I have confessed before of my compulsion to photograph my children incessantly. Thank goodness I live in the digital age where storage can be kept to one small box (aka the computer) otherwise this storage-poor house would be busting at the seams with album after album of baby feet and selfies (be honest now).
Truth is, I consider myself a bit of a gun at kid photography. Not in any technical sense. Oh good lord, no, I have zero idea how to use my camera, like, really use it. But I think I maybe have a vibe for catching moments. When it comes to me and kid photography, it's Mabo*. Either that or it's a numbers game – as in, if you take 1000 photos in three minutes, chances are one of them will be a cracker**.
For instance, if you will allow me to be so immodest, here are a few shots I like to call "The Sausage Series" (sounds vaguely perverted – isn't);
The Little Mumma Photography Tip #1: Only kids are cute when they eat sausages. Important.
I love a candid shot (except of Bren eating a sausage). I like capturing a moment rather than setting one up. But that can be insanely hard and even harder when you want to catch more than one person being natural.
My lovely friend Angie Baxter is someone who has the knack of capturing moments. She does this with kids. She does this with families. And importantly, she does this with skillz. As in, actual, technical camera know-how. Which is a relief since she peddles herself as a professional photographer.
The Little Mumma Photography Tip #2: Not all photographers are equal. Or actual photographers. Digital photography and photo editing programs have seen a boom in 'career photographers' but beware. No amount of pretty filters can turn a poorly taken photo into a masterpiece.
Clearly, this was NOT taken by a shopping mall "photographer".
But are there ways for the average Angie (me) to take better photographs? Angie (her) thinks yes and she shares her know-how in a new e-Book, The Art of Interviewing Children: how to get kids responding naturally for the camera.
I asked her a few questions;
They say never work with children or animals but you make photographing kids look easy. What do you love about photographing kids?
In my extremely limited knowledge, it seems like utilising natural light is often a key part of capturing an amazing photo. What is your favourite time of day to shoot outside?
Generally my sessions happen early morning. As I am photographing children primarily, and young children at that, they are fresher and happier in the morning. From a photography perspective, the light is also beautiful in the morning.
Having professional family portraits done by a skilled photographer is obviously awesome but it's not something many people can afford to do on a regular basis. Thoughts?
While I understand it is not something we can do week-in, week-out, I highly recommend it at least once every 3 years or so. Particularly for the parent that is always behind the camera. We want our children to know not only that we existed, but how we all interacted together as a family – and that can really only be seen by having a third party photograph you all together.
And in those inbetween years, is it really possible to get amazing shots of our kids at home?
Okay, wait a minute. So Angie is saying that "say cheese" doesn't work?
Hands up who has been using that as their gold standard photography trick?
Angie gave me a sneak peak of The Art Of Interviewing Children and I have to say, her techniques are genius. Most of the time, when I'm trying to capture a candid moment, I hang around waiting for the kids to do something cute, and invariably, they will get annoyed at my incessant clicking and wander away leaving me with photos of the back of their fast retreating heads.
Angie's ideas (and there are over 60 pages of them) really are excellent for helping to engage your photo subject. Particularly nifty is the way the techniques are broken up via age appropriateness. This is super important as I discovered once when attending a photo shoot through my acting agency. The day was predominantly for the purpose of shooting the kids on the agent's books, and the photographer they used seemed quite competent at working with small people. Personally, I felt she came unstuck when I stood in front of her lens and she cajoled me to repeat the words, "I'm the best!" Yes, this technique did seem to elicit excitement and giggles from the under 8 crowd, but I was 32 years old.
I put some techniques to the test. One is designed for siblings and involves asking questions like, "Who is the tallest?" "Who is the cheekiest?" etc. and start snapping as their natural interaction unfolds. Here's a few moments I caught…
The Little Mumma Photography Tip #4: I absolutely love this sequence of shots though in hindsight, my recommendation would be NOT to introduce lollipops into the mix because a/ they'll end up wearing them, and b/ the eating of sugar may be so seductive as to render them incapable of concentrating on anything but the giant dentist bill on a stick.
Other things to consider are brushing the dreadlocks out of your preschooler's hair and avoiding mould-tinged table umbrellas as backdrops. Personal preference really.
I am having so.much.fun with Angie's book. If you're interested in using some of these clever techniques with your kiddos, you can grab yourself a copy here.
* If you've never seen the classic Australian film, The Castle, then this will make no sense to you and I'm not going to explain it because you had to be there…
** Once again, if you're not Australian, the use of 'cracker' in this sentence might confuse you. In this instance, cracker means 'great' and not an abusive term for a Southern white person.
Please note: Angie supplied me with a copy of her eBook for the purpose of reviewing it. The integrity of this blog is of utmost importance to me and my opinion can not be bought. Thus, all opinions are my own.