Topic Progress:

01. Thinking BIG. On what you see, parent goggles and storytelling in photography

Want to know what’s the most common downfall of children’s photos we see parents take?
The Mummy / Daddy goggles. It’s not what you think.

Let me explain. You know when you look at your child, what you see is your child. That’s not unusual. We all do it. You child is happily engaging in some activity, and you look at them and your heart just melts a little. So you pick up your camera, maybe you zoom it a bit to get a good shot of your child’s beaming smile, and you click.

If you are like 90% to parents out there, you took a photo that looks a bit like the one here – you get a portrait of your child. But that’s it. No story, no context, no connection. And it might be a fabulous portrait – we want those too! But does it SAY anything about your child? How many snaps like that have yo got on your phone? Will you even remember what was going on 5 years from now?

What happened was your “mummy goggles” filtering all the stuff around your child that to your subconscious Mum/Dad mind just didn’t have the same importance. You of course registered what was going on, but when it came to ‘framing’ your photo – choosing what will make it into that rectangle you see through your viewfinder – you only included the thing that was key to you.

Parental goggles make us miss things because we ARE in the moment. It’s just that you don’t make your camera register it all. But when you force yourself to take the goggles off, even for 1 day, wonderful things happen.

This is what we’re doing today. Goggles off. The big picture. The full story. The WHO and the WHERE and the WHAT is happening.

So what we mean about the Big picture?

How big is the big picture supposed to be, you may ask. And the answer is – as big or as little as you want it, as long as it says ‘something’ about what’s going on. As long as it gives us a STORY.

Storytelling in photography

Visual storytelling is not actually that different from writing a story. You want the reader / viewer to understand the WHO ( your child – the subject), the WHERE ( location or circumstances of what’s going on) and the WHAT’S GOING ON. Not all 3 will be equally important to all photos. In some cases the location will be irrelevant. In others, the action is not that key but the WHERE really makes a difference. Pretty much all that stays constant is the WHO – your child.

Questions to ask yourself before you click the shutter:
  • What is my child doing?
  • The way I compose this photograph, will someone who’s not here with us, still be able to understand what is going on?
  • Can you see where your child is? And does it matter for the image?
  • Are there things in the frame which distract from your ‘story’ – and if so, can YOU move to make them disappear from view?
  • Here is an example of how that might work in practice:

But my child is a baby, they DON’T DO Anything

If your child is a baby, you may think – but they don’t DO anything! That may be true but actually, they do. They interact with their environment, even passively. The space around them has a different meaning because they’re in it. You can tell if they’re big or small by comparison with other elements in the picture. There are children’s paraphernalia all around them, there are things you do with them. They have a place to sleep and an eating / changing routine. All those things ARE the story.

The technical bits:

Your camera settings

– it really doesn’t matter for the purpose of this exercise whether you shoot in full automatic or manual. if you’re in automatic, your camera will always try and give you a good exposure. It may not be perfect, but your photo should’t turn out bad because of it.

Your lens – zooming in and out.

This one is important. The same composition, but with your lens zoomed in or zoomed out, can give you two completely different images. I’m not going to go into it fully here – there is just not enough space, but just know this:

  • when your lens is zoomed out ( we call it ‘short focal length) – your camera may be able to actually register more that your ‘naked’ eye – the field for view ( aka how much makes it to the photography from left to right) can be wider than your peripheral vision. As a result, we see parents getting caught out and only realising later that unwanted elements made it into the frame. This means that more of your background can make it into the image, either adding to your story OR simply making it too cluttered.
  • when your lens is zoomed in ( long focal length) your field of view narrows – you will lose elements from both left and right, top and bottom and as a result fit less into your background. It may require from you to step back from your subject in order to get that photo.

    Your light

    – we will be tackling that one separately a bit later in the course, but in the meantime, unless you’re used toshooting in manual and generally know what you’re doing with your light, just make sure that you’re not shooting against light – try to ensure the main source of light indoors ( window) is either behind YOU or to the side of your child – that way you give them a good chance of being in lovely gentle light. If the light is behind them, they will be in their own shadow.

    Your shooting angles – this one is important

    A typical adult ( not saying you’re one! ) takes photos from a height that’s comfortable for them. But that sort of angle does not make for good photos. Try to get into a habit of creating flat shooting angles with your camera.

    By flat shooting angles, I mean either

    Visualise a beam of light coming out of your camera and follow it all the way down. You mostly want 2 scenarios:

  • you want your angle to travel horizontally, paralell to the ground – into infinity. So if you’re taking a photo of your child on the floor, you and the camera want to be at the same level as them.
  • OR you want it to travel fully vertrically – at 90 degree angle to the ground – so if you’re taking a photo of your baby lying on the floor, you and your camera would be directly above them.
  • DAY 1 CHALLENGE - Go big

    Take a photo ( or 2 or 3 ) which tells more of a ‘story of your child>

    We want to see in your photo:

  • the WHO – your child
  • the WHERE – if applicable – are you in a park? In their bedroom? On your bed? – it might not be important, but mentally check with yourself first.
  • the WHAT”S GOING ON – is your child doing something? Are they happy? Is something making them smile? Is your baby sleeping peacefully?
  • Post your photos to our FB group – we promise to give nothing but positive vibes and encouragement and help you make your shots even better!

    Photos by our students and why they worked