Tips With Kids: EXPLORE Your Way to Better Summer Photography
My favorite part about photography is capturing real moments in time and genuine grins. Those are the pictures I go back to again and again -- the ones that make me feel something and remember something. As summertime approaches, I can't wait to photograph my boys in our favorite season doing all of our favorite things together! My strategy for capturing our summer fun in natural, real photos is to E-X-P-L-O-R-E:
1. "E" -- Establish how and where the pictures will be taken before the camera comes out. While I definitely want the expressions to be natural, as the person behind the camera I want to set the stage for the best possible location, lighting, time of day, and background. In my yard, for instance, I'll gently prompt my boys to turn a different direction when I'm photographing them so the wooden fence is behind them rather than the cluttered garage or the bright pink playhouse. I'll also tend to photograph them playing in the early evening instead of when they're playing at noon so that the light is soft around them and no one is squinting. Or, I'll take the kids to a park or a certain location with the intention of taking their pictures there.
lets go swing at sunset!
2. "X" -- Excite them and engage them before I even start taking pictures! We're going to spend time together doing something we enjoy! If they are relaxed and happy, they are going to give me much better smiles than if they feel forced to sit and smile. I don't immediately take out the camera when I'm taking either personal or professional photos. I like to spend time talking and hanging out together first!
mommy tells pretty funny jokes
3. "P" -- Play together! My personal motto is that taking pictures should always be fun. I want to capture them as their best selves in a very playful way. Childhood is innocent and fun and precious and I want to snap that up to record forever. Once they're engaged and excited about taking pictures, the camera comes out and we play! Running, tickling, piggy back rides, jumping, chasing a ball, singing, splashing in the water, blowing bubbles, throwing leaves…. When I'm laughing and giggling, they're laughing and giggling. I will finish a photo shoot with my face tired from smiling so hard, and my kids have come to love seeing the camera come out because it means an adventure!
4. "L" -- Listen to their ideas and cues. If my oldest says, "Can you take a picture of me running as fast as I can?" then I'm going to say, "Yes!" If my younger one asks to go throw rocks by the river when the camera is out, I'm going to say, "Yes!" I like involving them in taking their pictures. They're the ones being photographed, so they should also have a say in what gets photographed. In the same vein, I follow their cues carefully. If they're laughing hard and doing something cute, my camera is at the ready to click, click, click. If they're starting to melt down and get weepy, then I can see they're tired and we're done! Listening to their input and cues can make or break a successful time together.
come get me!
5. "O" -- Offer them a job. My boys absolutely love it when I whisper a "secret" in their ears, asking them to help me make the other one smile. I'll even suggest ideas for what they can do for their job as my special helper. Or, I'll give them the job of organizing an activity, like playing a game, finding a flower, etc.
tell each other funny stories
pick a pretty flower
6. "R" -- Relax my expectations! If I set out with a specific "vision" in mind, it's bound to fail. I am much happier with the end result of my pictures when I set out just to have fun together and open myself to simply being creative and spontaneous.
no, I don't care you're jumping and rolling on a mattress in your Easter shirt….
no, I don't care that you rarely wear clothes and your best smiles come then
no, I don't care that you're happiest when you are filthy and playing in the dirt all day
7. "E" -- Explore a new location with my kids and my camera. When I bring my kids to a new location, they naturally have fresh enthusiasm and will turn to me with huge smiles: "See this, Mom??" Exploring a new trail in the woods, finding big rocks to climb, checking out a new ice cream store all naturally produce opportunities for happy, genuine smiles. Pair that with the above strategies and I am almost always rewarded with pictures of my sweet boys smiling happily.
Have fun exploring together with your kids this summer! Exploring new locations, exploring these techniques, exploring opportunities for fun!