When you become a parent, you also become a shutterbug. A camera will be tethered to your hand most hours of the day. If you're lucky, you will have one frame-worthy picture out of every fifty or so images you take. If you're even luckier, you will capture a feeling behind the images you capture.
I've been testing and refining my photography skills on my daughter over the past few years, and I would like to share some of what I've learned so far with you. Don't worry - I absolutely don't believe that I know it all and I am the first to acknowledge that I still have quite a bit of room to grow as a photographer.
That said, I do receive a steady stream of compliments regarding the pictures that I share of my daughter, Danger. It's not because the pictures are perfect - I think it's simply because I have learned how to capture Danger's personality by being a little creative. By allowing her personality to be the star, the images are interesting, precious, and well-liked by clients, friends, and family.
One thing that I've learned recently is that Danger's face does not even have to be in the picture to capture her personality. Take a look at this picture that shows my daughter with her new favorite item to collect - a rock:
And even this one of my daughter playing dress-up on a gloomy day:
See what I mean? The possibilities are endless. The above images tell a little bit about who Danger is at this stage, and create an interesting narrative about her imaginative nature.
Of course, if the face is the main subject of the picture or session - as it usually is - then there are things that you can do to make the most of your time behind the lens.
The most important component to a successful photo shoot is the location. Choose a comfortable environment for the child to run and play in. You are looking for a place that doesn't have a lot of other people or distractions. If the child is overwhelmed or overstimulated, you will not be able to capture the child's personality (or at least not a desirable aspect of the child's personality). I take most of my daughter's pictures in our own backyard, off the beaten path at Stone Mountain, and our church garden.
Another thing that will make pictures really pop is to engage your child in the process. Don't just set up the camera and tell the little one to say "Cheese." You are not at Sears Portrait Studio. Talk with your child, play with her, explore the environment that you are in. This will encourage her to play and have fun, which will yield the best photo results.
Forced smiles, cheesy 'staged' grins, and unnatural poses are to be avoided at all cost! The purpose of personal photography should be to capture the whole child, not just the child's appearance.
That's not to say that posed pictures are without merit. We've all seen amazing photography on Pinterest where the subjects were perfectly posed. Posed pictures can be quite adorable BUT you risk missing out on the beauty of your child's personality. Unlike spontaneous, unplanned actions, posed pictures can not adequately capture the soul.
Here are some of my favorite pictures of little Danger that truly capture who she is, and not just her sweet face:
Sometimes it's easy to capture the person behind the face in daily routines, like when a child is enjoying a favorite meal or playing with a new toy, oblivious to the world around her. It's even easier when the child has an inclination toward strong facial expression of thought and feeling.
We had a peek into Danger's developing personality from a very young age. She does things with her eyebrows, nose, and lips that have us rolling in laughter and tears all at once :) Her personality makes our pictures stand out with little to no interference from photo-editing software. Check out her expression from the first time she rode in the car with me behind the wheel:
Is your child brave, sweet, strong, curious, a clown? There's a way to capture her personality through photography. Don't miss out on the chance to document her moods, interests, and expressions by staging every single moment. Keep your photo sessions as true to everyday life as you can, and you will have beautiful, complete picture memories to look back on.
What tricks to you use to best capture your child's personality in your personal photography? Does your child have a distinctive feature that shows through? :)