Candid Camera: Kids (sponsored)

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One of my very favorite candids of Fable

This goes back to Tuesday's post re: why carrying a point and shoot is one of the very best things you can do for your family. Seriously!

I have tens of thousands of photographs of my kids through the years. 99.9% of them are candids because I don't believe in posed photos. In fact? I hate them. They say nothing about a person, a family, an experience - they tell no story. They bore me to tears.

Every Olan Mills portrait I appeared in between the ages of five and fifteen, I look like an insane person. (ED: How Shirley Temple cute was my sister?)
And can we talk about my mom for a second? Because, WOW, Wendy.
I mean, girl was MY AGE in that picture. She looks about 72. With an Eric LaSalle inspired Jerry Curl. (My mom's response to that comment: "REBECCA! That was the STYLE! Everyone looked like that! I was so hip! I love Coming to America!)

As a child I never wanted to say cheese and I hated smiling for strangers. I still feel uncomfortable in front of strangers' cameras (not that I'm ever really in front of them) so I figure, if I'M not a fan of posing on the beach barefoot in jeans and a white button-down, how can I expect my kids to be into it?

I don't even bother trying. And? That's how I get decent candids of my kids. By taking, well, candids of my kids. Asking them to "smile!" is reserved for sporadic occasions, like posing in front of a bunch of roses in the front yard.

So here's my (very professional) how-to on taking great candids of your kids. And? Go:

Four Tips for Great Candids

1. Take twenty photos of your kids (every day) for the rest of your life.
2. Never once ask them to pose, smile, acknowledge the camera. (Eventually they will forget its even there! Seriously!)
3. If twenty photos of your kids isn't getting the results you'd like? Take thirty.
4. If that doesn't work, take forty.

And that about wraps it up! I know, right? Questions? Concerns? Comments about my mom's rockin' mullet? Go for it. And, if you're one of the first SIX comments (please include contact info!) on this post, Shutterfly will hook you up with a free 8x8 photo book! So you can build your own candid collection! Or you can print out the above family photos and photoshop mustaches on all of us!

So, comment away! Quickly! Ready NOW!



Jessica | 2:09 PM

um, we TOTALLY had the same hair in that first picture. well, until my stepdad thought it would be a good idea to PERM my bangs. only the bangs. sigh...childhood.

Claire | 2:10 PM

Great advice!! Hope I'm one of the first 6!

Vanessa | 2:10 PM

I'm working on my son's first year photo book on shutter fly right now.. Pick me :p
Email: smiletoday85(at)

Jen and Suki | 2:10 PM

I realize I am probably not one of the first six, and that's alright. BUT. I have to say, I am so glad to see someone else had to endure the frilly floral frocks that I did in the early 90s. And those bangs. You and I were hair twinsies.


Annie | 2:10 PM

I loved this post, because while I really enjoy photography, my kids don't smile anyway. Lots of freedom in the candids!

Terri M | 2:11 PM

Wow! So apparently your mom and my mom shared the same hairdresser back then, my mom still swears that was her favorite way to wear her hair although she's since cut it short.

I'd love to win the photo book to immortalize those family pics of mine.

Tracey R. | 2:11 PM

I love the mullet!! =)

Jamie | 2:11 PM

YAY! I love taking photos of my toddler!

Sarahd | 2:12 PM

Wow. Not sure I've ever been the first comment on a blog post. It's rockin' that that means I might even win something. Yay! (

Cheri | 2:12 PM

Awesome! those pictures are killer.

Ashley | 2:12 PM

ME!!! :) Or not???

missamandabear | 2:12 PM

This is a great Post!

Lauren | 2:12 PM

I know, right! My family has so many tortured Olan Mills pictures too. Why are those the memories we chose to keep?

Andrea Becher | 2:13 PM

AMAZING...I love family pictures from back in the day. I used to have a mushroom shaped perm. Crazy times.

Sinistral | 2:13 PM

YAY for photobooks!


Whoa! You guys are speedy! I'll be contacting the first six with your access codes later this afternoon! Stay tuned! And for everyone else, doing two more booklet giveaways in next coming weeks. Woohoo!

Jessica | 2:14 PM

apparently i can't read. contact info:

Claire | 2:22 PM

WOW! I can't believe I'm one of the first 6! But apparently I can't read either.

Contact: claire.beckstead AT

Grumble Girl | 2:23 PM

You're exactly right, lady. I never ask my kids to pose... sometimes I might ask them to freeze for second, but they'll only ever do that if they're in the mood. I need to remember to carry my camera more often though...

I've never sat for a Sears-portrait-style photo before - EVERYONE looks a little "axe-murderer" around the eyes on those. (Loved your Eric LaSalle crack - hee!!)

duck | 2:41 PM

Have no idea if |I am one of the six or not, but you have just summarized my theory on child photography, more more more.
Heres contact info just in case-a

The818 | 2:45 PM

Hot damn those are some fine photos.

lonek8 | 2:46 PM

what about when you repeatedly BEG your children to ignore the camera and still get creepy smiles and faces shoved right in the lens? I prefer candid shots as well, and whenever the light hits my children just right and they look so gorgeous I grab my camera. but unless they are zoned out in front of the tv, or eating (which you can imagine make for VERY attrctive photos, ugh) they are completely obsessed with "look at me!" "take my picture!" and I can't get anything even resembling candid. Boo. I guess I'll just have to pick up the camera more often and snap away until they FINALLY ignore me!

