I had a great chat this morning with Laura Rawlings on BBC Radio Bristol, all about how to capture those important, but fleeting, moments of family life.
I love photos that show personality, dynamics, movement and interactions: Real moments that tell a story. Sometimes a photo needs a few words (“That was your favourite toy, the one we couldn’t leave home without”; “That’s the hat granny brought back from Australia for you”…), but they also speak volumes all by themselves.
It’s a subject very close to my own heart, and I could wax lyrical for hours about it! Instead, I thought it might be more useful to come up with a handy list. This list works well whether you’re wielding a smart phone, or a fancy DSLR.
Find good light (either outside or by a window)
Make sure your lens is clean (especially if you use a smart phone which is usually chucked in a bag with all the kiddie snacks or being “borrowed” by a sticky fingered toddler)
Relax and have fun. The best photos capture a natural moment – quiet time colouring in, crazy time chasing bubbles and leaping up to pop them, a caring interaction between family members
Avoid posing as there’s the tendency for even the most enthusiastic person to look like a Thunderbird (wooden). (When I’m doing my more formal style of photography for businesses, I factor in regular “shake your hands about and loosen up” periods).
The world is already overly full of SAY CHEESE photos. This is also a recipe for disaster with young children, as it’s usually their cue to strike the most unnatural and grotesque of poses, hide behind a tree, or start crying.
Try prompting! This is great whether the child is 2 or 82, and is a fantastic way to create some special moments whilst having fun and encouraging your family to forget there’s a camera pointed at them. Here are my favourites:
- Ask your youngest child to pass their favourite toy to their great-grandparent – this also works well for a detailed shot of a young child hands interacting with the more mature hands, and can be very effective
- Take your child to one side and ask her to run up and blow a raspberry on daddy’s cheek – this will look like a kiss, with (hopefully) a look of surprise and delight on daddy’s face
- Play with bubbles – enthusiastically encourage your child to jump really high. No, even higher than that!! Get the adults to join in too!
- For group photos, randomly call out a name of someone in the group for everyone else to stare at. When people feel slightly uncomfortable, they tend to giggle to ease the tension. This scenario sometimes ends up with the whole family group laughing.
- Get baking in the kitchen – or any kind of messy play
- Switch it up! If something isn’t working don’t try to push it, simply move on to something different. Maybe your children need a bit of quiet time playing with lego, or maybe they want to release some energy by jumping off the sofa or doing star jumps. Don’t get too hung up on the photo you think you want – the idea is to create an environment where your family can relax and have fun, and not feel constrained and awkward, so give yourself permission to go with the flow.
Get in the photos – whether you set a timer, use a remote control trigger or ask your partner or passer-by to take a picture. Don’t forget – you’re a vital part of Right Now too!
Get your photos printed! All too often, our photos stay in digital format until our phones become obsolete or the hard drive crashes. And then how we wish we’d printed them.
Christmas is coming up – why not make a 2020 calendar with your favourite photos from this year? Or put together a photobook of your summer adventures so you can remember what it was like before the wind and rain set in again! I have a shelf of photobooks and albums that I’ve put together, which my 5 year old has great fun flicking through. He gets his own mini photobook each Christmas too, which he absolutely loves, and treasures throughout the year.