How Photographing Children Taught Me to Play as an Adult

"Ewww" that was my reaction when someone handed me a baby 6 years ago. I thought kids were annoying and I was WAY too busy building businesses to sit around and play. Zoom forward 6 years and now all I want to do is go on the swings, make animal noises and throw dance parties. I can hang out with kids ALL day and often, they're the only people I feel like I can be myself around without fear of being judged or pressured or whatever sh*t comes with adulthood. What happened? Well, one day I did the math and realized starting a Seattle family portrait photography business would be a profitable idea. So I took my positive personality and camera skills and I created the Happy Film Company. At first, playing with kids was awkward but as long as I was hiding behind my camera I felt okay. Overtime though, I got better at the kid thing and eventually I felt like an expert and playing with kids. Then one morning I woke up and realized, hey, I actually love playing with kids! All this playtime rekindled my childlike spirit and I feel happier than ever. And just to be clear, I'm not talking about perfect parenting and child psychology...I'm talking about one human that's 29 years old making silly faces with another human who is 2 years old. Keepin' it simple. I'm 100% down to make those same silly faces with other 30 year olds but unfortunately they're a tougher crowd...it's much harder to get them to play.

I don't have kids of my own but I do live with my 2yr old niece, so I'm a very hands-on auntie. We crawl around the kitchen like tigers and we blow bubbles in our water. When I'm on photo shoots, I'm always whispering to kids, asking them what they want to do and usually they say something like "throw rocks". Some parents freak out and think that throwing rocks on a photo shoot is totally inappropriate but I guess those aren't the families that come to the Happy Film Company...I've weeded them out over time I guess. haha My favorite photos are usually taken in those moments when the adults step back and let the kids decide what's important. Like seriously, in 50 years are we going to be tearing up over that photo where you all stood together and smiled...or over the photo of you guys team-working-it to throw a giant rock into the river? 

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If you need help remembering how to play...not just "playing with your kids" to make them happy, but actually playing because you're having fun too (like you'd want to keep going even if your kid stopped), then please send me an email today and let's schedule a photo shoot. It's a magic way to break up your routine and set aside some time to play together -- plus you don't have to come up with any playful ideas yourself because I'll tell you what to do (pick her up and swing her around, throw her in the air, chase him, tickle them, play peek a boo etc...). For one hour, you'll have no other responsibilities, nowhere else to go, nothing else to do...we'll all just hang out and see if the kids help us remember how to have fun. My secret hope (not so secret anymore of course after this blog post) is that the photos we take that day will remind you guys to keep having fun, even when the camera isn't there. The photos are there to stir up good times, both when they're taken and when they're looked at later.

-- Chamonix

Other Resources
Learning to Play with Your Kids By Vicki Glembocki from Parents Magazine

Easy Steps For a More Dynamic Family Photo Shoot

Recently, we wrote an article "How to Take Good Photos of Kids at Tourist Attractions" for Marcie in Mommyland - a travel blog for parents managed by Marcie Cheung - one of our wonderful regular clients at the Happy Film Company. Sydnie (one of our photographers) met Marcie and family at Pike Place Market, ready to take on the crowds and capture some Seattlesque family portraits to accompany the blog post. Here is a screen recording of my (Chamonix) giving Sydnie feedback on her photography work from this shoot.

In this video you'll see that I'm hammering in the concept of shooting for variety. When taking pictures of families, especially when there is so much going on the in background as well as adorable close-up details, it's important to MOVE YOUR FEET!

To zoom in for details, walk up close to your clients - shove the camera right in their faces. When I get super close to families I make sure I'm talking & engaging with them the whole time so they don't feel awkward that I'm in their personal bubble. Getting up so close is great for storytelling and creating a powerful photo collection because it draws attention to details that a viewer might easily overlook if looking at a scene from a middle or far away distance.

Then run far away and take pictures that show off the scenery. Before running away though I always tell clients what to do - so they aren't left wondering. I'll say something like "I'm going to run all the way over there to take pictures that show off the scenery. While I'm over there, you guys just keep cuddling and kissing until I get back." This is super important because you never want them to feel confused or awkward about what they should be doing.

When you take all three kinds of photos (super close up, medium/standard portrait, and super far away) you can place them side by side to create a powerful diptych - two picture collage. Diptychs (and larger collages) tell stories - showing off the location, the personalities, the cute details etc... So as a photographer, we need to be moving around a lot and thinking about how we will display our work as a finished project (in a photo album or a wall collage). 

At the Happy Film Company we are constantly studying our pictures to figure out how we can do better next time. We appreciate that our clients trust us to take their family photos and we are excited to share the behind-the-scenes look into how we are pushing ourselves to improve. Our photographers regularly receive creative and technical feedback on their work from Chamonix, the Happy Film Company's owner & lead photographer. Sometimes we publish the photographer's critique videos on our blog as a way to share photography knowledge with other photographers and parents who are excited to learn more about family portrait photography. 

Check out our last blog post: How to Survive Family Photo Shoots with Crying Kids

Where to Take Family Photos in Seattle with Skyline in Background? - Kerry Park

Can you see the Space Needle? How about the mountains? What about the lake?
Being a Seattle family photographer is like working in a photography candy store; we're surrounded by the most incredible natural scenery in all directions. If you're vision for your Seattle family photos is to do a city walk adventure and have the skyline in the background, the Space Needle in particular and maybe even a little sneak peek of Mt. Rainier, then one of the best spots to do your photo shoot is up in the Queen Anne neighborhood.

Queen Anne is high up on a hill with a view of the city in almost all directions. There is a well-known spot called "Kerry Park" that has a clear skyline view of downtown. The park itself is small with a little grass, some sculptures to climb on, a couple telescopes to peer through, and a wall to walk along. The surrounding neighborhood is also gorgeous for photos, full of old brick buildings and ivy.

We recently photographed the soon-to-be expanding Yu family at Kerry Park for their Seattle maternity photographs. Check out these cutie-patooties! :)
xoxo Chamonix & tHFC ladies

Photographer: Olga
Adventure: City Walk / Maternity
Location: Kerry Park