When I was ten years old, my parents took my brother and me to Disneyland. Many families every year make the trek to the Magic Kingdom to experience the magic and create those wonderful vacation memories we cherish for the rest of our lives.
This vacation, back in the 80s was well before the invention of a digital camera, and my father set about capturing our trip on an endless supply of film he purchased before we left. I too was armed with my first camera – a little Kodak toy that allowed you to control nothing whatsoever – you just pointed it at the memory and SNAP and CLICK and you’ve taken a photo, though you had to wait until you developed the film to find out how good it was.
My father’s photos of our trip paid a lot of attention to signs and vacation landmarks and although my brother and I were in the photo, you could be excused for not realizing it, as we were really not a feature of the photograph. In fact, looking back over the albums you can’t even really see us in many of the photos he took.
These days, digital photography ostensibly makes capturing those precious moments a lot easier, however most camera owners still treat their cameras the same way. Set it to automatic, point it in the general direction of the memory, press the button.
Whether you have an expensive D-SLR or a basic ‘point and click’ compact camera, taking great photos is still very achievable. In fact, we are not just able to take better photos, but as we put them on Facebook and try to get more “Likes”, we have a responsibility to take better photos than we ever have before.
You might not know where to start, after all the operating manual for your camera tries to make it as complicated as it possibly can. However, there are a few things we can do on ANY camera to try and have a bit more impact in our photographs – especially pictures of our kids.
Step 1: Zoom, Zoom, Zoom!
When you come in, close to the person you’re photographing, you’re actually distorting how they look in the photograph – even if you can’t see it to the naked eye. You’re going to get much better photos if you stand between five and ten feet back and zoom in as much as you can.
Not only will the photograph turn out better, you’re more likely to capture photos of the kids without them realizing it, which will give you more natural expressions and a better photograph.
When we teach this step in our classes, a lot of people comment that they can’t get the whole scene in the picture if they do zoom in. This leads me to …
Step 2: Don’t try to fit everything in.
When we walked in the gate at Disneyland, we were greeted by a giant garden where the face of Mickey Mouse was constructed of flowers. My father, trying to capture everything, stood way back in the distance and pressed the button, capturing this photo of the entire garden but with these two little figures blocking part of the view. Honestly, you couldn’t even tell it was us.
The entire background doesn’t need to be in the photo. Instead, if the story is that the kids are at Disneyland, try to fill as much of the scene as possible with the kids and just have a small part of Mickey’s head in the background – just enough so you can see what it is. Remember, the story that we’re telling is the kids being at Disneyland!
Fill the frame with your kids!
The other thing about limiting the amount of background in a photograph is we have more control over the story. Don’t you hate it when you take a great photo of the kids but some stranger is in the background doing something like picking his nose, scratching his behind or generally being in the way? Or you’ve taken a great photo of the kids at home but when you look at the photograph later, you notice the laundry basket on the table in the background?
Remember, the story is about the kids in the photograph, not that we have washing to do once we’ve finished taking a photograph.
Step 3: Get to eye level.
When you have a conversation with someone, you try to look at the person in the eye. Taking a great photograph is almost exactly the same. If you crouch to the same height as your kids before taking the photograph, you’ll create more impact of them being the subject rather than taking a snapshot of them doing something.
Taking a great photograph of a person, especially of a kid is all about building a relationship with him and the person looking at the photograph.
If your child is playing on the ground and you want to capture her at play rather than try to look her in the eye, still get to her level. The camera will tell a much better story if you’re at her level than if you’re standing a meter above her.
These are three of the easiest steps you can take to ensure the photographs you take of your kids and family are better than what you’ve been taking. The worst thing in the world is having an extremely adorable child and not doing him justice in our photographs. Actually, the worst thing is taking the kids to Disneyland and having no photos, but taking bad photos comes a close second.
Luke Ballard is a professional photographer and owner of Remember Forever Photography Workshops in New York, Boston, Washington D.C. and all over Australia. Luke and the team at Remember Forever spend every weekend helping parents take better photos of their kids and travelers take better photos of their vacations.
If you’ve learned something from Luke’s article and want to learn more, Remember Forever are offering Mommybites readers half price workshops! Just use the code MOMMYBITES when booking your workshop at www.rememberforever.co
The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.