Finding the right instant to press the shutter can be very tricky, especially when trying to take photos of people. It is doubly or triply (or n-tuply) more difficult when some of the people in the photos are kids! Some kids are nice and they just smile pleasantly. But if you have an overactive, over-imaginative kid, forget about it. You’ll ask them to smile, they’ll grimace. You ask them to say cheese, they’ll say poop. Sometimes the adults in the photos aren’t that cooperative either. Just look at this photo on the right as an example. Ignore the technical fact that it is a bit dark. Does it look like a great photo? No. It’s ridiculous! I remember my father getting frustrated while trying to take family photos because everyone had something more important to do and couldn’t sit still with a smiling face for 2 seconds (more like 1/500 second at 400 ISO). In fact, I was probably one of his best models, being interested in the whole photography process and all. Most people, when asked to pose for a photo, become very stiff. They hold their smile for longer than they should, and therefore their smile becomes obviously fake. Their eyes become glassy (as opposed to twinkling). Their bodies become, well, rigid, as they try to hold a certain posture. It’s an overall un-photogenic situation! So what do you do?
Well, you take two photos. The first is when you have told them to pose and they have posed and you have focused and everybody is ready (and waiting, and straining) and you press the shutter. They hear the click. Don’t tell them, “Wait, wait, let me take another shot”. Tell them you’re done and let them unwind. And in the next few seconds, arm your camera again. Well, I say that because if it’s a film camera, you need to wind it up. For digital, there is no arming and it’s much more discreet. Then as everybody relaxes from their straining, gel-held postures and smiles, take another shot. It is much more likely that your second shot will be the keeper. In my examples, the two shots were taken about 20-30 seconds apart. Everything is identical except that in the first one, they were told to smile for the camera. And in the second one, they knew that I had already taken the photo and the kid started telling his grandma a joke. The result was a much more relaxed posture, no (un)funny faces from the child and no strained smiles from the adult. This technique works in other situations too. Family, wedding, portraits even. There is no guarantee that it will always work, but it is likely that it will. If you find yourself in any of these situations, try it and let me know if it worked.