portrait photography: another whirl

If you've read my blog for any length of time, you know my thoughts on portrait photography. In a word: bleh! I think I even said in my 'About Me' section, I like subjects that don't make weird faces and try to get away. I don't enjoy it, I'm not good at it, and when I try it I feel every ounce of creativity draining from my body.

But today I had an epiphany. I have kids. I better learn.

It's so cold outside, I can't do much practicing now, but this spring I'm going to take this challenge head on. I'm really going to try to get better at it!

So this morning, with renewed determination, I pulled up a couch to face the window and gave it a whirl.

For the most part, I understand lighting. I know how to work my camera. But when it comes to posing my kids, I have a mental block.

I don't mean "posing" in a fakey way, but I think some direction is necessary, at least for my kids. :-) Unless you enjoy blurry pictures of three kids running around like maniacs, they need some idea of you want them to do.

The problem is...I don't know what to do. Even if I just take my older boys out, I don't know how to sit them, where to place them, I just draw a blank.

Don't get me wrong, I love candid shots; way more than posed. But I think there are certain times when you'd like to get all of your kids facing the same way and smiling, right? Do you know I don't have one picture of all three kids looking at me at the same time?

You know I had to do at least one in color. ;-)
Livia is giving you her very best fake smile.


Hands down, my favorite favorite favorite picture of the morning.

So there you have it. If you have any tips or suggestions, especially trying to work with two older boys and a baby, please feel free to pass them my way. If your tip is "call a professional!" I'm beginning to agree. I look on other photographers' websites to get ideas, but when I get out with my kids, nothing looks right.

Surprisingly, I'm really happy with how these pictures of Livia turned out. There are a couple I really love. That little boost of confidence encourages me to keep trying! :-)


Amy said...

Love them all! I'd actually love to see some blurry pictures of your kids running around. :-D You could email them to me if you don't want to post them. lol. If you have an extra 100 dollars laying around, maybe you should pick up Momtog's posing guide... http://www.momtog.com/ I've heard great things about it, but never actually seen it.

Jaymi said...

these are great! i think you are great at portrait photography! but i have the same fears/troubles with it. It is my new year's resolution to definitely take more pictures of people this year!

Sonja said...

These are too cute! I especially love the last one!

As far as advice goes, I'm really not the person to ask, but I'm taking a photography class, and these past two weeks have been about portraiture. I've learned a lot as far as it goes for posing. Some pointers that I've learned:

1)Lean the boys against something (in fact anything!). Boys are leaners, and will feel very natural doing so.

2) Avoid the "dead fish" hands by making loose fists (curl the fingers upward loosely.) Or put them in pockets! :-)

3) As far as Liva goes, I'd say that the photos where you have gotten her attention with candy or lemons ;-) look very nice. Perhaps try that again with her when you do all three of them together?

Your photos really are fantastic. I think I need lessons from you on portraiture! :-)

Stacey said...

Okay, I don't really know anything about portraiture photography except that I take a million photos of my kids, but I think you do a wonderful job.

I don't have a lot of advice for you because 1. I'm a beginner and really have no idea what I'm doing 2. my kids are 2 and 5, and I haven't had to deal with those "older" ages yet which I think ARE totally different and 3. I don't really pose my kids at all and just look for those candid shots. I like taking them from different angles, different settings, as they are doing what they do best...being kids. Sure, it's nice to have a nice photo of them both smiling and looking at the camera, but IMO how real life is that? I tried to do this for Christmas and had no luck, but then took a more candid photo of them NOT smiling (but still looking at the camera) and it's my absolute favorite. K, I'm rambling and not really being that helpful, am I? :-)

There is this gal on Flickr that took photos of her four kids together each week and I was inspired by her. Very candid, some more posed, but gives you good ideas. I'll look that up for you and get back to you.

I need more inspiration and encouragement in NON-people photos! Have a wonderful day. Sorry so long, I tend to get a little wordy if you hadn't noticed!

Mom to 9 Blessings! said...

OK, if these are bad then bring on the good - because truly Karli they are all beautiful!

The one thing you do well is capture your children as they are. Don't worry about posing them - the tips above are great for boys - lean on something and hands in pockets.

I pose all 9 of our children four times a year - either sitting on steps, our wall near our pool or by the firepit. Sometimes if I am feeling very brave I have them all stand together or in a line holding hands. Crazy really but every so often it I catch that one shot and we all know one great one is worth the 70 throw aways.

Tell your kids a funny story - put your camera on a tripod and talk to them. Get their attention and don't have them staring at the camera but in that direction where you are talking. Have them do something fun like blow bubbles at you. Then ask them to blow kisses your way. Ask them to wink at you and you will be thrilled with the beautiful photos you get.

Sneeze or pretend to talk like donald duck but whatever you do - don't ask them to smile or look at you.

Bring bells with you or a toy they don't see often that makes noise.

I have to pull out all stops to get 9 children looking at me. Sometimes I dance and sing for them and when they are laughing like crazy I snap just as fast!

Hugs and love!
PS Your little tornado is simply precious!!!!!

