Welcome Rebecca Danzenbaker: Guest Blogger and Family Photographer Extraordinaire!

Here in Virginia, our kiddos returned to school today.  It’s hard to believe that summer is already coming to a close.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a little bit sad to see it go.  That being said, I also have to admit that I’m super excited about what lies ahead…cooler weather, football games, Disney, the holiday season, Nolan’s first birthday, and did I already mention Disney?  Yes?  Just checking.  I’m sure you have your own reasons for looking forward to the next several months, and if you are anything like me, I’m sure that many of those reasons have to do with your families and how you will spend time together.  From apple-picking and hayrides to amusement parks and Halloween, families often spend the fall engaging in activities together.  Having fun together.  Making memories together.  And let’s be honest!  Who hasn’t wanted to bottle up one of those days–one of those memories…the smell of the caramel…the taste of the warm apple cider…the scent of a new baby…or the smile of a child?  Now, let me just say…if I could duplicate myself times a million, climb inside your pocketbook, and capture it all on film (or sensor) for ya’, I would.  Seriously.  But the reality is that there is only one of me (who happens to have recently had a baby and would never fit in anyone’s pocketbook), and having me pop out every 10 seconds to take a photo would be pretty annoying.  So, instead of that, as if it’s really an option, I asked a good friend and photographer, Rebecca Danzenbaker, to give you some helpful hits on taking photographs of your children on your own, while you are out and about enjoying your lives and making those memories we were talking about.  So listen up, friends!  Rebecca knows her stuff, and these hints are spot on.

Before I turn you over to her, I’d like to share an image of our newest addition, Nolan Patrick, from the week he was born.  Rebecca came to our house for a newborn/family session, and I was blown away with the results.  Our little guy was born at 36 weeks, weighing 5 lbs, 6 oz.  This is me holding Nolan in my hands.  Don’t you just want to eat him up?!?!  Looooove!!!

Now, without further ado… Here’s Rebecca!

5 Tips for Taking Better Photos of Your Children

Hi everyone!  Don’t worry!   This isn’t a post about technical photography know-how and composition (we can cover that later).  Instead, this blog post is just a few pointers on how to get better photos of your children with your camera on good-ol’ automatic, concentrating instead on how to capture the important stuff while you’re learning all those fancy photography skills.  So let’s begin!

1.  Don’t tell you children to smile (or say cheese).  I put this as number one for a reason.  Telling your child to smile is perhaps the surest way to get a bad photo.  Think about it, when someone tells you to smile, do you give them a true smile?  Heck no!  You pull your lips back and think about sucking in your gut and what to do with your hands and a million other things.  Your “smile” does not make it to your eyes, and you end up with a photo that you swear looks nothing like you.  Am I right?  So here’s what to do instead:

a. Embrace the no-smile photos.  I love the photos of my children looking directly at the camera with no smile on their faces.  For one, you get to see more of their eyes this way, so it’s like you can look deep into their souls.

The below photo was taken last Halloween, and I love the timeless feel to it.

True, though, these photos don’t show much of their personality, so here’s what to do if you want to get an honest to goodness smile from them:

b. Be a goober.  Kids love it when adults act like kids, too!  Do a crazy dance (better yet, tell them that you’re going to do a crazy dance on the count of three and take some no-smile photos while they are anticipating what you might do), tell them a silly joke, and make fun of yourself.

c. Tell them to say silly things.  Instead of telling them to “Say Cheese,” tell them to say “Miss/Mr. [insert your name] is crazy!”  (to which I respond with, “Hey, what did you say about me?!”)

d. Tell them not to smile, but do it with a big smile on your face, then point out that they’re smiling and say, “I told you not to smile!  You’re not even trying!”  Works every time!

e. Use your spouse.  Have your honey act like a tickle monster or be a goober behind your back.  It’s perfectly okay to have photos of your children smiling at someone else instead of the camera.

My son was being a total grumps when my husband reached around and tickled him.  This is now my husband’s cover photo on Facebook.  I love it!

2.  Remember the little things.  Oh, your wee little babes are only wee little for so long.  Make sure you take photos of the little details:

A. Hands and feet

B.  Hair (especially for girls)C.  Favorite toys.  My daughter cannot sleep without her little doggie’s ear in her mouth.  It’s totally disgusting and totally cute.  I just had to record it.

  1. D.  Relative size to other people and things to show how little they are.

    3.  Let them be themselves.  Though I love the coordinated family photo shoots as much as the next person, it’s also important to capture your children just being who they are and doing their thing.

As an example, my son took soccer last year and claimed he loved it, but he would mostly just wander around the field and do lunges during the game.  So, I made sure to get some photos of him doing just that!

He also loves art.  He would just color and paint all day long if it was up to him, so I was excited to take these photos of him on vacation last fall.

And my daughter spends most of her time these days playing dress up:

A couple things that make these photojournalistic-style photos easier and more powerful –

a.  Turn off your flash.  It’s hard to be stealthy while blasting hundreds of watts of light into their faces repeatedly.  You’ll mostly just annoy them, and they’ll stop being cute pretty darn fast.

b. Get down on their level.  I’m down on my knees, butt and stomach for at least 80% of every photo shoot I do.  It makes a huge difference in the feel of the photos.

4.  Let them know family is important.  Don’t forget to capture photos of your children with their grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings, and your spouse, and most of all, yourself.  If you’re anything like me, you hate to get your photo taken, and that is why you are always the one behind the camera.  But it’s important that your children have something to remember you by, too.  Photos are memories.  Don’t erase yourself from their childhoods.

My children and I this summer:

5. If all else fails, bribery usually works… at least for a little while.  I have been known to promise all kinds of crazy things to my kids to get them to take the photo that I want (candy, ice cream, chocolate milk, movies…).  Warning though, this has a time expiration… if you hold out too long, they will lose patience and give up on the treat.  Keep the bribery for a last resort, when you’re at the end of your rope, and only need one last shot.  That’s when it seems to work best.

Chase dreaming of the ice cream he’ll get if he lies down beside the words he just wrote in the sand:

I hope you find these tips helpful!  Have any to add?  Please comment on this post to share the wealth!

Please stop by Facebook to see more of my work and to stay in the know on promotions and contests!

So, there ya’ have it! A TON of fabulous information to help us all get those perfect shots of the ones we love the most!  I hope this post has been as helpful to you as it has been to me. Happy Tuesday and First Day of School!

Michelle xoxo


3 thoughts on “Welcome Rebecca Danzenbaker: Guest Blogger and Family Photographer Extraordinaire!

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