How to shoot your kids, Part I

by trevorcarpenter on April 24, 2008

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DSC_9938Hello there, I’m Trevor Carpenter. I wear many hats in my life. Some are not so important, while others are of the utmost importance. A couple of the latter are Husband and Father. I have worn the Husband hat for going on 10 years. I like that hat. The Father hat has been my blessing for 8 years, and I’ve got 4 versions of that one. My 4 kids bring me more joy and happiness than anything I could have ever imagined.

I must tell you, as I have learned from my career as a correctional officer, our society is more in need of not good, but great fathers than ever before. It pains me to see generation after generation of children growing up without a quality man in their life, to help mold and make them. I am a firm believer that many of the shortcomings in the world today are as a result of the failing Fatherhood.

It is exciting to partner with the men of BeAGoodDad. Committing to be the fathers we ought to be is no easy task. But, it is doable. OK, I have finished my speech.

Now, on to the meat of my article. Along with my traditional career, I have had the opportunity to be a semi-professional photographer. As I have progressed in my passion for photography, I have embraced its use for my family. I find myself photographing them more than most of my peers and more than even my parents did of me as a child.The Wookiee poses

There have even been times when my desire to “get out and shoot” has pushed my wife and I to plan a family outing, just so I can take pictures. The side effect becomes spending the whole day together as a family, having a great time. Recently, I wanted to photograph The Getty Center, in Los Angeles. It took me a few weeks to fit it into my schedule, but eventually I got there. What was the result? I spent the whole day, on a date with my 8 year old daughter, at one of Southern California’s best art museums. What an awesome “side effect”.

Let me clarify a few things. I’m not talking about taking pictures. Everyone takes pictures. I’m also not suggesting that you must spend thousands of dollars on gear and morph into Ansel Adams. What I am suggesting is that we embrace the task of documenting our children’s lives. See to it that your children have a wonderful record of their childhood.

What I want to do for you today is offer you some tips that will help you be more deliberate in your family photography. In Part II of this article, I’ll go a little deeper with some more tips.

The Princess, the photographer

Partner up with your child.

Learn photography together. Get a good book on teaching photography to your children. There are many good books you can use to help you teach them the basics. If you don’t know the basics, then you will be learning together!

Make a commitment.

Commit to going out once a week or month, for the purpose of photographing the kids. I’d suggest finding a local botanical garden to visit. This will not only give you great backgrounds to make your photographs look much better. But it will also help your children be exposed to some beautiful plants and colors.

Another good location is a non-traditional park. Everyone goes to the park. But, somewhere in your area there must be a unique park. Maybe one with huge grass fields that are used for soccer or other sports. Maybe one that is used by large groups for events. Go to this park and take a few kites. Then let the kids run free. Let them move around at their own pace. DON’T make them look at you! (more on that later)

Don’t always make them pose.

Yes those scrunched up faces look funny. But sometimes the most beautiful shots are when they’re not aware you’re even there.

While you’re trying to capture them, in their own element, get down on your knees! Your kids look weird in photos, when they’re having to look up at the camera. Get them looking natural. To do this, you’ll have to get down on their level.

DSC_7700 DSC_7491 DSC_7456 Almost gone! Oh, it's on my nose.

Get off the auto settings.

Learn to embrace the special modes or even to shoot manually. While you’re chasing the kids around, on your knees, you’re going to run into some problems. Keeping up with them can be hard enough when you can run too. So, having enough zoom is important. On a point-n-shoot, I say you need at least 10x optical zoom. With a dSLR or SLR, you should be out there with at least a 100mm zoom lens. This allows you enough “reach” to not have to be right next to them all the time. Stepping back, and giving them some elbow room is not only good for your photos, it let’s them enjoy themselves a bit more.

Take a look at your camera. That little picture of a running man, that’s for action. Guess what?! Your kids won’t slow down for you. They are a moving target. If you’re not already shooting them with at least your “sports” or “action” settings, you need to start now.

These are just a few important things for you to consider as you venture out and try to intentionally photograph your kids more. By no means is this list exhaustive or even complete. Just keep in mind, effectively documenting your kids’ lives will enhance your own experiences as you do it, and will bring back all the great memories for years to come.

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