Two weeks ago, I photographed a rock musician for an arts magazine. As we walked along the Brooklyn waterfront, the looming cityscape of Manhattan forming a powerful backdrop, I thought about how much "easier" it is to make portraits of an adult versus young children.
The obvious reason is that adults actually take direction - if you're a parent, you know that most kids don't. Sure, some kids love posing for the camera - my daughter's best friend literally lights up whenever a camera is pointed in her direction, but most of the time I do away with direction altogether, and just try to capture the kids candidly as they play and interact with each other.
Add to that the physicality of photographing kids - keeping up with them can wear you out, and the best shots are at eye level, which means you need to get down on the ground and roll around, and you've got to be quick - kids move fast. You've got to get that perfect expression, the cute laugh, the look of wonder on the first shot, because it will be gone in an instant.
Not so with adults - in most cases, you can simply say "do that again."
But despite the challenges, or rather because of them, children and family portraiture is probably one of the most rewarding, for both the photographer and the client. When you see that you've got the perfect shot - the one that captures those little personalities in a split second of light, there's nothing better.
This image, of my daughter and son, captures that moment for me. The look on her face is one that might not be familiar to you, but holds so much for me and her mother - the impish smile, the look of self-confidence, the way she seems to be holding court over her little brother. And the way he looks so happy just to be in her presence - all of these things will mean as much to us ten years from now as they do today.
And that's the objective of good children and family photography - to capture those moments and those looks that look cute to the rest of us as outsiders, but hold so much more for parents and grandparents.