Photographing siblings takes practice, patience and a bit of silliness. Once you know your way around your camera, you can focus on being playful and doing what you need to do to get your kids to play along, so you can get that shot of your little ones together that you’ve been hoping for.
In risk of stating the obvious, you want to be ready to get all of your kids in the same shot. For these types of photos I like to use a zoom lens so if they move around a lot I don’t have to move. With a full-frame camera, the 24-70mm lens is one of my favorites (something like an 18-55mm or 15-85mm would be a rough equivalent if you use an APS-C size sensor camera). When we go out to a field or someplace where I know they may keep a distance from me but stay close to each other, I may use a longer prime lens like my 100mm (about 60mm equivalent for APS-C cameras), and set a smaller lens aperture (higher f-number) to make sure I can get both of them in focus.
If you want a picture of your kids smiling and looking at the camera, instead of just asking them to look at you and say “cheese,” resulting in very cheesy-looking smiles, try getting them to play with one another, or have them look at you doing something silly.
One trick I use is pretending like I’m going to tickle them. Even if I’m a few feet away, something about the phrase “I’m gonna get you!” makes them look my direction and start laughing.
Sometimes it’s not about what you’re asking your kids to do, but how you’re asking them. Try suggesting one of the siblings teach the other a trick, or show them something interesting.
If I tell my daughter to ask my son a question, or ask my son to put kisses on his sister’s cheek, it’ll usually get them doing something that can result in a cute photo.
When I’m directing my children and make it into a game, they’re more likely to play along. Standing and taking pictures for mom can be pretty boring. But when you turn the activity into a game it makes it more exciting.
Something like “on the count of three, jump up and down” or “pat your head” or another silly direction can get them laughing, and if big bright smiles are what you’re going for, that’s exactly what you’ll get.
Sometimes a little bribe goes a long way. My kids will play along for pictures for quite a while if it means they get more mini marshmallows. Say “first one to ____ gets a prize” and they’ll likely jump in to oblige. What gets your kid excited? Consider using that in exchange for a few photos with their brothers or sisters.
If your kids need a little encouragement to get together, try giving them something to do that they’d both enjoy. You can ask what they’d like to do together for a photo, or if that doesn’t get you anywhere, try bringing in a prop, or an easy activity like jumping on the bed. Bubbles, boas, hats, toys, or things for dress-up can get them into playing together and make for some cute photographs.
It also doesn’t hurt to ask, “What do you want to do for a photo?” It gives them a chance to show off a skill or pose they like. Show them the photos on your display screen and decide where you want to go from there. After they make the decisions for a little while you may be more likely to get your opinion and preference in now and then.
Don’t pause long to check to see if you got the shot. In fact, switch your drive to high speed continuous shooting so you can snap several in a row. This will give you more options in case someone was blinking. Just hold the shutter down and check your shots later to find the best one.
Don’t be afraid to interact with your kids while you’re taking pictures. Have a conversation, set the camera down and jump in for a turn at dancing. It’ll make picture time much more fun and memorable for the whole family.
If you can’t resist the urge to try to get a posed shot of your kids together, look for ways to keep them in place: on a bench, a step, a slide, or jungle gym. It may only last a moment, so get it quick!
Also don’t be afraid to call in help. Having the other parent step in to give a hand can sometimes help a lot when it comes to cooperation.
You don’t need a photo of your kids sitting together lovingly, smiling at the camera to capture the essence of their relationship and feelings for each other. Embracing the opportunities for candid photos can save you a lot of frustrations.
Kids will be kids and capturing them in their element is beautiful in and of itself. Plus your daughter’s serious look when she’s concentrating on a project, or your son’s attitude face when he’s upset are worth remembering too. This is something I’m still working on but the more candid photos I get of my kids being kids, the less I worry about getting that perfectly posed shot of them together and enjoy them just the way they are.