photography: how to capture your kids without revealing their identity
Sharing photos of your children online; it’s a pertinent topic in the blogging world and it’s one I constantly think about as my online space evolves and my children grow. Taking photos of your children is part and parcel of being a parent and if you’re a personal blogger (or an instagram/facebook user) your children are a significant part of your story. However, there are people out there who choose to keep their children anonymous but still want to creatively document experiences, milestones and the beauty of childhood. Sound familiar? This post is for you!
Perhaps one of the most significant changes you can make as a photographer is to embrace a candid approach to taking photos. Ideally you don’t want your children to realise you’re taking photos of them hence don’t ask them to stare down the lens or “say cheese”. Act sleuth-like and you’re more likely to capture the moment without revealing the face.
set the scene : the photo of Poet above says a lot about the season, location and her personality. It’s winter (long pants, jumper), we’re at the beach and she’s decided to jump in, clothes and all. I don’t need to show her face here and to be honest, I think it’s a more whimsical shot as a result.
stand back : I think parents tend to get up close and personal when they photograph their children. I know I do it all the time but lately I’ve been standing back and photographing Poet within the landscape. This works really well if you want to set the scene and it’s particularly useful if you don’t want to show your child’s face. In this shot (above) I’m standing on a rock wall and hence I’m much higher than her. You can’t see her face here but you can see that her fist is clenched; anticipating the incoming wave.
encourage your child to wear a hat : if you’ve read this blog for a while you may have noticed that my children are always wearing hats – for practical reasons (they’ve inherited my English-rose skin) and aesthetic purposes (toddlers in bonnets – need I say more?). When you photograph a hat-wearing child from the side it’s very hard to distinguish his/her features hence it’s a great technique for capturing a moment without revealing an identity. This photo isn’t about Poet’s face, it’s about her stance (because two-year-olds squat with such ease) and her hands playing with sand; it wasn’t at all necessary for me to reveal her face.
follow your child : parents naturally lead and yet you often capture the most evocative images of your child when you follow. In this shot we are walking home after collecting lemons from our neighbour’s tree. Poet was determined to carry the heavy bag and she’s struggling (but persisting) – an honest capture of her personality traits. It’s also tells the story of our “journey” as we walk from one garden to the next.
focus on the foreground : the focal point in this image is the plant in the foreground and yet the photo captures Che exploring in the garden. You can use this technique as a great way of capturing an activity that your child is engrossed in (for those accustomed to manual shooting I have focussed on the plant and then recomposed the image to place Che in the centre). In this image I’m using a aperture of 2.8 hence I have a shallow depth of field (foreground is in focus, mid and background is blurred). A shallow depth of field is a great technique to use when you shoot manual; you literally choose what’s in focus, hence it’s easy to blur your child’s features but still accurately capture them in a landscape, activity, scene.
shoot over-the-shoulder : in this shot Che is reading a newspaper clipping of knock-knock jokes (my mum cuts them out of the Sunday paper every week). Cheesy jokes are his current obsession. When you shoot over-the-shoulder you tend to focus on the hands and hence capture your child reading, eating, building blocks, painting, playing. It’s a great technique to use if you want to “document childhood”.
photograph your child’s accessories : the clothes and accessories that children choose to wear say so much about their personalities. In this shot Che’s wearing his favourite “peace”shirt (from Paul and Paula), his new “super-cool” Spiderman watch and he’s reading a book on how to create a comic strip (his favourite school holiday activity).
capture subtle facial features : this is for the blogger who doesn’t mind photographing parts of the face but doesn’t feel comfortable featuring a front-on headshot. I’m shooting on an angle here; midway between straight-on and from-above. I suppose it’s the angle that you would naturally shoot your kids at if you held the camera to your eye and looked straight down at them. You could call this a lazy way of shooting but I really like it; if you look back through my blog you’ll see it used quite a bit.
I hope these tips have been helpful. If you have any questions I’m more than happy to answer them within the comments section.