Isn’t it funny that many people automatically think that I must have amazing photos of my children all the time, and sometimes, when the kids are in the right frame of mind, occasionally I can get great shots, other times they treat it like the plague and I've more chance of photographing the lesser-known spotted pink monkey.
If you're the kind of parent I am, you see your children doing stuff all the time that you think would make such a great picture, but when you take a "snap" and look at the image are you disappointed with what you see? You won't believe it but I have days like that too - seriously. After all, my kids seem to have radar for when I've got my camera in my hand. Then it's a 50/50 chance whether they let me get my shot.
Over the years I've learned a few "tactical" skills on how to capture my own children so I thought I'd put together my top tips for you in the hopes that you can get better pictures too.
1. Don't make it obvious
So you see your kids doing something and you quickly grab your camera....
.....don't call them to look over to catch their attention instead let them carry on what they are doing get your first shot, then assuming they still aren't noticing, get in closer and take more. There's a chance now that they might have seen you, that's when you can get them to "look this way".
Sometimes the detail photos are as important, so don't feel that you have to get the big picture when the little pictures can all add up to tell a bigger story.
2. Actually create your own shoot.
Get the kids to make a den in the garden, or go for an adventure in the woods, stage a reason to take some photos. Kids aren't good at standing and posing, they are much better if you give them something to do, the chances are they will want to show off a little, but if they are engaged in something they will mind the camera less.
3. Watch for the light
Most of the time images can look bad because we aren't looking where the light is coming from. Our eyes read a scene refocusing and reading the light a gazillion times a second; our brains can compute that information rapidly, cameras just don't work that way. Without going into the science, they don't have the range to get details we see with our own eyes. If you are at home, or in a building you need to give yourself the best possible chance so put yourself between the light and what you are photographing so the light is on the subject. It is important to note that you should never ask people to look into the sun or a bright light source.
4. Be prepared
For anything - and I'm not just talking about having your camera ready just in case a photo opportunity comes along, I'm assuming you'd do that anyway. Sometimes to get the images I want I have to hand my camera over to my kids so they can take a photo of me, fair is fair after all. Sometimes I have to be prepared to act the fool, or to lie on the floor to get a better angle, or to get a little dirty. Mostly I just get philosophical, clothes can go in the wash and I can get a bath, but if I'm prepared to do something then the chances are they'll be prepared to do something in return.
5. Have fun
The most important thing of all, have fun. It's easy to get frustrated with our children when they don't do what you want them to, and something as simple as them looking and getting them to engage with the camera can lead to even the most qualified of photographers getting stressed and irritated. Remember that kids have a short attention span, if all you are doing is telling them to "look this way" or "smile" then they will likely get bored very quickly and not want to "play that game" for very long. So, my best advice is to have fun, engage and don't worry if you don't get the photo, it's more important to have fun, create a memory and be in the moment with them.
6. Hand over the camera to someone else.
If you are the one who always takes the photos then the chances are you are never in them. So you look back over the photos in years to come and someone says, "where were you...?"
Most of us hide behind the camera to avoid being in the front of it, but you have to remember that part of taking these photos isn't just for us to remember, it's for our children to remember too. As much as I don't truly enjoy being in front of the camera I think my children would be more shattered should there be a day when I'm no longer here that they don't have images of us together to remember. Getting in front of the camera educates the next generation how important it is for the future.
I was once asked how important it is to have photos taken and I said off handily "oh well it's not like it's life and death" I was quite young then and I hadn't lost someone who was important to me. When I did I made sure I had every photograph I could find of them, the sad thing is that the ones of me and them together are few and far between and I can never change that now, but I can change it for my children.
So from one parent to another, even though you may not love the camera, remember that you love your children and they love you x
Taking photos of your children is natural, whether it's on a camera or your mobile phone. If you do nothing else today, upload your images to an online photo shop and get them printed out. We live in a digital world, but having physical images that you can look through is a wonderful thing to share.
If you want to get better at taking photos, if you want to learn how to use your camera with more confidence please get in touch. I offer 1-2-1 and 2-2-1 training as well as some workshops for parents to help them set their camera up so they can focus on getting better images of their children
Barbara Leatham Photography is based in the small village of Tilshead in the middle of the Salisbury Plains in Wiltshire. Specialising in lifestyle family photography and excellent commercial photography for small to medium businesses in Wiltshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, London and the rest of the UK. Barbara also teaches photography and runs some workshops for beginners, enthusiasts and amateur photographers