It wasn’t that long ago that I started my photography journey in earnest by joining the Clickin Moms forum.
I read any tutorial I could get my hands on and poured over blogs for inspiration.
That’s when I first found out about the 365 project. One picture a day, for the year. No easier way to practice and improve your photography.
So I shot my family every single day. I anticipated and sometimes scheduled for at least one interesting thing to happen a day.
It wasn’t too long into my 2013 project that I started feeling burnt out. I was fast running out of ideas for shooting material. I started to bark at my kids when they weren’t sitting still for the nice light, or making the right expressions, or if they even resisted the notion of being photographed.
I persisted at staging them, creating what I thought would be memorable moments in clean frames, to achieve the look I was envisioning, as I practiced and forged ahead on my project. Until one day, my 4-year-old told me, “I don’t like that you’re always clicking this, clicking that. I don’t like your pictures, they’re terrible.”
Her words were the wake-up call I needed.
I had gone about it all wrong.
I was shooting at them, just to shoot for a daily image, with no intent. I was creating images that have little meaning and authenticity.
I knew I needed to change my approach, because there was no way I was throwing in the towel on a project I started. So I allowed myself to pick up my camera re-actively. When I saw an opportunity to capture a moment, I would grab it quickly.
I started shooting each child individually, focusing on the details of their day and the different facets of their personality. Then, without even really recognizing it, my images started becoming about them. Their togetherness, no matter its form. It could be sweetness, joy, sadness, frustration, or solace.
In fact, it was during a workshop at the start of the year that was pivotal in that recognition. In the instructor’s words, my work does not dis-include things that aren’t perfect, I just show them in a really honest and “okay with it” way. This introspection has really helped me capture my children and their relationship with more heart and intent, and preserve their lives just as it is, at that moment.
Herein begins the photo-documentation of my sassy, determined, headstrong girls and their love, “hate”, and everything in between. It is moment-driven, light-supported, reactive photography. My images capture them but they also serve as an indication of how I see AND feel about them.
With these tips below, I am here to say photographing your children in any environment, without having to direct them (too much) can be done!
- Have your camera near by (or somewhere easily accessible) for the moments.
- Listen to your children’s interactions; they are usually a good clue for something that may have significance to you to photograph. If you need to encourage interaction, then engage them in something that will perk their interest. You know your children best!
- Adjust your settings for the environment by studying the light where they are interacting.
- Seek out different shooting perspectives for varying composition. For any given moment, you can almost always photograph it in several different ways. From afar, fill the frame, or get the details. Be a hovering parent.
- Finally, anticipate the moments while you’re continually engaging. Children are unpredictable but they are also likely to do something a few times if they know you enjoy it!
I have one last suggestion, and this one I’ve learned from experience: once you get the shot(s), do not disengage.
The images on your memory card will not disappear. If you shoot and run, your children will recognize that, and will be less willing to engage with you the next time you walk into their space with a camera.