Teenagers can be a tough crowd to photograph, but it’s a rapidly changing time in their life, and can still be a lot of fun to document.
I don’t get too much push back from my twin girls, because they’re on Instagram and love the material. Still, they don’t always offer photo-worthy moments around the house the way that a three-year-old does.
Storytelling sessions are my favorite way of documenting their life these days. A great way to pull this off with older kids is to shoot an outing, or preferred activity. My girls love going out to restaurants with me, which is what I shot here. Here are some tips on how to shoot a beautiful story with older kids:
Choose the right activity.
Choose an activity that will allow you to observe, while also participating: a meal out, shopping, hiking, swimming. The bonus to doing this with older kids is that you don’t have to worry about keeping them alive as much. They know not to walk into a busy street while you’re shooting something in the other direction, and they’re relatively self-sufficient.
Think about the atmosphere when you’re choosing the venue. I handle these somewhere in between documentary and “lifestyle” shooting, meaning I strategically choose a place that’s visually appealing, and I loosely choreograph their actions, but no posing. I personally wouldn’t choose a movie theater for example, because I love natural light.
Shoot how it feels.
The old saying, “don’t shoot what it looks like, shoot what it feels like” is perfect for this. Capture the details, the environment, the weather, the season you’re in. Doing this transports the “reader”. This is what makes your photo set a “story” instead of just a series of portraits.
Shoot things that help tell the story, but that also stay within the color scheme you’re going for. I loved the rain droplets on the railing here, and the patches of dry dune grass that bordered the beach. These are tell-tale signs of winter at the shore for me.
I parked intentionally in front of a neutral colored home to put the focus on our big red vehicle, after realizing that red, green and white were my color theme.
Edit in a way that enhances the mood.
If it’s grey and foggy, like this day, choose one or two colors to showcase, and let the rest stay muted. On a sunny day at the beach, I play up the blues and the bright sand toys. When we’re at home, I love to make the pink pop in my images, because I have four daughters.
Play with film presets, especially if you’re going for a moody or more unique look. They still require a lot of hand editing, but can give you beautiful tones that would’ve taken awhile to find by hand.
Focus on things that mark this phase of their life.
My oldest loves coffee, and now on special occasions we let her order a cappuccino. Remember when you first started drinking coffee, and how grown up you felt? Do they have favorite jewelry? A trendy hair style? These are the equivalent of tiny toes and eyelashes on babies. Are they always on their phone, taking pictures? Do they take their skateboard everywhere? Details matter at this age, too.
Extend the outing and let them play.
After lunch we walked across the street and they ran around an empty beach. Older kids will still run and play if you let them. Capture the silly, the energy, the interaction. Only shooting in the restaurant could’ve been a bit boring. This added variety, and shared the unique environment that we live in. It’s also quality time, which can be scarce between busy parents and teens.
Practice creative shooting techniques.
Like I said, you don’t have to worry about them running off or getting hurt, and it’s not a client, so if it doesn’t work out so what? Take the opportunity to experiment. Pull out a prism, try a new lens, shoot from a strange perspective, slow your shutter speed and let things blur, play with dramatic light. Most of all, have fun with it!