new brother or sister. For most kids, this gets them feeling pretty good about themselves (at least long enough for the photo). Remember, having a baby is an adjustment for everyone. And even though it may seem like your other children are "ok with it", they still need a lot of reassurance. Make them feel responsible and important. It helps. It will also yield a better image.
May these tips for photographing your kids yield pictures your family will share and enjoy for decades.
-Katie Katsenis is a newborn and maternity photographer in Tujunga, CA 91042 just outside of downtown Los Angeles.