Farts and pink elephants

I’ve never seen a bad picture of my son. And I bet you’ve never seen a bad picture of your son, daughter, niece, nephew or your dog.  But the truth is some pictures are just better than others. Here’s some advice how to take great photos of kids.

I can’t tell you how many times I hear frustrated parents talk about how they can’t get great pictures of their kids.  So I thought I might give a little “how to.” It’s a lotta work, but it’s worth it.

1) Flush your point and shoot down the toilet.

Kids move fast. Point and shoots don’t. Get yourself any DSLR. I’m a Nikon shooter so I’ll recommend the cheapest Nikon kit to start you off: the  D3000 SLR with 18-55mm lens. Really, you would would be better off using an iPhone than a point and shoot as the shutter release is more predictable. Please, I don’t want to get into the Canon/Nikon fight here. Thanks.

You don’t really have to huck your point and shoot, but it’s not the best way to get great shots of kids.  Use it for scenics, vacations, landscapes and drunken parties.

2) Take a lot of pictures.

I learned this one from my pop.  Way back before their was anything digital in photography, he told me he took pictures without any film in the camera, just for practice.  It’s like going jogging with a basketball. You just get better at running and dribbling. If you shoot on a regular basis, you will get better at “anticipating the moment.”

Perhaps you  want to take a look at the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson. To quote him, “the decisive moment, it is the the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression.” Pretty deep. Let me translate that for you: With practice, you’ll learn to press the button at the right time.

3) Let your camera do some of the work.

Camera’s today aren’t just cameras–they’re little information processors that capture images.  It’s a computer and can “compute” many things like light readings and focusing better and faster than us mere mortals.  PLEASE read your manual. I can’t tell you how many people ask me this or that about their camera before reading the manual. The more complex cameras get, the more important it is to do so. But having a capable camera is no replacement for #4.

4) Learn the basics or your toast.

Photography is photography is photography. It’s actually so simple, I taught myself and you can too. Start with a book by John Hedgecoe like John Hedgecoe’s Photography Basics.

5) There are three people in every picture.

There’s the subject, the viewer and the photographer. Yes, I’ve heard stories of the great kids photographers who are screamers on set, but they are the exception. So I guess you could say here are some pictures of me…

6) Farts and pink elephants.

Some final advice to help you get your shot. Approximately 6 hours before your photo session, stuff yourself with the spiciest chili you can handle.  And bring your most ridiculous thoughts too.  If you young’uns are giving you a hard time, tell them not to think about pink elephants and shoot away.  And if all else fails, let one rip and sit on your motor drive.  You’ll get your shot.

There you have it! Now it’s your turn. Have any questions? Comments? What works for you? Any way I can help, let me know.



12 thoughts on “Farts and pink elephants

  1. I was hanging out at Matheson Hammock park today for a little peace & quiet time when a family showed up for their kid portraits … oy … there went the peace & quiet. Great advice, Mike, for ANY photographer. Click, click away until you develop a sense of composition. Sometimes, I spend a whole minute framing my shot before clicking, but then again my subjects are usually buildings and trees and they usually don’t fart or laugh 🙂

    I love Cartier-Bresson’s work … was an inspiration for me when I studied still photography in college.

    1. Hola Maria-

      Yes I would recommend click away, but the learning the basics and develping your eye is key.

      I once heard this: “A million monkeys at a million typewriters will never come up with a classic novel.” Same goes with photos.

      Also, I can’t shoot anything well that can’t talk back to me. So trees, landscapes, still life are kinda out for me.

      Thanks for stopping by!


  2. You reminded of a photographer that used to come to our elementary school to take certain group pictures for the yearbook. Instead of having us say the overused “Cheese!”. Instead, at the count of three, he’d have us day “fuzzy pickle”! We couldn’t help but smile at that and I actually looked forward to those pictures! =)

    1. Hey Chris-

      Well, the holidays are coming up. Trust me, it will make a huge difference once you know how to use it right. If you want any help, let me know. Thanks for stopping by.


  3. Love it !! … and yes, I am guilty of the multiple pics I take of my kids … The older one has become now camera shy – especially if it’s Mom behind the lens … pero me las cobro con el chiquito … For me photography is more than the act … it’s the capturing of a moment that will never come back 😉

    1. Hiya-

      Yes! In fact, Cartier-Bresson gave a very deep explanation about passing moments that can never be recovered. It’s true. But don’t take too many pictures. The best pictures I have are in my mind…


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