Trying to get a good photo of your kids can be as elusive as the Holy Grail, or understanding why people wear leggings as pants. There is one key rule that I have instituted with my kids since they were little and it is is very basic.
I need ONE good photo.
The faster that you cooperate and give me a photo that I deem as good, the faster you are free to go and build LEGO/color photos/play Minecraft. If you make grimaces, or scowls, or nasty faces, then you're just dragging out the process. I don't want to spend an hour taking photos, you don't want to spend an hour posing for photos, so the faster you cooperate, the faster we are done. Done, done, done.
This doesn't always work when your kids are wee. Exhibit A: Easter 2008.
Meltdowns aside, here are five tips for taking great photos of your kids:
1. Use Whiskey
Not the beverage; the word. Unless, of course, a shot of whiskey is your thing. If you try to make your kids smile by telling them to say “cheese” their smiles will look cheesy. If you have them say “whiskey” (or “monkey” if you have an adverse reaction to whiskey), their smiles look more natural.
(You may have a son who smirks 99% of the time. Run with it.)
2. Shoot Them (Off-centered)
The technical term is “Rule Of Thirds,” but the gist of it is this: You do not want them right smack in the middle of the frame. Move them to the right or left of center and you will have a shot that is instantly better.
3. Fill The Frame
If you are hoping to capture a good portrait of your child, zoom in and fill a large portion of the frame with her face. To get an even more dynamic shot, crop out the top part of her head.
4. Catch Them When They Aren’t Looking
We all seem to be programmed that the best shots are the ones where our children are looking at the camera, smiling the perfect smile, and showing the world how adorable they are. Sometimes a great photo of them occurs when they are not even aware that you are snapping their photo.
5. Break All Of The Rules
Try different angles, different perspectives, different crops. You may end up with a photo that is timeless.
Last year, my eldest son was nine-years-old and told me that a friend of his from down the street had invited him to sleepover. I asked him if he wanted to sleep over and he responded with "I guess." It then came out that the friend had invited him the week before, though I'd heard no mention of it. I knew that something was up and sat next to him on the couch. I asked him what was really going on, as whenever this friend asks for a play date, it's all I hear about until it happens.
"Well, I've only ever slept over at a grandparent's house, or with the cousins. I've never slept over at a friend's house before."
He was nervous—as was I—and I asked if he'd prefer to have the friend sleep over here. He did, and the friend was fine with sleeping over here, and that's how it all went down.
The situation sparked a conversation between my husband and I because this was the first time that we'd had one of our kids invited to a sleepover. We thought that there should be parameters to where we allowed our kids to spend the night. At the home of someone related to us? Of course! At the home of one of our close friends? Definitely! At the home of some kid whose parents that who don't really know (or know at all)? Nope. It's not going to happen. Those kids are welcome to stay here, but unless I know the parents and their lifestyle habits, I'm not sending my child to spend a night at their house.
That aside, I think that there's also an age factor. A few weeks ago my six-year-old daughter was invited to spend the night at a friend's house. We know the parents fairly well and their daughter is my daughter's best friend. It's just...she's six. She likes a cup of warm milk before bed, and she likes one of us to rub her back after we tuck her in. Both my husband and I don't think she's old enough quite yet. Your six-year-old may very well be, but ours is not. We dropped her off the next morning for a play date instead.
Fast forward to this past Saturday. The Mom of one of my eldest son's best friends—she's a friend of mine as well—called to ask if my son would like to come over for a sleepover. I told her that he'd yet to sleep over at anyone's house who wasn't family and that I would talk to him about it and get back to her. I brought up the subject and he lit up.
"Yes! I want to sleep over!"
I asked if he was sure, and he was SURE. I asked if he was nervous, and he didn't reply because he ran downstairs to pack his backpack and grab his pillow. He was READY TO GO. Soon after, I drove him to his friend's house.
The next morning the family brought my son with them to church, and after the service we debriefed the night. My son had great manners (not surprised), they watched a funny movie, and they stayed up until almost midnight talking and playing Minecraft (still not surprised). The friend is a really great kid, and I'm glad that my son has him in his life to hang out with, both at and outside of school. The occasional late night and subsequent day of napping is worth it.
We've been open with our kids about our sleepover parameters, and they understand them. I know we'll probably have some battles as they get older, but we're going to have to weigh each invitation separately. My job as a parent is to keep my kids safe, and if that means keeping them home instead of sending them to spend the night in a home I don't know much about, then that's what's going to happen.
Do your kids go on sleepovers? Do you have any rules in place about where they can and cannot stay?
Last spring, two of our friends had daughters who turned eleven. They promptly took the Red Cross babysitting course — eleven is the minimum age — and informed us that they were available to babysit for us. My oldest son was nine years old at the time and while there is no minimum age in B.C. for how old kids have to be when left at home, we didn't feel that he was quite ready to be left in charge of his younger brother and sister. If we were going out on a night where we wouldn't get back until quite late, we used older babysitters, but if we were just going for an early dinner and a movie we hired one of the younger girls. It seemed a little silly at times, because while we used to leave detailed lists for babysitters when our kids were younger, now all we had to do was leave our cell phone numbers. All three of our kids know the bedtime routine, how to work all of the appliances/electronics/etc. and what they can and cannot have for a bedtime snack.
In the past few months we revisited the thought of leaving our oldest in charge of the other two for short periods of time. He's in fifth grade and has volunteered for a number of leadership positions at his school. He also volunteers in our church nursery and is so great with babies, toddlers, and little kids. He rarely, if ever, fights with his younger siblings (My kids don't fight much at all)(Please don't hate me) and he's been wanting to take on more responsibility around here. He asks me what he can do to help beyond his regular chore list and has been really loving to help with the laundry and is learning how to cook some basic meals. He's always been cautious, and responsible, and a really great kid.
The first time we left him in charge was for an after-dinner meeting my husband and I had to attend. We would only be gone an hour, and would be back to deal with the bedtime routine. When we got home we learned that ... it didn't go so well. My middle child said that he didn't like his brother being his "boss" and my daughter said that she wanted her "babysitter" to play with her but he wanted to play on his own. We had a family meeting about it the next day and talked about some of the wrinkles of the day before. We explained that when he is left in charge, he has to don the "babysitter" hat and act like one, or we won't pay him. We tried him out again the next week when my husband and I grabbed an early dinner at our local pub and it was fine. His siblings said he did a great job of being the "babysitter" and he felt really good that he'd done a great job of being in charge.
Since then, I'll leave him in charge if I have to drop his sister off at dance class or his brother at a birthday party, and he does that without being paid. It's one of the "perks" of being the oldest child. My husband and I have done early dinners a couple of times and we pay him, but not as much as we would pay one of our regular babysitters. If we're going out for a longer/later date night we still hire one of the older babysitters, even though he thinks it's a little ridiculous. (It does seem odd, but better safe than sorry, I believe.) When he's eleven, he'll take the babysitting course and we'll pay him the going rate. It's only a few months away from now and we think that this is great practice for him in the meantime.
It was weird and a little bit hard to decide if it was "okay" to leave him in charge before he was old enough to take the babysitting course. We talked to a number of people with kids the same age and they were giving their oldest kids little tests of responsibility with no issues. If I look back to my own childhood, my mom would leave me in charge of my younger sister from the time I was eight. Eight! I've never taken a babysitting course and somehow managed to keep three children alive.
Do you or did you have kids in that same age group? How did you know when they were ready to be left in charge? Or, how do you know that they're not quite ready yet?