When a mother in Raleigh wanted a vacation photo taken of her three children, her two teenagers went along with it. But her 2-year-old son acted like, well, a 2-year-old does when his playtime is interrupted: He protested until a family friend made faces at him.
"Toddlers are easy to distract," says Jill Enfield, a professional photographer who lives with her family in New York City. "Once you distract the child with a prop, you can call his name, he'll look up and you can take the photo."
With her own teenage daughters, Enfield says, she has at times resorted to good, old-fashioned parental bribes — your favorite TV show is a no-go if you goof off and delay a family group shot.
It's no wonder that incessant directions — "get closer together, be still, say cheese" — make for a few miserable moments and lackluster photos. Parents tend to get stressed out when kids refuse to cooperate, and that makes it worse, says Janice Miller, a professional photographer in Davidson, N.C.
Instead, parents need to relax and make photos fun — maybe tell a few jokes to get natural-looking smiles, says Miller, mother of three children. Also, let the children snap a few photos to involve them in the process.
Enfield, who contributes to a Web site full of tips, www.TakeGreatPictures.com, has other ideas, including:
--Keep the photo simple. Learn to pay attention to what's in the background. Watch out for that pole appearing to pop out of your child's head.
--Zooming in also helps simplify an image. For a sharper image, it's preferable to capture what you want in the camera, to fill the frame with your subject, instead of completely counting on cropping at your computer screen.
--Pay attention to lighting. An overcast day is the best time to shoot, whereas a sunny day is the worst.
--Set up ahead of time for a group shot. Don't make kids sit and wait while you fumble with your camera. Enfield also likes to snap photos while the group is assembling.
Enfield also explains the annoying slight delay of digital cameras: "It is doing so much work — focusing, meter reading, zooming." Learn to be ready. Focus your camera on the scene before you want to take a shot, she suggests. Push the shutter release halfway down, then hold it until the moment you want to capture the scene.
Can you help?
Q. "My 7-year old grandson started plucking his eyebrows and eyelashes last year. He somehow stopped, but now he is plucking the hair on his head. His short haircut does not help. There are noticeable bald, uneven patches. He is embarrassed when people stare at him. Some people make cruel remarks. His mother tried to make him wear gloves but to no avail. Now his four fingers on each hand are bandaged, but this does not stop him. Medication he is taking makes him gain weight, but he does not stop the self-destruction. Why does he do this and how can we help him?" — a grandmother in Tacoma, Wash.