Do you ever get frustrated and want to take better photos of your children?
One of the most common photography related questions I’m asked is by parents desperate to know how take better photos of their children. We’ve all been in that situation where we see our children doing something that we know should make a great photo but somehow the image doesn’t quite live up to our expectations, yes it even happens to me sometimes. My kids seem to have an inbuilt radar that warns them I have a camera in hand and it’s a 50/50 chance whether they will cooperate or disappear faster than the speed of light!
Over the years however I've learned a few "tactical" skills on how to photograph my own children and I’ve put together my top tips to help you capture better pictures too.
1. Don't make it too obvious.
When you see your kids doing something and quickly grab your camera....
.....whatever you do don't call out to them to catch their attention! Let them carry on with what they are doing while you get your first couple of shots, if they still aren't noticing get in closer and take more. It’s likely that they have now seen you so now is the time to ask them to "look this way".
Sometimes the detail photos are as important, so don't feel that you need the big picture when the little pictures can all add up to tell a bigger story. And don’t forget that you don’t always need your children smiling into the camera, those candid documentary photos while your children play unaware are also ones to treasure.
2. 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. Pay attention to the light.
When images are disappointing it’s often down to the light working against us rather than for us. Learning to quickly recognise where the light comes from and how to work with it is one of the most important photography skills and one that I cover in detail in my 1-2-1 training sessions. Between our eyes and our brains we see light very differently to our cameras, we can see the detail in a much greater range of light and shadow than a camera or phone and this leads us into problems. Pay attention to where the light comes from and make sure it’s lighting faces rather than backs of heads. It is however important to remember not to ask anyone to look directly at 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. Sometimes I need to be prepared to act the fool, or to lie on the floor to get a better angle, or to get a little dirty. Clothes can go in the wash, I can hop in the bath, but some photo opportunities will never present themselves again.
Sometimes I need to be prepared to negotiate to get the images I want and that often involves handing over my camera so the kids can take a photo of me, it’s a fair trade and if it’s important for me to have photos of them it’s also important to them that they have some of me too.
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 too 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, you look back over family photos in years to come and be asked "Where were you...?"
Most of us hide behind the camera to avoid being in the front of it, but don’t forget that 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 hate to think how my children would feel should there be a day when I'm no longer here and they don't have images of us together. Getting in front of the camera educates the next generation how important it is for the future.
The importance of photos only really hits us when we lose someone close to us. When this happened to me I made sure I had every photograph I could find of them, unfortunately there were very few of us together 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.
7. Get them printed.
We all take so many photos of our children, especially now that we constantly have a camera with us in the form of our phones. If you do nothing else today, upload your favourite images to an online photo shop and get them printed out. We live in a digital world but technology can fail and digital images can easily be lost, and nothing beats the experience of pouring over printed images and sharing happy memories.
If you would like to learn how to use your camera to take better pictures of your children my photography training days are highly personalised and include everything from camera settings and understanding light to capturing movement. Training is available on a 1-2-1 basis, or a 1-2-2 basis if you would like to share with a friend, I offer single days or block bookings of 4 days spread out over a few weeks to allow time to practice and reinforce the skills learned in each session. For more information or to check availability please use the Contact Page to get in touch.