Mom to 9 Blessings! said...

forgot to show you these from yesterday! of our tiny tornado :-)



Adeena said...

I have THE BEST tip in the world.

Swap heads.


That's totally what I do. If the pictures are taken within seconds of each other, and the lighting/camera settings is all the same, it's pretty easy. Try it, and save your sanity! :)

Mom of M&Ms said...

okay seriously... (sigh) What ever am I gonna do with you...

and second... do you not like my portraits...I am a posing fool...but most of my clients go for a relaxed candid approach.. and I give em what they want...

IT does always amaze me to shoot siblings or families.. cause you can tell a lot about who they are as a family by their body language.. Fasinating! LIke the few i have seen of yoru three kids together.. someone is touching someone else.. eaith leaning in or holding hands or well, ya know wht I mean..try having the boys plan a way to entertain the tornado and then wait..you will know when to say look at me.. and get all three at once.

I will be there in July.. start planning the clothes now.. I can squeeze ya in for a shoot...LOL

Skye said...

I am thinking you do not need any tips ... those came wuite beautiful! Kudos! (And kudos to your model!!)

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is hard to get a portrait... but the more you take the easier I think it gets. I took my kids annual Christmas ones and loved the ones I choose... but it takes more than one shot and because I've been shooting them for so long they all know what to do LOL!


Sarah Andrews said...

Um. Wow. I had no idea you felt so strongly about portraiture.

She's beautiful. Gorgeous processing.

Brooke said...

I think they all look great; I have the hardest time getting my OWN kids. When I do get good ones, I use bribery, distraction, lots of snaps and the leaning thing someone mentioned is a good one! Other people's kids, they always do well, mine not so much! I think your shots here are great!

Thoughtfully blended hearts said...

I think you are already a portrait photographer and just don't know it...these wonderful portraits prove it...Good riddance to the posed looks and fake smiles...do what naturally comes to you!!! That is your style...and that last photo is precious and priceless!!! Embrace your natural style because no one can see people the same way!!!

DASH Photography said...

Aw, that last photo is so cute! Definitely my favorite too!

SarahinSC said...

Karli, I think you do such a great job with the candid shots you take that you should not worry about "portrait" photography. You ROCK at what you do! Don't change that one bit! Fake smiles and poses are for the mall and school shots! Just my two cents!

Reading Allowed said...

I'm glad you wrote that last paragraph because I thought the photos you shared were great! Sorry, no tips for you because this is something I mean to work on this year myself.

Ashley Sisk said...

I think you're overthinking this...because I don't think you want to be what you think a portrait photographer is. You're a naturalist and I LOVE THAT ABOUT YOU. Or maybe you're more of a lifestyle photographer...that always sounds weird to me. Keep taking pictures of your children in their natural environment. I know very few people that take a good picture when they are posed but you should be so proud of the pictures you do take of your children!

You know I have little to no experience in this area, but the children that I have been able to photograph in a "portrait" session....well their mom is still in love with the moments I was able to capture that she never is...those natural moments of children being children. And their silly Christmas card - the failed attempt to get everyone looking at the camera...she says more and more people ask who took the shot because it looks so natural.

Alright, I've said enough. Talk to you later!

cooperl788 said...

These shots came out great! Livia's expressions are absolutely priceless. Do you scrapbook? These would make a great layout. I'm going to be following along with you to learn more about portrait photography. For me, it's more location in the winter than anything else. I can't seem to find a spot in our house that doesn't have a cluttered background (sigh...). I guess I'm going to have to drag our furniture around.

Melissa Stover said...

the best tip i have is to get a helper. if you have someone behind you getting the kids to look while you snap, it's much easier. sing, make toot noises, burp, all those things will get six eyes on you pretty quick.

Lexi said...

The bribe of a cookie usually works for me...haha just kidding. Love these shots of your little tornado! She is so cute! I agree, the last shot is my favorite as well.

Naomi said...

What are you going on about girl?! ha :) I think these are just lovely! I love the 3rd one and the second to last one...definitely sweet candid moments and that is what I love the most. They don't always have to be smiling at the camera--sometimes those precious moments are better :) And bribery sometimes works well too...lol :)

Naomi said...

What are you going on about girl? ha. I think these are just lovely! I love the 3rd one and second to last one--those precious, more candid moments. Sometimes I think those are better than kiddos looking right at the camera! Bribery sometimes doesn't hurt either....lol. :)

Mandy said...

Those are super cute!! I really don't have many suggestions on how to shoot toddlers, they are tough! When you try to "set up" a shot, sometimes it looks too staged. And often times, the children don't cooperate! (surprised?) :)
In my opinion, candid is the way to go!

Anonymous said...

You are way to hard on yourself! I think these are fantastic photos - I especially love the last two! I don't think a photo of a person has to be a 'portrait' with everything perfectly set up to be a great photo. You do candid photos that are portrait quality and those are real life.

I, too, struggle with posing people, and greatly admire those who can do that well! There is most definitely an art to it. But a picture doesn't have to be perfectly posed to be a perfect picture.

