A Note on Content

The purpose of this blog is twofold: (1) to advertise my services as a photographer, and (2) to provide useful information to people who want to take better pictures, particularly when it comes to photographing children.

Although I have not organized the blog posts in any particular order, I have tried to start with basic information and build from there, so those wanting to learn more about photography and visiting the site for the first time may want to start with the oldest posts first.

If you have questions or comments about the blog, please feel free to leave a comment or to email me directly. I hope the photos and other information presented here help you appreciate the art of children's photography, and inspire you to take great photographs of your own.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Thinking Inside the Box

I’ve been doing so more thinking about composition: that routine—but vital—question about what to include within the four corners of a photograph.

Consider this recent photo of a plain old dandelion. Do you like it, and if so, why? Could you approach the dandelion in a different way? Create a different image or a different mood, perhaps? To get this one, I got my nose down in the grass with a long telephoto lens and the late afternoon sun positioned behind the flower. (We could talk about what that means for the photo from a technical standpoint, but let’s save that for later.) But there are literally hundreds of other ways one could approach that same flower: different angles and positions, different lenses, different camera settings … the possibilities are infinite. And if the possibilities are infinite for something like a dandelion that doesn’t move or change expressions, consider how complicated things can get when we start talking about kids!

I believe that the conscious decision to approach a subject in a particular way is what elevates photography from merely “recording stuff” to an art form. That’s where the creativity comes in. That’s what turns a boring photo (yawn) into a memorable one (oh, yeah!).

As I think about it, composition is the result of several distinct choices made by the photographer: where to point the camera, where to position the camera, and when to push the button.

Let’s briefly consider each in turn:

(1) Where to point the camera. Seems obvious. You want to take a picture of Junior, you aim the camera at Junior. Easy, right? Not so fast. What are you going to focus on: the full body, head and shoulders, just the face, just part of the face—a hand, a pair of feet, or even a pair of shoes? What’s in focus and what’s not? Is the kid sitting down (for a portrait) or running around or playing baseball? Get the idea? Creativity comes in at that first most basic question: what do I want to take a picture of?

(2) Where to position the camera. Again, seems obvious: pick up the camera, point it at the subject, put it to your face. Right? Wrong. Way, way, way too many photos are taken from that typical, adult-height perspective. What does that mean for the final result? Too often, boringness. So, how about taking the camera to the child’s level? Below the child’s level? Directly above? That doesn’t mean you can’t take a perfectly good photo from an adult’s height, only that where you position the camera should be the result of a conscious choice and not mere convenience. You choose it because that’s the best angle, not because “it’s just easier that way.” So, move around. Get down on your knees or even your stomach. Try something new.

(3) When to push the button. Here, finally, is a genuine softball. With kids, you should push the button just about as fast and as often as you can, particularly if you are confident in the lighting and the subject, hoping to capture that one perfect moment or expression. In nature or landscape photography, my ratio of “keepers” (the pictures I save) to “deleters” (those I trash) is about 1:3; in children’s photography, that ratio jumps to 1:10 or even 1:20, meaning that only one out of every 10 or 20 photographs makes it to a final print. I don’t know any other way to get those great kid shots. Try a lot of different stuff, and blaze away.

1 comment:

  1. A trick I usually do when shooting kids...put your camera settings on continuous shoot mode. Some point and shoot cameras refer to the setting as sports mode.

    If you dont have a lensbaby you might look into one, they are great fun with kids (and flowers)! As expected, great post!