Lessons from the Scene: Photographing Children by Stanley Leary


 by Stanley Leary

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Remember standing there in your new clothes, in front of the hedge, squinting into the sun, while dad or mom backed across the yard, pointed the camera and told you to smile?
Our family has years and years of pictures like that all made in front of our grandparents house. Flipping through the albums you can follow the year-to-year changes in the children as well as the changes in the bushes and trees that take up most of the picture.
These old photos bring back memories for us because we were there. For a stranger, looking at the same snapshots, the pictures show them nothing, because the children are too far away to really see what they look like and the poses tell them nothing about the children themselves.
Get Closer
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Here’s an idea. Get closer. Always get closer and the pictures (almost any picture) will improve, especially pictures of children.
When traveling, the pictures we make of children are usually quite different from those of our own kids. We make photos of children playing, being themselves and not all cleaned up. The expressions and colors of their cloths are what draw us to make these photos.
Introduce yourself to the adults supervising the children and ask for permission to photograph them. You may have to do this with gestures if there is a language barrier.
Get down to the child’s eye level. Crawl on the floor with a toddler or get on your knees to photograph preschoolers. Not only is it a better camera angle, but the kids like it when you’re on their level.
Make them comfortable
The trick is to take the time to let the child become comfortable with you and your camera. When they begin playing, in their own world again, you can peak in with your camera and capture something of the real child.
Children often mimic their surroundings. Give them a pot and spoon or some other grownup stuff and let them play to their heart’s content.
To add to the story value, place a toy in the photo of the child playing with the grown-up things. Use a wide-angle lens or set your zoom at it’s widest setting. Get close to the child and show their surroundings.
Take a lot of photos
With today’s digital cameras there is no cost to making many photos; just edit them on your computer before you print.
So take lots and lots of photos. Truly explore your subject in their world.
By following these suggestions your pictures will be true treasures and even a stranger will be impressed.