How to document your family through photography
If you like the look of natural, un-cheesy photographs of children and families and you want to give it a go on your own kiddos, I’ve put together 10 pointers below to help.
Have a read, give it a go and let me know what you think!
The first thing to remember is that children will be children – don’t expect them to sit, pose and smile nicely. In fact, children that do, are often harder to get natural photographs of because whenever they see the camera they put on their “best smile”. But it’s not impossible, you just have to give it time, and let them forget that the camera is there at all and then the “real” smiles and genuine personalities start to appear.
If you feel relaxed, then your child(ren) is / are much more likely to relax and enjoy themselves as well, so find ways to make it fun and energetic. It’s a good idea to plan a couple of activities to distract them from the fact that you are taking photos. Think of things they usually love doing, which will create some fun or maybe even mess! Perhaps baking, painting, playing in the garden, going to get ice cream, meal times or simply just story time before bed. These activities will create many opportunities for interesting photos! It will also make the memories more meaningful because when you look back, they will remind you of what they loved doing at this age.
Natural (Candid) is best (in my humble opinion)
My favourite images are those in which the subject is not necessarily smiling at all, and often not looking at the camera, but perhaps pulling a quirky face that truly shows their personality, perhaps you can tell that they are plotting something, or perhaps they have fallen asleep in a funny place. This kind of candid photography is captured when people don’t expect it, but the photographs are fantastic to look back on. They are the in-between, secret or unexpected shots.
If you would like some posed photographs, it’s best to start with these at the beginning, and then let everyone loose to play and you can snap some fun, natural shots where they are off playing and doing their own thing. Bring out some toys they haven’t seen for a while, or a bubble machine for some natural smiles and get them running around playing with siblings, friends (if you have parental permission), or your other half.
In this kind of photography, the focus isn’t really on the background or how tidy it is, because the beauty comes from the moment, the expressions, the emotion and how it makes you feel to look back on. It is nice when the subject stands out from the background though, so think about the angle you use when taking the photograph, so that you get a clear part of a wall around their head perhaps or the cleanest, least cluttered background possible.
It’s great to choose a location where the child(ren) is / are comfortable, or somewhere that means something to you. Perhaps your local park, your favourite place to go at the weekend together, or simply at home, where they spend most of their time. This makes the memories you capture even more meaningful when you look back on them, because the photos capture real things that you actually did each weekend. The emotions and feelings in the images are then so much more real, when the people in them are genuinely enjoying themselves, doing what they love, and feeling relaxed and comfortable in their favourite place.
If your child(ren) is / are resistant or not in the mood
If your child(ren) start(s) to get bored, lose interest or is / are simply not in the mood, you could talk to them about their surroundings, about their favourite tv show, about what they are going to have for dinner. Distraction is always a great technique. If this doesn’t work, you could have a little break from the photographs and give them some of your full attention and then perhaps in a bit you may be able to bring the camera back out. Or perhaps it simply isn’t the right time for them and then it’s the time to respect that and try again another day.
Get down on their level or choose a different angle
Photographs with children in them often look great when you get down on their level and see the world from their eyes for a moment. It takes you right back to how it felt as a child, when everything felt so large compared to you and lots of things were just a little beyond reach. Trying different angles in your photography helps it to feel a little different and interesting.
Focus on the eyes
With the above in mind, if a child is looking at you in the photograph, always make sure you focus your camera on their faces and in particular, their eyes – the window to their soul. Viewers of an image are always naturally drawn to the eyes of a subject and it’s important you get that right if it’s the main subject of the image.
Remember to capture the details
I always love to take some shots of the details – their little hands, chubby legs, muddy knees, feet (my personal favourite!) – they only stay this little for such a short amount of time, and these are the little details are so lovely to remember.
What to wear
It’s lovely, when capturing real life memories, to simply wear what you / the child(ren) would always wear on a normal day. This again, adds to the authentic feel of the images and makes them more meaningful. Perhaps Bobby is wearing his favourite t-shirt that he’s worn non-stop for the past year and which is getting a little small now, but it means so much and you will love to see it again in the photographs in 10 years time and remember. Polly could be wearing her most comfortable joggers and you could even start off in your pyjamas and go from there. It’s a good idea not to wear any big prints, slogans or bold patterns that don’t photograph well, or aren’t readable in the photographs and are therefore distracting to look at, unless it means something special to you.
If you’re using a camera rather than your phone, put it on continuous mode if it has one! Children move so fast and this way you have the best chance of capturing the perfect moment when they are running towards you with their best cheeky faces.
Don’t overdo it…
Most of all, as a parents, don’t overdo the photo taking. It’s really important to join in and be part of the memories as well as capturing them. So take a few photos and then put the camera down and be part of the memories. Or even better, hand the phone to your partner / a friend and get in the frame yourself! Your children will love to have photographs in the album / on the walls with you in them too.
If you would like more information on how a professional photographer can capture beautifully meaningful, candid photographs of your family, with you in the frame, then do give me a call or send me an email for a chat to talk about how my candid family photography sessions work. I would love to work with you to create a wonderfully unique story of your family at this point in time.
With very best wishes,