Every year since my oldest was born, my husband and I have made a photo calendar of the kids as Christmas gifts for the grandparents. Consequently, we’re always on the lookout for “calendar shots” throughout the year. I remember one Easter eve. We were coloring eggs and my son was about seven. I wanted a picture of him and his four year old sister dipping their eggs and smiling. Trouble was, he just didn’t look happy enough. “Smile,” I urged him repeatedly, as he focused on not dropping his egg and splashing dye everywhere. “SMILE.” Unsurprisingly, my son looked increasingly stricken in every photo I snapped until, in the final one, he is wearing a terrified grimace and holding his egg out to me as if afraid I will crush it over his head.
You will not be shocked to learn that that picture did not make the calendar.
Fortunately for all of us, I am not in charge of handing out the photography tips around here. For that, we have a cracker-jack team of great moms and brilliant photographers whose kids do not start to tremble and break out in hives when someone whips out a Nikon. Hosting our photography talk today was Heather, aka Sprittibee. She was joined by Stacy of Kids Stuff World, Jamie of See Jamie Blog and Jamie Worley Photography, and Jacquilyn of Jacquilyn Avery, all with tips on how to capture those fleeting moments with your kids – and have fun at the same time.
Heather dropped hints for getting good pictures throughout the talk like my kids drop Teddy Grahams throughout the house. I’ve gathered them here for your enjoyment (the hints, not the Teddy Grahams):
#1 : FRAME your shot. Make sure the light is not too harsh, clear the clutter from your background – those are things that can’t be fixed easily in Photoshop… the aim is to try and take your BEST shot inside the camera.
#2: Get to know your camera. Read your manual. Get informal lessons from others who use your camera type if you are the SEE IT rather than read it type.
#3: Look at other people’s photos for inspiration. Keep a folder of favorite pictures you want to try and mimic with your children for fun, or just take some notes and use your imagination. (See some of Heather’s favorites here.)
#4 : Get yourself in some of the photos or you’ll regret it later. Don’t feel sorry for yourself that no one else in the family thinks to take pictures of mom – be assertive and ASK someone to take a picture!
#5: Take photos of them with the things they love, doing what they love. This is a great way to memorialize the moments that make life and your unique kids special.
#6: Look for a different angle. Always shoot more than one shot of the same picture Sometimes just getting down on your kids’ level or getting a picture of the scene from a new vantage point will make your photo pop.
#7: Take some silhouette and profile shots. It used to be popular to have a dark photo with the light from the side, and to draw silhouettes and mod-podge them. These are coming back in style and there are some great iPhone apps that allow you to make the most creative photos from empty silhouettes filled with photos.
#8: Play with photo editing. It’s not that hard. IPhone apps are super fun, and easier than learning Photoshop. Heather has printed many of her iPhone photos that she has edited with apps and framed them in her house, the quality is so good. Heather recommends checking out Alli Worthington’s e-book to learn about iPhone apps to use for photography.
#9: Don’t miss the action. Learn to pan, learn about shutter speeds, get your kids running, laughing, doing whatever quirky thing they do. This is another reason why our DSLR cameras aren’t always enough.The iPhone is revolutionizing photography because it is always in your pocket.
#10: Make collages to tell stories. You can make collages on Picasa, on iPhone apps such as Diptic, and on BigHugeLabs.com from your flickr photos.
#11: Make friends with your iPhone and load up on photo apps. Heather says, “I couldn’t do a talk without mentioning Instagram.” Heather’s blog post on Instagram is definitely a worthwhile read. Stacy also has a great iPhone tip: “Did you know you could take a photo using the volume button on your phone? When you want to be in a photo yourself, use the flip camera option and use the volume buttons to better control how you frame your shot.”
More Brilliant Ideas
I’m a Pinterest junkie. If you are, too, you’ll appreciate all the great photography ideas and tips on Stacy’s photography board. Pinterest is a great way to collect and organize shots that you admire and would like to try. Stacy’s advice about taking pictures of kids is, “Head out with the mindset of just having fun. Don’t expect to go out with lots of young children and do a professional shoot of some sort. For me, the magic of catching children in photographs comes through catching them in the moment. Go out to have fun and THEN you will truly get some great shots.” Jacquilyn agrees: “Make picture taking fun! Act goofy – be crazy!”
I wish I’d talked to Jacquilyn before terrorizing my poor little dude trying to get him to smile at me while he was busy coloring eggs. She says, “Another tip I use with my own family is, don’t always worry about capturing images with them looking at the camera. My oldest son suffers from severe autism and has NO interest in looking at the camera whatsoever. We structure our photo shoots around capturing interaction. My husband and I playing with the kids, looking the direction they are looking, tickling or reading together. Capturing moments that are dear to us vs. trying and trying and trying for that perfect look into the camera everyone smiling shot… because for us, it just isn’t going to happen and that’s totally ok!”
And when it comes down to it, the stiff, posed shots aren’t the ones you love to look at over and over. Jamie notes, “I’m kind of a stalker, even in my family, for natural, un-cheese shots.” Those are the ones that turn out to be the treasures. As Stacy observes, “I think an often overlooked part of shooting our kids is just capturing those sweet moments part of your everyday life. The ones you truly want to remember, not the ones in the fancy clothes or the uncomfortable shoes. Just moments that, without the shot, you might not remember on your own.”
(Check out the transcript of the talk here for more great ideas and links.)