I’m often asked for one piece of advice for someone just picking up a camera and pointing it at children. I wish I had some fantastic soul searching, dream reaching answer. But I don’t. Truthfully, as I’m sure you’re aware; photography isn’t as easy or seamless as it looks. When taking photos of children and families, it’s about getting consistent, honest and innovative results. And I think that most of us find that the consistent part is the hardest. That’s because so often we try to run before we can walk. Even when we are shooting for the love it, we have to start somewhere. The perfect starting point is learning to get consistent results with our cameras. To really understand the functions of our camera, and it always helps to learn these things without falling asleep.
And what about honesty? Showing our subjects for who they are, and taking photos that bring the viewer straight back to the time, the place and the feeling. Because if you really think about it, that’s what we find attractive about our own family albums. We love to open them up, and remember how Rylee used to chew her hair. How the river would sound at granddads favorite fishing spot. Yes sound. A strange concept in a photograph. But have you ever had one remind you of taste, touch, smell, or simply a feeling? What if you could once again run your fingers through the sand, and feel the river rush between your toes as they dangle in the water? If you could be reminded of that feeling as if it were the first time you ever felt it…by simply looking at a photograph. Or how much would it mean to us, now as adults, if we could have pictures of us as children spending time with the ones we loved. The ones who have passed. Even the family snap of us standing in front of the Christmas tree back in 1980 can be super funny. And in some strange way, it can take us back to being that little. To being a kid. And this is the very reason that we will be exploring how to get pictures of just that. Kids being kids. Kids in their world.
They bring to the table humor and honesty. They spend their time with an energetic keenness to explore, touch, taste, feel. Their enthusiasm is endless, and their honesty is real. They will tell you how they feel, if not by words, by expression. And they won’t hide it. If you want an honest answer to a question – always ask a kid.
Kids are everything. And they are the best cure for inhibitions in adults, and lucky for us, we are there to capture it all on card. Next to kids, adults find themselves being honest, being enthusiastic and just breathing in life. Which leads me to life stories. Getting all that real gritty stuff, and being innovative, creative and artsy in our delivery. Once we are familiar with our tools or even just confident enough to trust ourselves with them, it’s only then that we can get to the real heart of photography. The people. Not camera’s, equipment or rules. Just
people. It can be so satisfying trying to get people in their own environment, doing their own thing. Its hard…it is. Its really tough being creative in our delivery when its on the spot and we only have a split second to think about it. But it’s so fun! And what about those set up situations. They, too, can be just as rewarding. Where we conceptualize a photograph, aim at a goal and carry it out. Have you ever felt that tug when you’re looking at your photos? That hearts desire to have done it better. You know, where your head is cursing and your shoulders are suddenly bearing this heavy weight. That feeling that we just can’t be creative enough and that we are unable to get our minds to bend and flow. Oh yes, we all feel like that. And we all have creative blocks. And sometimes I think we all feel a little silly for even admitting that we ache to be creative in capturing pictures of our own kids and families.
But we have every right to want to be creative, don’t we?!! Ill take it as far as to say that the moment these feelings stop, is the moment we become stale. Being innovative with our photography is like the icing on the cake. We can’t just do the same old thing over and over or we’d creatively fall asleep. A good place to start that whole inner artist thing, for me anyway, is to wake up every morning and think to myself… “Wow a whole new day, a whole new day of things to discover, photographs to take, kids to hug, life to live.” I just hope in some way, even if in a small way, that today is a day of discovery for you too… and tomorrow, and the next ..and so on. I believe in life learning. This is photography right?! The art of no right or wrong. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, or even if what you are doing follows set rules. Have fun, explore, and create. If you’re just picking up a camera, wow, I’m so excited for you. I hope this creates at least one creative spark for you… I’ll be thrilled. Because that spark could be the one that sets you on fire.
your camera gear.
To get started, the only thing you need is you, and a camera. Any old camera will do.
However to get manageable results a good SLR camera. These days, DSLR’s (digital SLR’s) are a dime a dozen. It’s really your choice as to which brand you choose. One thing to keep in mind is that you do get what you pay for in regards to DSLR’s and lenses. In other words – the more you pay, the better the product. However, you can take a great photo using a box with a hole. Remember that, and don’t worry too much about your gear. My advice is to only purchase what you need. Learn the tool before purchasing another one. It’s so easy to get caught up in the gear rat race.
first time shooter quick tips.
* Light. Natural light – First thing to watch is the light. The sooner you get your mind use to observing the light, the better. Start noticing shadows, which direction the light is coming from, and what the light source is. This is something you’ll get good at seeing over time however to start :
* Watch out for sun spots and harsh light across their faces. If your finding there are big spots on their faces from the sun then you are better to move into another position.
* Same goes with when they are squinting into the sun. It makes the subjects look unnatural and uncomfortable. It helps to find somewhere that has even light, such as in the shade. If there’s no shade, turn them around so that the sun is behind them, rather then in front.
* If indoors – position yourself in front of a window or doorway and have them look out at you. It helps with catch lights as well as provide extra light.
* Whatever you do, don’t ask them to smile. In fact, if that fake smile
beams its way towards your camera.. stop. Or take it for blackmail later 😉
* Move closer. Fill the frame with the subject. If you’re looking through your viewfinder, and there is lots of stuff around the subject that you don’t want as part of the picture, then move closer.
* Watch your composition. Instead of having the subject in the center of the frame, move them to the left or right of the frame if there is space around them.
* Shoot your heart out. If you’re a digital user, you have no excuse. This is commonly called ‘over-shooting’ – however I call it ‘having fun’. The more you take, the more options you have! I don’t personally do this in my business but I do encourage mom and dads.
* Are the kids sick of the camera? It probably means their not having fun. Kids will do anything if they are having fun – even play up for the camera.
So if you’ve just picked up your camera, and your pointing it at your
children (or someone else’s) watch : Light, Composition, the subject, their environment and FUN. And remember, no cheese! Did I mention light?
Keeping Your Family in Focus