Here are some suggestions to help you as you document your children’s lives.
1. Photograph at their level. Get down close. Show the world from their perspective.
2. Shoot a lot. If you’re using a digital camera, there’s no waste, so why not? Even the most mundane activities can be give you great memories.A great benefit of shooting a lot? They’ll get used to you and the camera and ignore you after awhile.
3. Pre-focus if you have manual focus capability. If they’re on a swing, focus manually on a spot when they’ll be swinging through. Then wait and time it. You’ll get better results than trying to let your camera chase the focus. If your digital camera doesn’t have this manual focus capability, try this. Half depressing the shutter to lock the focus then wait for the right time to fully depress the shutter.
4. Set the exposure beforehand, so all you have to do is compose, making sure the subject is framed the way you want in your viewfinder before tripping the shutter.
5. Talk to your subject, engage them in conversation. It will help them forget about the camera. Or don’t. With kids sometimes you have to play it by ear.
6. Use a long telephoto lens especially if you’re in the bright outdoors. This clears out the clutter of the background and isolates your subject. Also gives them some space so that they’ll forget about you and stop hamming it up.
7. Don’t get in their faces the whole time. Not every picture has to show their faces. Try one that shows perhaps how little they are compared to dad’s leg or maybe dad’s hand. These can be closeups.
8. Try shooting in monochrome mode or black and white mode. If you don’t know much about photo-editing and don’t want to learn, look for that setting in your owner’s manual but remember to set it back to color afterwards.
9. Shoot with the highest jpeg quality. If you know photoshop, by all means shoot both jpeg and raw. Having a large digital file is like having a longer zoom because it allows you to crop the picture and still have good resolution to print the cropped image.
10. Be flexible. Some of the best pictures of kids are not posed. Keep your camera handy all the time. Point-and-shoot cameras are great for that because they’re compact and easy to keep close by.
11. Pay attention to your shutter speed. If your camera is sophisticated enough to display this setting, try to use a high shutter speed since kids seldom stay still. A side benefit of this is that you’ll have a shallow depth-of-field or zone of sharpness so that your subject will be emphasized if the camera is correctly focused on your child.
If you’re using a digital SLR, try shutter priority with a shutter speed set at 1/500th of a second, letting the camera select the aperture automatically.
12. Study and analyze the lighting. There are 2 reasons. When you preview your image after taking the picture, how do the skin tones look? You may have to change the white balance if you find you can’t live it how it looks.
If that doesn’t work, maybe turn the room light off and just let one light source dominate. 2nd reason. Is the lighting too harsh? Cameras can only record a certain range of highlight and shadow, something has to give. You may have to use a flash to boost the shadow areas to tame the contrast.
13. Use the self-timer. If you see a wonderful moment and the light is wonderful, don’t forget to include yourself in the picture. Set it up and get in the picture. This will naturally make it more fun for your child.
About the Author:
Peter Phun is an adjunct photography instructor at Riverside City College (http://www.peterphun.com). He is a freelance photographer, web designer and stay at home dad. He previously worked as a staff photographer for 18 years at The Press-Enterprise, SoCal’s 4th largest daily newspaper. Peter is the webmaster for the Mac group in the Inland Empire.
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