This past week, I have been holding a number of camera masterclasses for dads, who were gifted the photography class with me as their Father’s Day present. 

We’ve been going through lots of camera tips and practice on how to get out of automatic mode, learning some of the settings, going through how I choose my typical camera settings, covering some photography composition “rules” and when to break them, as well as answering some of the dads' own burning questions. 

Here are my answers to the first of the two most common photography questions I get asked:

“How can I make it [taking photos] fun with the kids, as most of the time the introduction of the camera breaks the moment?”

 

  1. First things first. There is such a thing as “photographer’s child syndrome.” I’m not kidding.
     
    • Any pro photographer will tell you - they cannot get portraits of their own children as they can of other people’s. It’s just a fact of life. Ever wondered how come our kids behave totally differently around strangers / at nursery / at school? It’s the same thing here. Be easy on yourself. And instead of aiming for professional-style, eyes-to-camera portraits, go for natural shots that capture the moment of the kids having fun. 
      • If you’re big into lenses, you’ll find a wide angle lens (e.g. 35mm) will create a more reportage style of image which is great for natural action shots, that include more of the environment. This means the image is less dependent on the subject being in the perfect position and engaging with you, to get an interesting shot.
         
  2. Let someone else engage the kids and make the fun moments happen. 
     
  3. Sit back, observe and capture. By being an observer and getting down to their eye level (low down) you can capture the moments more authentically. Remember, if you’re going for action shots – you don’t need the children looking at the camera. 
     
  4. You will need a high shutter speed (1/320th of a second or higher if you can) to freeze the moment, especially for action shots and moving children.
     
  5. Make capturing these family moments into an age appropriate game.
    • Up to about 6 months - this means having a favourite rattle or teddy bear on hand which you wave about around the lens, to get your baby’s attention. 
    • Once they get the concept of "peek a boo” play that by hiding behind the camera and popping out again. Capture the shot as you get behind the viewfinder. 
    • At the stage where they are watching cartoons and can associate with a favourite character, you can ask them “ Who can they see inside the lens? Can they see [insert character name here]. If they look happy then perhaps [character] will make an appearance.” Remember to show them what the lens is / explain that you are holding a camera (remember they don’t see real cameras often, just camera phones). 
    • Use a video on your phone to get their attention. Just hold the phone right next to your lens to get them looking the right way. 
    • Use silly words. “Who does the smelliest farts?” work a treat with older toddlers and young children.
    • Play hide and seek / find structures to run around; lie in wait with the camera set to capture the moment as they appear around the corner. 
    • With older children, go outdoors where they can run free. 
    • Avoid giving little children toys as a stimulus if you want them to look up, as you’ll generally find they will simply look down and you’ll get photos of the tops of their heads, the toy in their mouths or the toy covering their faces/body/arms etc.
       
  6. Get them used to the camera – not just the phone. Many kids will pose for the phone, but they rarely see a real camera, so they just don’t get it. Show the back of the camera (so they get it’s just like the phone screen), and they will become more engaged in the idea of being “on” the screen.
     
  7. Well fed, well rested, well watered kids make for happy photos. Time your camera-time well.
     
  8. Have snacks and water/milk to hand. 
     
  9. Keep wipes handy to mop up snot / food smears and any inopportune tears.
     
  10. Don’t miss out on being in the memory too. Put the camera down, go have some fun. Ask someone else to capture it. At the end of the day, even if the focus, exposure and composition are off, if you’ve caught a moment that means something to you, then you’ve captured what is important. 

Got any other tips of your own? Please share them here in the comments. 

Oh, and if you’re wondering, the other big question I get asked a lot is “How do I get more of my shots in focus?”

I’ll be answering that one in another blog post. Watch this space. 

 

Sara x

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