This has been a long time coming. Some friends of mine asked me for some advice oh how they can get great images of their children with their cameras. This is my long-winded but best answer to their question. Happy Reading…
Don’t ask your children to smile or say cheese
Ok if you are going to a studio in which you will come away with 3 photos for a large sum of money then yes train and hope that your child will smile on the day. Generally this sort of studio only wants to spend at the most 15-45 minutes with your child and no longer. So they want your child to smile on demand as well. Studio shots are great and they have their place. But, lets just think about it for a moment, what do you want in a photo? An imprint of your child’s form and image or do you want a memory or moment that captures your child in their ever changing quickly moving life? I am the sort of person that wants to capture my child; who they are, their highs and lows, their cheekiness and playfulness, the wonderment. This is not always found in a smile. I don’t just want to enjoy this moment today but I want to look back and remember it forever. That’s the blessings of photos.
Take lots of photos
If you’re using a digital camera feel free to take plenty of photos and play don’t be afraid of making mistakes. I remember reading somewhere (don’t ask me where) that even a professional gets about 1 in every 6 shots. Kids blink, move and do all sorts of weird and wonderful things, you’re not going to get every shot.
Make every shot count
Having said that, take each photo with purpose and intent of it turning out to be something. Frame your image with thought so that the only reason you delete the photo is because it was blurry, the child moved or blinked their eyes.
A wrong many parents/loved ones do when they see their child doing something is they grab their camera, get the child to smile, take a few shots, and then they’re done in a matter of a few minutes. What they have caught is an awkward smiling child, not what prompted them to get their camera. When you see a “moment”, don’t get the child’s attention; let them continue doing their thing. Quietly approach your child, watch and wait for the moment. Take photos of them doing what prompted you to get the camera. I often will sit for a half hour or more looking at my child through the lens, in that time I am taking photos of them and what they are doing.
What is the story
Try to plan your image so it tells the story about your child and what they are doing. If they are playing with something include that in your image.
Fill the frame
Include in the photo only what is important to the moment/story. Many people take photos of their children where the child is a small imprint in the centre of the photo (a bulls eye photo). If the photo is simply of your child zoom in so that their head or upper torso fills the frame. If more is going on in the photo only include what is important to help make the story.
Get down to their level
Yes sometimes I take photos of my kids from my height (rarely though), most often you will find me on the ground sitting, crawling on my knees and even lying on the ground waiting patiently for that shot. Children are little if you take photos from your height you often end up with photos of kids with their heads on funny angles with no bodies (or at least funny looking ones).
Interact with your child
Make it fun, children want to join the party when it is fun. Laugh with your child, play with them, chat to them – ask them what they are doing, or ask them to show you what they are doing. The moment you look frustrated or try to force them to do something, they will more than likely become difficult.
Kids cameras, computers, video games, and TV don’t mix…
Unless you want to take photos of kids who look like zombies, or are having tantrums. Don’t expect your children to be themselves or happily have photos taken of them when you require them to stop playing these absorbing time hungry contraptions. Whenever I’ve turned up to a shoot where a child’s being entertained by a game/TV it has taken me a lot of conning, and a few tears to convince them that I am more exciting then the screen. Some of my best photographs of children are of them playing on a playground, or inside with toys or having laughs and cuddles on my mummy and daddy’s bed. No modern day entertainment there.
Save the reward to the last moment
Sometimes you need to do a bit of conning or rewarding (if you want a nicer word for it) to get them to come to the party. If you promise a cookie/biscuit, a lolly, or an ice-cream etc don’t give them the reward until they have done what you have asked them to. In some photos I took recently of my daughter playing with a biscuit container (yes full of biscuits) I let her play and interact with the container, opening it and looking inside, but didn’t allow her to touch the biscuit. I took photos of her doing this for about half hour or more. The moment I said she could have a biscuit she quickly grabbed the biscuit and disappeared. Ok not every child is going to play with a biscuit container and do as they are told and not touch the biscuit like my daughter did, but you get my point. Rewards are only effective if you give them after the desired behaviour.
Laugh, and the enjoy moment
In a conversation I had with my husband yesterday (who isn’t a photographer) he pointed out that the reason he didn’t take photos is because he is too busy enjoying the moment. I laughed and said in response I often take photos because I am enjoying the moment. There is nothing wrong with my husbands approach to life its quite valid and noble really, however, don’t forget the power of sharing a moment with others. I have learnt, partly because I love my camera, how to enjoy amazing moments through looking down the barrel of my lens.
I could say more such as try to avoid using your on-camera flash, or talk about the rule of thirds, or using a wide aperture…., but I think that I might lose you. For more information you could just travel over to sites such as the ones listed below.
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