Photographing your kids: the good, the bad, and the everyday

  • girls looking out window photo by Felicia Chang

Photographing your kids: the good, the bad, and the everyday

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.

sister giggling together by Felicia Chang

being girly | bedroom low light| ISO 6400, f/2.5, 1/80

sisters holding hands photo by Felicia Chang

watching tv together | sidelight in the afternoon | ISO 2500, f2, 1/125

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.

 

girls playing picture by Vancouver photographer Felicia Chang

girls wrestle too | bedroom evening light | ISO 5000, f2.5, 1/50

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.

sister rolling down a hill picture by Vancouver photographer Felicia Chang

hill rolls | evening light | ISO 1000, f2.8, 1/2800

backlit photo in a field of sisters by Felicia Chang

dancing in the light | evening golden light | ISO 200, f2.2, 1/400

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!

little sisters on the beach together pic by Felicia Chang

sunset flight | sunset | ISO 320, f2.5, 1/4000


sisters playing in water sprinklers in Vancouver by Felicia Chang

waterpark in the city | early afternoon light| ISO 100, f2.5, 1/2000

sister playing outside in the mud photo by Felicia Chang

sharing a shell | overcast afternoon light | ISO 320, f2.2, 1/3200


young girls playing on the beach photograph by Felicia Chang

beached mermaids | cloudy noon | ISO 200, f3.5, 1/2000

  1. Have your camera near by (or somewhere easily accessible) for the moments.
  2. 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!
  3. Adjust your settings for the environment by studying the light where they are interacting.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!
girls eating ice cream picture by Felicia Chang

ice cream face | evening golden light | ISO 640, f2.8, 1/320

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.

girls standing in front of wall mural picture by Felicia Chang

opposing moods | noon hard light | ISO 100, f2.8, 1/4000

About the Author:

Felicia Chang is a documentary family photographer and Click Photo School instructor who believes everyone’s version of reality is camera-worthy. Connections are important, normal is relative, and crustier versions of life definitely deserve visual space in family photos. She lives in beautiful and wet North Vancouver, Canada, in a creaky 104-yr old house with two of the best girls who make Motherhood a challenge, a husband who argues and supports equally, and a Schnoodle dog that licks his bum more than she would like. When not working, she spends her kid-free time drinking copious amounts of hipster coffee, running in the trails with her dog, and spending way too much time on social media meme-ing with her favourite people. Visit Felicia Chang online.
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9 Comments

  1. Jana Oct 23 2014 at 11:55 am - Reply

    You are such a smart woman <3 You've captured such realistic, beautiful moments that your girls will treasure forever.

  2. Kari Wattenbarger Oct 23 2014 at 11:57 am - Reply

    Wonderful article and beautiful images! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Lori Oct 23 2014 at 12:15 pm - Reply

    So great! these are gorgeous, Felicia

  4. Alice C. Oct 23 2014 at 12:34 pm - Reply

    Felicia, this is brilliant! And those photos… so incredible! <3

  5. Heather Oct 23 2014 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    I LOVE how you can capture authenticity so beautifully!!

  6. Jo Oct 23 2014 at 12:46 pm - Reply

    Beautiful work, Felicia!

  7. Saso Oct 26 2014 at 5:50 pm - Reply

    Hi,

    Great photos, but especially I like reading to baby sister.

    This is the first time that I am truly impressed with a photo like this. WOW.

    Can’t stop looking at that photo… hope to copy you when I shoot my own 2 daughters

    Thanks,
    Saso

  8. TKaeber Jan 02 2015 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    I greatly appreciate this article! I have been doing a daily photo project with my boys for a month now and sometimes pose and sometimes just shoot what I see. After looking at my photos so far, I really don’t care all that much for any of the posed photos. The reason for it is so obvious, but I totally missed it until now. Thank you!

  9. Nicole May 06 2015 at 12:13 pm - Reply

    These are wonderful tips and beautiful images! So inspiring!

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