Running from the Law: Photography for Moms - Sibling Shots

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Photography for Moms - Sibling Shots

I'm so excited about today's "Photography for Moms" post.  The amazing Jessica from (previously MBB: My Baby Birds) is here today discussing how she takes such beautiful photos of her four gorgeous daughters (yep, FOUR) together.  I know just how hard it is to take decent shots of just one child, so I'm thrilled to get any and all advice I can on how to wrangle and photograph multiple kids together, interacting with each other.  As I get ready to introduce Mac to his little sister in a few months, I can't help but to scour Pinterest for photos of siblings together, which are quickly becoming some of my absolute favorites.  I knew "sibling photography" was a topic I wanted to cover during this series, so I'm incredibly grateful that Jessica was up for tackling it, as I think she's the perfect person for the job.  Her photos of her girls make my heart melt.  I can only imagine how grateful and appreciative they'll be of these beautiful photos when they're older.  I hope you'll also jump over and check out Jessica's blog.  She's one of the most honest bloggers out there, which I love about her.  I also love hearing her stories and seeing her gorgeous photos of her girls with Cape Cod serving as a background.  Not too shabby.  


I'm Jessica and I blog over at I'm a 32 yr old stay-at-home mom to four daughters, including identical twins. I became interested in photography when my third daughter was born, and I now sell scenic prints of Cape Cod on the side. I like candid photos that show emotion and real interaction, especially between siblings. I started with a "fancy" point and shoot camera in 2010. I bought my first DSLR in early 2012, which was a Canon Rebel T3 with the 18-55mm kit lens. In late 2013 I upgraded to the Canon 70D, and bought the Canon 50mm 1.8 lens, and the Canon 70-200mm 2.8. Right now I'm drooling over the Canon 24-70mm lens, but my poor husband can only take so much, right?

With four children, two of them toddlers, getting shots of them together is challenging. The more people, the more opportunity for closed eyes, a blurry limb, a crooked smile, or a mid-photo shoot meltdown. Most of my children's pictures tend to be two at a time for that reason - better odds. Sometimes we want/need a great group shot though. These are my amateur tricks for getting a good photo with a large group of little ones.

Contain Them
Literally. Place them in a location that prevents them from going anywhere. Sit them on a bed, on a couch, on a wall, in a chair, in a corner. This is especially helpful with toddlers. For our Christmas card picture in 2012 I wanted a shot of all the grand kids, before my youngest was born. My sister-in-law danced around behind me like a fool for smiles, but when we tried to get shots on a grassy hill or walking along a sidewalk, the kids went rogue. I parked them on this wall and got this one immediately. (Next time I'd pull my little niece's dress over her legs, but perfection is hard to achieve with five kids)
Good Lighting
This is true with one or ten kids. I'm not a pro. I can't always tweak the settings on my camera quickly to snag a great moving shot at dusk. If I want to capture my antsy kids together, I put them outside or in a brightly lit room. Finding a bright room can be a challenge for some people, I know. We moved from North Texas where the houses have 20 ft ceilings with walls of windows, to a tiny cottage in New England. Some days I want to bulldoze through walls to let in some light.

These were all taken with my Canon Rebel T3 and 18-55mm lens, which is considered one of the worst lenses out there. Good lighting does wonders. Even in good lighting though, your camera settings matter. I shoot in either Manual or AV mode. AV is a nice graduation from Auto (the little green box) before jumping into Manual. You still have to pay attention to your exposure, but you have less settings to worry about overall.
This is a 'do as I say, not as I do' example. This was taken with my Canon 70D and the 70-200mm lens, but during the brightest part of the day. We didn't have a choice based on our schedule, but it made it impossible to get a shot without at least half of them squinting- especially the three year old.
Get the Candid Shot
I beg, demand, and bribe my kids to all look forward and smile perfectly. That rarely works. What works is choosing a time of day that the little ones are happiest in, meaning you avoid right before nap or meal time, and letting them have fun. Get them to laugh. Tell them to look at each other. Tell them to put their arms around each other, lean on each other, or hold one another. I'll say, "did Margo just tootie?!" Cue everyone looking at the baby and cracking up. Children are playful. Is there anything more wonderful than watching your babies laugh and enjoy each other? That's the moment to capture and remember.
This wasn't supposed to be a picture. It's one of my favorite of all of them though, because it's a scene I've witnessed hundreds of times. It's how they really walk somewhere together, whether we're at the grocery store or the beach. In fifteen years I'll miss this view.
Going for a candid shot is especially true with pets, which I consider siblings. Being patient, hanging out in the right lighting, and not getting involved in their interaction can get you a pretty shot of how they normally behave around your children.
Find a Good Editing Program
I recently purchase Lightroom 5, and love it. It's all I need for my scenic shots, but with the kids I use Lightroom 5 and then I pay the $4 a month for the full editing tools, because for almost every shot with people in it I use the airbrush, teeth whiten, and eye brighten tools. It only takes a little bit, and I've been guilty of over-editing for sure, but I love soft skin and bright eyes on a baby.  Lightroom is great for sharpening, adjusting your colors, and playing with more obvious editing techniques like presets. Editing photos is all about personal preference. It has more to do with expressing how the moment felt than what it technically looked like. With the exception of the 'Before/After' photo, these were all edited using only If your camera isn't currently set to shoot in "RAW", change it. This gives you maximum editing ability.
These editing options are especially great if you're planning on putting the picture in a room with certain decor. Sometimes bright blues don't fit in a room with more muted, warm tones. Subtle changes can really make a difference.
Coordinate, don't match
I'm the queen of not dressing my kids up. They're in random play clothes 99% of the time. When we know we're taking pictures, I still don't get fancy. I try to coordinate them. This all denim shot was good in theory, but when the dresses arrived the day before I was going to take pictures for holiday cards, I realized it was like DENIMDENIMDENIM. Next time we went to the beach for pictures, everyone wore blues and whites, but nothing identical. Also, no shirts with words on them. It dates the outfit and is a distraction.
This is a little less overwhelming, am I right? Although again, it's the brightest time of day. Squintless smiles would've made this shot better.
That's it for me. Thanks for reading!


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Thank you so much, Jessica!  I love this post.

If you have any questions or comments for Jessica, please leave them below.  I hope you all are enjoying this series and learning a ton from all these amazing photog-mamas!  Let me know if you have a specific topic/issue you'd like us to discuss.  Happy shooting! 

Photography for Moms Series:
Part 1 - Finding the Light
Part 2 - Step Off and Step In
Part 3 - For the Love of Photos
Part 4 - Aperture Priority


  1. It's hard to capture good photos of the kids sometimes , so these are some great tips!

  2. Beautiful post!!!! Great ideas and tips! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Love these posts. And I'm definitely all about shooting in RAW. It changes your photography life!

  4. Gorgeous photos and great tips! I can only imagine how much harder it is to capture photos with more than one kid!

  5. These are absolutely gorgeous photos and great tips!!! I cant wait to get a big girl camera!

  6. Wow, her photos are STUNNING!

  7. Loved this! Great advice and such beautiful subjects.

  8. What a great post!!! I've had my DSLR for 4 years now? and it still never comes off auto. This is inspiring! Thanks!

  9. Great post and great photos!

  10. This is a great post! I am always looking for more photography tips.

    Alycia// Crazily Normal

  11. Beautiful post!!!! Great ideas and tips! Thanks for sharing!