Capturing Beautiful Images of Siblings
Iʼve always thought that photographing one child alone is easy as pie, but that when you add in siblings, it gets a little tricky. When I photograph siblings, it is all about showing a connection between them, and also trying to make sure everyone is having fun in the process. A lot hinges on the ages and temperaments of the children, but that is the case anytime you photograph kids.
When you book your session or if you have a pre-session consultation, always make sure you ask the parents some questions about their children – how do they get along, do they play together, will they hold hands, if the child is young – will the little one let his/her older sibling pick him up – basically, any question about their relationship and also anything that will help have the child be more comfortable with you. You should never feel intimidated or discouraged if at first the siblings do not seem to want to be together. That is when your creativity comes into play – be silly, play a game, find a spot in your location that they canʼt resist climbing, or standing on, let them yell funny words and just have fun and relax in the environment. Also, children will sense if you are nervous with them, so try your best to feel at ease during your session. As the mother of three children, from 10 to 2 years, Iʼm very comfortable around the children in my sessions, often holding their hands to cross the street, or picking them up to “fly” them into their sisterʼs arms for a pose.
Because I want to capture the bond between the siblings, I often want the children very close together. This may be natural with some siblings, but not in others. I sometimes start in a pose, like holding hands, and then I say, “one, two, three – hug!” – or something else to get them close together. I actually have one family with a brother and sister, who I have been photographing for years. Now, they actually ask me if they can lay on each other. I will often ask an older sibling to pick up the younger one – they canʼt help but be close and have fun – sometimes falling down. Many of my best shots are when I ask the children to pose a certain way, and then they naturally fall out of that pose and laugh or do something silly. I might ask them to hold hands and walk, and then after 30 seconds, I tell them to run! As a parent, you want more than anything to see your children having fun together, and that is why I try and capture the spontaneous moments between siblings that just happen on a daily basis.
With younger children, 4 and under, it is often difficult to get them to stay together outdoors. So, I often try and find something that will stabilize them – stairs, a chair, a fence. They might find the spot interesting enough to sit there for a minute, long enough to get a shot of both of them. For example, in the photo of the twin boys at the beach, they were off in different directions the minute their feet hit the sand. Once we let them climb the stairs for a few minutes, they were willing to sit together – and then hug and laugh and have a good time. Sometimes young children need the freedom to get some energy out before they can stay still and be photographed. Many times, younger children need breaks to run around and then, they will come back for a photo, so allot time for this.
Other ideas to keep the kids together – have them hold hands and spin, have them lay on the ground together, I often use the word “snuggle” and they do! You can ask them to give each other piggyback rides, kisses, or hugs, or ask them to whisper something quietly to their sibling. They can pick each other up (see who is stronger!), have a little one lay belly to belly on top of an older sibling so that they are nose to nose or cheek to cheek – it really is about having fun and letting the kids have fun. A great tip, if the kids have an idea of what they want to do, let them try – it may just turn out to be a special moment.
In the end, if you let the kids play and have fun, you will be able to capture some beautiful moments of them together. Be relaxed and donʼt worry if they are not looking directly into the camera – it is more important that they are looking at each other and creating a memory that will last as long as the image you capture.
Alison Frank Chesney of Alison Frank Photography is a lifestyle portrait and wedding photographer in South Florida. She has enjoyed capturing beautiful moments for children and families for the past seven years.