Record for Them
When my children are grown up, I want them to be able to look back at the photos I took and remember; their favorite stuffed animal, the shirt they insisted on wearing everyday for a week, the proud look they have after figuring something out. It’s their history and ours as a family, and I want to record as much of it as I can.
It always helps to play a long and be silly with my kids. If they’re rolling around in the grass, I'll roll around too. This not only helps me photograph my little ones in a more authentic way, but it keeps me present and living fully with my children which comes first, always.
Embrace Their Movements
To photograph kids-on-the-go, a few of my technical pearls are:
1: Get lower! Shooting at a child’s eye level will allow your photo to be framed at their perspective – I think this angle helps to portray that sense of wonder they have about the world.
2: If shooting with a DSLR camera, use a fast shutter speed. A shutter speed of at least 1/125 second is usually fast enough to capture kids in focus, no matter what they are doing.
Consider Your Positioning
To eliminate distractions within the frame, sometimes it's as simple as panning a few degrees to the right or the left to crop out a group of people or a pile of unfolded laundry. Other times I need to move to a new position so that the lighting is on the right side, or the backdrop is less busy. And sometimes, I just get up and move the pile of laundry.
Give Them Space
What works best for me is taking a step back and giving my kid's their space. I won't give them an exact spot to be, but rather point them to a general area. That way, they can choose to move however they want and do what feels natural to them. My aim is to simply let them enjoy the experience as I try to weave my way around it.
Have Your Feed Take the Backseat
I used to spend a lot of time thinking about the next photo I would post to Instagram and how it would look in my feed. Lately I spend little to no time thinking about what photo will come next, and instead just capture events as they happen in real time. If it works out that the composition is right and the lighting is good, I'll add it to my grid – otherwise it's saved in my library. Either way, I have the moment as a record of how much fun it is to be a Dad.
Choose Your Favorite (or Two) from the Bunch
When it comes to choosing which photos to keep, I try to save only the ones that really move me (I know, every photo of our child really moves us). In other words, if there are a sequence of 50 photos that all look similar, I pick just one to keep. It’s like applying the Kon Mari approach to images — “does this photo bring me great joy?” I remind myself that my children are well documented, so I'll still be left with more than enough images to represent every beautiful part of their childhood.
Stay Present (Even if it Means Less Photos)
In the early days with my oldest daughter, Ruby, I was guilty of not staying totally in the moment and shooting too many photos. Nowadays, I try to anticipate moments that will photograph well, snap a few photos, and move on. There's no point in taking a photo to remember a moment that you missed because you were too busy taking the photo!
Teach Them Your Love of Photography
Let them see how it inspires you – talk about your favorite photos and why you love them, have fun when you’re taking pictures and invite them to be part of that fun. When you get a great shot, call your kids over to look at the screen and gush about the light, their smile, those magic freckles, how awesome it is that you caught the swish of their hair mid-jump. They’ll learn something from you. They’ll take a bit of ownership for being part of that photo that brings you joy. And they’ll happily comply with the occasional, “Ah! That light! Those colors! Will you run by that again so I can get a picture this time?”
If all else fails, take pictures of your kids while they sleep. So still. So quiet. So beautiful.
Don't Get in Your Own Way
Is it possible to get in your own way and ruin a moment just because you wanted to capture it on camera? Absolutely. I've done that countless times. All I can say is, trust your gut. Sometimes a moment is just too special to interrupt. Take a second to think, “This moment right now – am I ready for it to end?” You’ll know it when you feel it. And chances are, your kids will, too.
Document in Print
When I’m deciding between a few photos of the same scene or moment to keep, I often consider, “which one of these am I going to print?” Printing photo books for me and my kids also helps to keep my photo-life organized. When my second child was born, I printed a book for my oldest from his first year of life – he cherishes this book and loves having something of his own.
When it comes to photography, I can’t help but go back to a time when it was a lifeline for me. After my second daughter was born unexpectedly with Down syndrome, I felt like everything in our life was uprooted and would be different going forward. I’m so glad I took pictures through that time because every photo radiated love. It was everywhere, and seeing it through the lens helped me realize that what made our family beautiful was the way we loved each other. Down syndrome became such a tiny piece of the greater puzzle that was us, and I’m so grateful the photos I took helped me understand that.