Taking sibling portraits is really fun to do, especially in the Spring or Summer. I find there is always one child who will play-up, so it takes extra patience and even more time than you hope for, but I do love photographing children together. Whether there are two siblings, or six, the unspoken bonds and interactions between them are still visible and very much on display.
To create stunning sibling portraits, I try to form my own bond with the children. We will spend the first few minutes getting to know each other and I will introduce them to the camera, like I would a friend. I assure them that the camera won’t bite, and neither will I. If I feel they need further reassurance, I sometimes let them hold and feel the weight of the professional camera – just momentarily. By now, I’ve usually elicited a few smiles and I have started to gain their trust and the opportunity to capture some priceless moments.
To continue building rapport, I might ask them about their sibling and what they like best about them. This usually gets some giggles, and can make for some fantastic and beautiful reportage shots.
As each child is an independent thinker, it is important to let each personality shine through in their photos. I will ask them in turn about their personal likes and dislikes, or what their favourite toy is. My aim is to provoke natural reactions and expressions, preferably a laugh or a smile. But of course, some children are naturally more serious, in which case, I will refrain from baiting as it wouldn’t be an authentic portrait otherwise.
Sibling photography is not easy. Seriously, it can be exhausting. I have to keep going, and remind myself it takes time, patience and energy to create magic! The results are always worth it in the end. But honestly, real magic only happens when the children are relaxed and happy. If they are tired, or feeling under the weather, they won’t enjoy it, and the final results will suffer.
I have had the privilege of photographing many children in London and have learned quite a few tricks along the way, from bringing out the tickle stick to provoke a smile to rewarding treats for good behaviour. Here are my seven top tips on how to ensure that your children are prepared for their photo shoot, whether it is to be at home or in the park.
1. Happy children make for better sibling portrait photography. Try to relax your children as much as possible. Make it all about them. Treat them to their favourite breakfast or lunch, and let them play with their favourite toys. This will ensure that they are happy, and reduces the risk of arguments or fights with their siblings just before I arrive.
2. Better portraits are created when children are at their best and feeling 100%. If your children have morning or afternoon naps, make sure they are awake at least an hour before their photo shoot. Also, if they wake up not feeling well in the morning, or show signs of a cold approaching, postpone the portrait session and reschedule for another day.
3. When photographing identical twins or triplets, it is important to focus on what makes them stand out as individuals. They might go through life being mistaken for each other, so creating sibling portraits that allows them to express their own identities can be very significant. Focus on varying features or birthmarks, or dress them in their favourite colours to create individual portraits that still represent their ever growing bond.
4. Incorporate props into the sibling portraits, as it adds contrast. Include a favourite toy or outfit from each sibling, as this will allow their personalities to shine through. Not only will this allow the photographer to capture more unique portraits, and the true relationships and emotions, the toys will also keep the children interested and engaged.
5. I invite parents to get involved. Interacting with your children can create some very special moments, especially when you do something that they love and will remember. Reading to them, letting them tell you a story or playing with them are simple acts that your children will grow up to treasure.
6. Have you heard of this trick? If one of the siblings starts to throw a tantrum during the photo shoot, catch their tears with a spoon. Your child will be so enthralled by their own tears, they will forget about the tantrum.
7. Get artsy. There isn’t a better excuse than a sibling portrait photography shoot to allow your children to get messy. I’m not talking food fight or drawing on the walls. Get out arts and crafts resources. Glitter, glue, felt, paints. The interaction between siblings knowing they are allowed to make a mess will be priceless and will make for stunning and fun photography.
I am grateful to Victoria, mother of these four gorgeous children, for allowing me to share these sibling portraits with you. This two-part sibling photo-shoot took place in Valentines Park in Ilford, Essex followed by a session at home.
Kim Rix Photography
Making Memories Precious