This year was my tenth visit to CES, and while I still love looking at all the latest products the thing I've been taking more advantage of at the show is all the free learning. Many of the companies, especially the companies that sell products to people who make things, offer demos that turn out to be more like master classes. For photographers Canon offers some of the best of these lectures, and one of them this year was from one of their "Explorers of Light" Jack Reznicki.
Jack is a professional photographer who is well known for his images of children, and while many of these children are professional models he still has to use plenty of "tricks" to make the image he is going for. These are what I think were the top three tips he spoke about that most parents (or anyone taking pictures of kids) would want to know.
NEVER TELL KIDS TO SMILE
This is pretty much the opposite of what all of us do as parents when we're trying to take a photo of our kids. But Jack explained that when you tell a child to smile, what you get is a forced, unnatural smile. He said to instead look for how kids are reacting to what is around them. Tell them a joke, come up with funny phrases ("fuzzy pickles" was one he uses) or ask a funny question like "Are you married?". Basically don't don't be afraid to be silly and do whatever it takes to get the reaction you want. A photo of a child laughing is the natural smile that's going to make the best photo.
IF KIDS ARE CRYING, LET THEM
You don't want a child to get to the stage of uncontrollable, red-faced bawling, but often you can get uncomfortable tears to go away if you just let them cry for a little bit. You can also use that opportunity to take some photos of them crying or upset, because the image you don't expect can often become your favorite.
TELL THEM TO SPIN
This one was my favorite trick he gave in the lecture. Taking pictures of children standing up or sitting down can be static and boring, but in the lecture Jack showed some great images of children that he had made by asking them to spin around. After one quick spin around he'd take the picture of them off balance (and often laughing because it's a funny thing to do) and the images looked really fresh and fun. Check out this image from his website.
BONUS TIP! - IT'S ALL ABOUT THE CHEERIOS
Babies love Cheerios. If you're trying to get an image of a baby who isn't doing what you want them to, introduce some Cheerios in the mix. Jack had one image of very young children looking down into a doll's crib, but what you couldn't see is that they were looking at a doll's crib full of Cheerios. He showed another with a small toddler walking to a woman not because the woman was the child's mother (the woman was a model) but because the woman was holding a hidden Cheerio in her left hand. It's a trick for sure, but the proof was in the images.