Audrey @ TheDailyWyatt.blogspot.com said...

Karli, first off its always hard to pose kids


With me becoming a semi-pro this year I learned that the times I "posed" kids they become nervous uncomfortable and didnt want to have their picture taken. With kids your kids ages I recommend that you sit them somewhere and talk with them sing songs and be silly and what happens is that they pose themselves. also when and if that doesnt work I try to make a game out of it like simon says put your hand in your pocket. etc... the best pictures are the ones that are natural that is why people want to have "us" take pictures or they would got to studio where its blah and boring (meaning at sears or something.) the more you THINK about it the more it WONT work. Thats how it is for me anyway.

Sweet Giggles Photography said...

I think these shots are AWESOME. I just wish I could get shots like that of my 2 year old neice, she actually screams at me to go away or put the camera away :( haha.

I personally think trying to do portraits of kids you know really well is hardest. I have to bribe my two that live with me constantly to get them to cooperate. And I completely agree with Audrey, I play games and talk to them so that they will naturally pose themselves :)

Tara said...

These shots are gorgeous and she is totally adorable. I love candid shots and prefer them (typically) over staged! Taking photos of toddlers is so hard!!

Natalie said...

These are darling, Karli!

Who am I to give any advice, but I have found that the less formal posing I try to do the better. You know the shots you are going to love are the ones that don't look stiff anyway. If all else fails - bribe. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I think these are gorgeous!!! Great photos. I don't like posing people at all! That is soooo hard for me!

Tracy said...

I don't think you can pose kids...I mean your boys, yes, but livia there's no way. I mean I have been trying for the last year to pose mine up to a certain age I think candid is about the best you can get. :) atleast that's how I feel while trying. :)

Susan said...

I agree with all of these comments. Sure it is great to improve your posing and techniques but don't stray too far from what comes naturally to you. The shots you take of your kids are beautiful. You do a great job already! Non-posed portraiture is the best...so real. My personal favorite anyways. Posing your own kids is much harder than someone elses kids I think. That being said, all small children are hard anyways. My photography has grown, while my kids are much older, so I don't have much practice at the little ones. Anyhow, here is an idea...tell the kids you want them to play a game, take them outside and have this sit down like they are a train, with livie in the front...just ask them to pretend something and watch and wait and click away while they are playing. Here is a photo of a little boy I took in my house...I showed his mom and she said, my goodness...all he was doing was eating crackers and you got that photo...my point is candid portraiture rocks!

kitten said...

You're doing an amazing job Karli, and I am sure that a lot of your readers learn a lot from you, just like I do. Your photos came out great, as always. :)

Michelle said...

Oh! These are great portraits to me! :) I agree with what most everyone is saying - you do a wonderful job already!

As far as advice (seeing I personally don't have kids and every year when I take the annual grandkid pic someone is looking away, screaming, shaking, etc... :-) I've heard of singing songs wrong, telling stories they know by heart wrong (telling them funny!), talking "potty" words - something about boys and thinking "dirty" words are funny - like sniffing your but, etc. (nothing foul, just "dirty"/gross/etc.) I got some of the best smiles out of one of my 4 yr old nephews just because he was describing all the places he could pee at/on (yuck! but hey, great smiles! - especially since I was "oh, no! yuck!" nuh-uh!) Sorry if that's kinda gross... I read about it on some blog post with tips on photographing kids (and sadly, I can't find that now, but I bet that could have been helpful! haha! oh well!)

Either way, you're doing great and practice makes perfect!

Natalie said...

Oh my gosh! Do NOT worry aboit posing, especially when the kids are in their natural environment. Theres nothing worse than fake smiles and awkward bodies!! I LOVE photographing Dillon as he is naturally like in the tub laugjing because of bubbles in his ear or lookin like a grown up with his serious facial expressions at something thats going on around him! When I first discovered your blog it made me realize how much -I- needed to improve in the "portrait" area. I thought your photos looked so natural and sharp and te focal area of your kid's faces looked so crisp and almost perfect ya know? You could never pose that. But I do understand how hard it is to pose more than one kid in a photo or getting them ALL to look AnD smile at the same time..you will find tricks and things that will work to grab their attention and then snap the perfect shots (not that theyre not already grand;) but one little tiny only-one-i-know suggestion is to have a "helper" with you like Dad or a friend that can dance and make them smile or somethig :-) you do great work and its hard for each person to see how great they really are-ya know? But trust me, you're good' ;-)

Natalie said...

And i apologize for the numerous misspelled words in that comment :) im not illiterate but i comment a lot from my iphone and domt realize how many words i misspell ;-) haha

happy me said...

The 2nd one from the top and the 2nd one up from the bottom are my personal favs (personality & eyelashes!).

And I'd like to take a moment to explain you to you: You are one of the most helpful, welcoming, kind, & funny girls I have the pleausure of knowing & I don't believe you could offend anyone, even if you tried, which you wouldn't because.....(repeat this paragraph).

<3 & :),

Deb said...

There are more than a couple that I really love. You did a great job of capturing her personality with these and they are beautiful photos!