SJ | 2:52 PM

oh thank god they finally have this option. shutterfly before was hell for me but maybe now I'll give them another try. they do have great prices! thanks for letting us know!

Erica | 3:10 PM

Oh Olan Mills. Those were the days.

ste | 3:10 PM

Do you use a flash indoors? I have a Canon PowerShot and struggle with poor lighting in my house as well as a camera that takes forever to react. It drives me nuts and I don't know if my camera sucks or not. Outdoor shots can be great.

oh, jenny mae | 3:27 PM

i think i had the same exact floral number you have on in that first photo circa 1985. sweet.

Sarah | 3:34 PM

Love the advice, how true it is! I

thatgirlblogs | 3:36 PM

my son and I were just saying how much we DREAD mother's day w/e because my MIL will definitely make us pose in a style much like Olan Mills. Except outside. Where the allergies live.

Sonja | 4:12 PM

I've already started taking photos of my son every day - and he's a whopping eight weeks old! I post one photo online each day (mostly for the benefit of his grandparents, but also because having one photo from each day of his babyhood will be totally awesome for him later on), which means that to get one good one, I very often have to take a whole mess of *bad* ones. (I don't take quite twenty a day, more like ten, but I've been messing about with cameras for years, so I had some practice before.)

And your mom's right about the hair. My mom had the VERY SAME hairdo and man, that's some big hair.

Haley | 4:15 PM

@thisgirlblogs: your MIL and my MIL need to hang out. I love her to pieces, but oh my word, the posed photos drive me nuts! At family gatherings my MIL, her sisters, and cousins all want the same exact shot. Of course they have extensive photo albums, but in my family, we have uninterrupted memories. I prefer the latter. :)

Cave Momma | 4:26 PM

I hate posed photos too. I still ask them to say cheese or smile because the faces they make are too cute and hilarious but most of the time, I love catching the random smile. I take a gigantic amount of pictures for that same reason.

Another tip I give people is to get down on their level. I lay down on the grass, concrete or sand or just kneel or sit. Then take my 20-30 photos. =) And my camera is my iphone. I still desperately want a DSLR but I adore my iphone camera.

NodToStyle | 4:59 PM

Preach it!!
my boyfriend is the biggest fan of "look over hear! smile!" uggh, i always look awkward and terrible. i will be showing him this page.

Clara | 7:35 AM

I work as a preschool teacher and we make a daily journal for parents to see what's happening in class. Every morning I take approx 50 photos and have trouble choosing which to put in the journal. People compliment my skills but really it's the same as your tip, I take a lot so I can get a few great shots. I also echo getting down on the child's level. No more pictures of the top of heads!
Very quickly the children forget the camera's there and I'm now surprised when my adult friends freak out when I take candid shots of them.


Any tips on organizing these thousands of photos?

I share your photo philosophy 100%. The only way I ever get a good picture (of anything!) is by taking 12-45 photos of said thing. But I have so much trouble editing/deleting/selecting the best shots, and my iPhoto is a mess of chaos right now!

~ Noelle

margosita | 7:46 AM

Olan Mills! I also used a 1980's Olan Mills shot on my blog today. (You can see it here.)

I think the only staged photos are almost somewhat casual or candid. A friend's parents always pose her and her siblings on the stairs on Christmas morning, for example. And because they know it's coming each year they do silly things, or imitate poses from years past. It's a cute record of their childhood (and now early adulthood, as they've continued into the kids twenties, with sometimes hilarious results...)

very anonymous | 10:39 AM

Your last post inspired some names. Since I'm sitting on pins and needles waiting for your name list here are a few.
I loved Marigold. Azalea. Petunia. Daisy. Lily. Ivy. Bell. Maybe not petunia

Anonymous | 8:19 PM

I fully agree with your preference for candids. My parents would always have my brother and me sit together for each picture and look off to the left without turning our heads to avoid red eye.

We look like we're expecting the Mafia to bust into the picture and blow our asses up in front of, say, the fish pond at Fashion Valley. We're never doing ANYTHING spontaneous. Those pics got thrown away, and we were admonished for "wasting film."

I snuck some of them off and made a book of them when I was 12. It was a huge hit, not least because it showed we actually had personalities. Shocker. I still have some of those rejected photos framed in my apartment; it helps me remember who we really were, and who I really am now.

Leslie | 9:49 PM

Love your blog, love your post with your 1970s mom picture. Ha!

Here's mine:

My Mom looks hilarious!

jdavissquared | 7:14 AM

yeah, my mom had that same hairdo. I think it was in style...sadly.

Spumoni | 7:56 AM

I know I'm not one of the first six, but I just wanted to post to say that I completely agree... I can't stand the posed family photos. They all look the same and they all look silly.

Wendi | 8:42 AM

Everytime my in-laws come down, they make the kids go to Wal-mart! i hate the pics.
I guess they will have the pictures to scorn later in life.

Unknown | 2:09 PM

Love that shot of Fable. And the old studio shots are hilarious. Your expression. Your mom and her love of Coming to America!

Thank you for the candid photo tips. I so need to take more pics!