Since I was thirteen years old I think almost every year I read “The Dandelion Wine” by Ray Bradbury at the end of the spring. This is the “summer-est” book I know! And I am enjoying it even more now, when I have two boys, running around. This book puts me into the right mood for summer. It reminds me how special this time is and how much adventures we can have every day. For me taking pictures of my children is like bottling up the precious days. And summer days are especially precious because there are so many of them we spend all together as a family.
Every summer there is something similar, for example hiking, seaside vacation, strawberry picking, numberless ice creams, cherry pies. And every summer there is something new, for example your child learn to ride bicycle or swim. There are some family summer rituals and there are some new milestones in your children's life. And these are the moments which you want to capture and bottled up like dandelion wine.
To capture your summer fun authentically you should make a photography your family ritual as well. And it should be fun and positive one! Everyone takes pictures while on vacation – and this is a sort of family ritual, but these are often pictures which are taken at the wrong time, at the wrong place and with the wrong attitude. They are not capturing the spirit of the summer and the spirit of your kids and family.
So HOW should you take those pictures?
First of all, make your motives outline.
You should think of all the small things, which happen every summer. If your child will learn how to ride a bicycle or how to dive you will definitely notice it. But there are some little ordinary things which often stay unnoticed at the moment when they are happening, but which really make your summers up. For example like having dinners outside. You can have dinners outside for 15 summers and not having any pictures of them taken. So try to think of those small but really important things which you do in summer and try to capture them every year. It is enough if you will only capture them once. These pictures will add up every year showing you a lovely story of your life with kids. And of course you can capture spontaneous things too, just do not forget of your often unnoticed summer ingredients!
Second, do not disturb your children, friends and relatives. Observe!
Often people think that one should stop the moment in order to capture it. It probably a rudimentary thinking which left from the time when cameras were really slow and a model should sit motionless for 30 minutes using some kind of a head holder. Now cameras are so fast, that there is truly no need to force your models to stay still. If you would like take a picture of your child sniffing on a flower – you should take a picture of your child sniffing on a flower! You should not say to her: “Please sit there, sniff on the flower, look at me, smile!”. Even if your child will cooperate and do what you are asking for there will be no good pictures. So every time you can take a picture without disturbing your model – do it. The less your model is aware about your presence the more natural and authentic your picture will be. And once the moment is gone it is gone – embrace it. Usually the next great moment arrives within a couple of minutes. So do not put your camera down too fast!
Third, interact instead of direct.
OK let us face it – sometimes you just do not want to give up on a flower sniffing photo. So in stead of directing your child you should start leading your child to do what you would like to capture. For example you can ask your child which is her favourite flower on he lawn and than you ask if it smells nicely. If you really interact with your child around the subject you would like to capture you will take great pictures and you both will have fun! This is also a great strategy when you would like to take an eye contact portrait. If you are talking with your child and asking question about things she really cares about you will get lovely and natural looks and smiles!
Fourth, get on your child's level.
One ruins many photos by taking them from the wrong position. Always get on your model's level. Which usually means getting down when you are taking pictures of your children.
Fifth, get in the picture.
When you are capturing your family ask your partner, friend or older child to take pictures of you too. Do not miss this one! When your children get older they will want to see pictures when you were holding them. They will be not satisfied to find out that you were holding the camera all the time.
And do not forget about strong sun light! On very sunny days try to take portraits in the shade and action photos in the sun. And take some pictures during the sunrises and sunsets too! Enjoy your summer!
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