This a guest post by writer and photographer Veronica Armstrong of VeronicaArmstrong.com.
I’m passionate about preserving my children’s childhoods with my camera. The kids and I enjoy sifting through our memory box and flipping through photos taken when they were babies. They often ask to see photo slide shows on the computer of relatives who live far away.
Photography is a big deal in our household, but I don’t let it consume me. I don’t want to miss precious moments with my family because I’m fumbling around with lenses or complicated lighting setups. I’m a mother first and cherish this fleeting time with my kids, but photography is my passion. After spending a few years photographing my kids I’ve reached a good balance.
Here are some tips for documenting childhood. Simply. Beautifully.
Let your child be your guide and don’t be a slave to perfection
Most children don’t enjoy regular mom-led photo shoots and artistic direction. You’ll save yourself a ton of frustration if you follow your children’s lead and work around their routines. Keep your camera ready and handy. Fix your settings ahead of time and memorize its location so you’re ready to shoot when the cute moments arise.
Consider capturing your child enjoying a messy meal. The kids on an early evening bike ride. Your children playing with rocks by a creek. Perfection isn’t the goal. Freezing time and preserving memories is our aim. Thirty years from now scuffed shoes won’t matter but the toothless smile on your child’s face will.
Capture the moments worth remembering. Save perfection for the pros.
If you’re waiting for the perfect moment to snap a photo I suggest you stop. Don’t bother. When it comes to taking pictures of children perfection is an exercise in futility. It’s not happening.
Use your imagination to capture your child’s personality. My two-year-old daughter Cameron is always on the move. It’s nearly impossible to get a traditional portrait of her so I have a foolproof trick. I plop her in the swing and watch her face light up. She adores the danger of going “super higher” and I have her safely contained for a few minutes. If I need a smile I pretend she’s kicking me. Cheap thrills, but hilarity ensues. Big smiles for mommy.
Perfectly imperfect photo opp.
Consider nontraditional cropping methods, too. Not every photo of your child requires a big smile and two eyes staring back at you. My son Preston loves picking dandelions for me. My favorite thing about this photo is his puffy cheeks. No smile needed. Sweet simplicity.
Be mindful of light and experiment endlessly
I’m sure you’ve heard a million professional momtogs say that the golden hour, the last hour before sunset, is the best time to shoot. Perhaps, but are your children usually in the mood for a photo shoot around bedtime? There are dinners to make, houses to clean, and teeth to brush. Most of us don’t have the luxury of shooting during the golden hours. That doesn’t mean that you can’t get take some great photographs.
If you have to shoot indoors under household lights check your camera’s white balance settings. You might have the option to switch your settings so your camera counteracts the warm (yellowish tinge) effects of tungsten lights which will result in more natural looking photos. Perhaps you spend most of your time outdoors during the harsh sunlight hours. You might want to experiment shooting in the open shade. You’ll avoid unflattering shadows but still get decent light.
If your kids aren’t interested in playing in the shade take pictures anyway. Try converting them to black and white. Sometimes that helps and if it doesn’t, who cares? They’re fabulous pictures of your kids you’ll treasure forever. You win!
Light is important but it isn’t everything. Depending on your skill level and desire to learn there are plenty of tricks for working in any kind of light. Learn them. Play around. Have a good time.
The key is to have fun while documenting childhood. Don’t lose yourself behind the lens. Learn your camera, study a few techniques that are most helpful to your unique situations, and move on. Enjoy your kids and the time you spend making beautiful memories together.
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Veronica Armstrong is the founder and editor of VeronicaArmstrong.com, a blog she started to write about being an Ivy League wife (her husband is currently pursuing his MBA at Cornell University), and inspire other moms to embrace photography and document their children’s lives. Connect with Veronica on Google+.