It’s not uncommon for my kids to declare that they are officially on a picture-taking strike.

In fact, the moment they see the camera come out, their default response is, “No pictures!”

Navigating this all too familiar territory can be exhausting and disheartening for the momtographer in each of us. We’ve all been in that place where our kids refuse to get within 10 feet of the camera and no amount of bribing, coaxing or sweet talking will produce cooperation. What’s a desperate mom to do?

This past winter, with my kids’ tolerance level for taking photographs at an all-time low, I knew I had to get creative and try a different approach. It was out of that frustration that a new personal project was born. A personal project that has resulted in a unique mother/daughter bonding experience and a special collection of images that we both will treasure for years to come.

backlit photo of a young girl doing a handstand by Allison McSorley

My daughter is a gymnast. She’s been climbing, jumping and flipping ever since she could walk. While I’ve taken plenty of pictures of her swinging at the park and hanging upside down at the playground, up until this point I had never documented her love of gymnastics through my lens. That’s when I had a lightbulb moment! Combining my love of photography with my daughter’s passion for gymnastics, might just be the key to getting her excited about taking pictures again.

What began as a few quick snaps of my girl practicing her handstands has now turned into an ongoing series documenting the daily life of a little gymnast. It turns out this new approach has opened up a whole new world of possibilities, allowing me to continue to do what I love and at the same time, allowing my daughter to feel in control of the outcome, like she has a personal stake in the process. She genuinely enjoys collaborating with me on this personal project and now even asks me to take pictures of her, a total and complete turnaround from those times when she’d run as fast as she could away from my camera. It’s a win for both of us. And it may just be for you too the next time your child groans at the thought of taking another picture. Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Collaborate with your child

Consider the ways you might be able to collaborate with your child to create a fun experience for both of you. Getting them involved in the process by photographing their interests, whether it be sports, music or other special hobbies, is often an easy way to increase cooperation and create a positive experience when the camera is out.

girl doing a handstand by Allison McSorley

2. Prepare ahead of time

Before getting your child involved in the process, spend some time thinking about how you want to photograph them, the angles you want to capture, the light you want use and the composition you want to create. Consider new and unique vantage points or backdrops as a way to add interest and variety to the set. Thinking about these concepts ahead of time will help make the picture taking process go smoothly and allow you to focus more on the moment with your child.

girl doing the splits by Allison McSorley

3. Encourage them to show off

Encourage them to show off newly mastered skills. Whether it be a new dance move, the biggest Lego tower they’ve ever built or that 3-pointer they just scored in your driveway, kids tend to be proud of their accomplishments and are always eager for a captive audience. Let them call the shots and decide how they’d like to be photographed.

photo of child doing gymnastics in the bathroom by Allison McSorley

4. Be an observer

Photograph your child as an observer. Kids are keenly aware of the camera and most times aren’t interested in posing or looking at the camera, particularly if you ask them to. Instead, let the scene unfold naturally while shooting. Allow them to dance, build or perform uninterrupted. Following this approach will take the pressure off, keep the mood light and help prevent the shoot from feeling like a chore to your child.

black and white picture of girl doing gymnastics on railing by Allison McSorley

I encourage you to consider trying this approach the next time your kids are intent on staging a camera strike. Not only has it helped me find the joy in photographing my daughter again, it has also created new opportunities for the two of us to bond while simultaneously enjoying hobbies we both love.

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