mama (with a camera) monday: part IV | huntsville children’s photographer

Before I begin this week’s M(WAC)M post you may want to brush up on what we’ve covered already:

Part I: Fill the Frame

Part II: Show the Scene

Part III: Be Different

(And you can always just click on that little “Mama With A Camera Monday” category button at the end of each post…it’ll take you to a list of all of the posts.)

Since I started this series a month ago many of you have thanked me (aw, thank YOU!), some of you have asked what other topics I’ll be covering, and a few of you have asked specific questions that have caused me to add a bit of material into the lessons. One of those questions has been, “but how do I get my kid to look at me???”

Yikes. That’s a toughy. Today’s post is actually going to be about Taking the Faceless Shot. So if you’re sweating getting your child to look at the camera then this post will let you relax a bit. But in the interest of covering all the bases, this might also be a good time to toss in some ideas for how to entice your child into actually looking at the camera. You know, the black box of death (or at least according to my two year old). Anybody else have kiddos that feel that way?

So before we launch into our actual lesson, let me give you a few pointers for grabbing your child’s attention while holding your camera. Now, I may not know your child but I know mine who have had about 1.2 million photographs taken of them (each!) and here are some things that have worked for me:

1. Never, ever, ever, under any circumstances tell them to look at you. Ban the phrases, “look at mommy!” or “say cheese!” or “y’all look here!” (a flashback to my childhood…and my granny) from your vocabulary RIGHT NOW. The fastest way to get a child to NOT do something is by telling them TO do something. Right? Right.

2. Instead, tell them not look at you. The trick to getting this to work though is by having a playful, teasing rapport with your child, and letting your voice give that away. So when you’re directing them not to look at you you’re actually daring them to look at you. I often use the phrase, “Don’t you look at me! Don’t do it! Don’t do it!” while simultaneously grinning and giving a fake mean-mommy look. My kiddos love it. They’ll look at me and laugh almost every time.

3. Put something on your head. You might not believe me, but it works. Ask them if they think you can hold it there. They’ll be curious enough to stare at you for at least five seconds. And if it falls off, all the better. Mommy screwing up always get a laugh.

4. Sneeze, bark, make inappropriate noises with your mouth, stick out your tongue, basically shed any miniscule amount of dignity you might have had left after the whole giving birth process and you’re guaranteed at least a look. Depending on the age of the kid it may be a “I think I might die of embarassment in this very spot” look but, hey, it’s a look. Be ready. Push the shutter.

But when all else fails, or when the story at hand demands it, forget about getting your kid to look at you and Take the Faceless Shot instead.

There are many unsung merits to the faceless shot. My favorite being that it doesn’t tell the whole story. It tells a part of the story, and leaves your mind and your memory to recreate the rest.For all I know my boy could have been making a something-smells-funny look. And my husband could have been bored and yawning. But I’ll never know. And I don’t want to know. Instead, my heartstrings will look at this photograph and be pulled in a million different directions by the sweet, subtle simplicity of my two greatest boy loves, together.

Faceless images can often tell the story in a more powerful way than ones that include a face. As human beings we can’t not pay attention to faces and expressions. It’s just in our DNA. The same way that as readers we can’t not read words that we pass. Try to not read a road sign or a sale sign the next time you’re out and about. You can’t do it. You may force your eyes to avoid the actual words but if they happen to land there you can’t not read what’s written. Same with faces. So if you want to gain visual impact that is unencumbered by your subject’s face or expression, just eliminate it all together. Let your mind imagine the expression based on the clues given in the image. Imagination is powerful.

It can take a father and daughter down a pebbled path, chatting about life and love…

Or a little boy in a bathtub delighting in the feel of bubbles through his fingers…

Or a little girl determinedly teaching herself to play hopscotch…

Imagination is certainly the stuff that childhood is made of. So what better thing to incorporate into photographs of your children?

Try it today. Take the Faceless Shot. And let you mind wander.

Amy You are brilliant! So well written and such great tips. Thank you!

Megan Dignity….. there is no dignity left at all since becoming a parent! I will try some of these suggestions, because I always feel guilty bribing with candy :)

Kara Is it weird that I’m not a mom (or even expecting… sigh) but I await these posts (heck, all your posts and pictures) with baited breath? What’s not to love – great tips and gorgeous pictures?! Until the day that I get to stick my camera in my own kids’ faces, my nephew and nieces will have to suffice.

Thanks for sharing and teaching!!

TidyMom Love this post!! I tried a stuffed bunny on my head with a 3 year old the other day (I saw you do this with Karen’s girls) and it worked!!
LOVE these ideas!♥

Lisa Smiley Ha! Such great ideas and tips. Today I tried not only getting a three year old to look at me, but to smile at me. It was not happening…thanks for the advice! Love love love your photos!

Shauna Thompson I am LOVING all of your tips and photos. Thank you so much for sharing!

Karenh AWESOME POST! Really, you should be writing a book! You are an excellent teacher and you are a master at describing things in understandable terms. THANK YOU for doing these posts.

Ann Marie Duvall Thanks Erin!!!! I love all the ideas and plan to try them out on Katie. I must admit I tell her to look at me all the time and of course…it doesn’t work. Thanks again!!!!

Lori I love, love, love these weekly posts! Soooo helpful! Thank you Erin :) Now I can’t wait for you to teach us how you edit your pictures sooo tastefully and crisp

Nicole Thanks for the tips! The don’t look at the camera trick worked for us!

Stacey R Just wanted to say thank you for this post! My kids are so over my camera and I love hearing your tips on getting eye contact! Finally, some new tricks to try! Thanks!!!

Gwen This is great! I wish I had read it ON Monday when I needed it (as I did portraits of my kids and could have used the silliness instead of the begging for them to look at me). And thank you for the reminder that the “faceless” photo can tell the best story.

Velia This was great. Thank you sharing all these great tips.

Секс По Телефону Секс по телефону не требует физических усилий.

Mama with a Camera | Cupcakes and Commentary […] week’s lesson from Erin Cobb’s tutorial was all about taking the faceless shot. She also gave some terrific tips on how to get […]

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