06. Capturing family connections
After a longer read yesterday, today, for our penultimate topic, we’re back to a shorter read and a less technical subject – photographing connections.
It might not always take a literal village to raise a child, but it certainly does take a few people to make him or her happy. From the moment they’re born, your child begins a whole series of relationships with their siblings, close and extended family, with your friends and as they grow a bit older – friends of their own. That part of their life – images of your child being cared for, adored, played with and being entertained by someone in your close circle make as much of a part of your child’s story as anything else they experience along the way.
We have a few tips for you on how to do it well and I divided them into 2 sections – capturing children with adults and capturing siblings together because the approach you might want to take with them, may need to be a bit different.
Capturing children with adults
1. Get real:
Try capturing real moments and relationships between people – they don’t have to look at the camera – an adoring gaze by the grandparent looking at their first grandchild will make a memory that will tug on your heartstrings for a long time afterwards.
Focus on the interaction and try capturing both the details – like grandma’s hand clasped by the tiny baby fingers, or dad wearing all your child’s best bling for a teddy bear tea party, as well as a bigger picture to show what was happening.
The fly-on-the-wall approach helps eliminate the awkward family portraits where people just face the camera square on with a strange grin, standing in a straight line. You low which ones I mean. I bet you have them too ( I do).
And I know that sometimes people just freeze when the camera arrives or just expect for everything to stop while the photo is being taken, My advice is – don’t fake – instigate. Don’t tell your child – and now smile at ‘grandma’. Tell grandma to play a game of tickles or Chinese whispers or a guessing game and capture the interaction as it unfolds. Real smiles and belly laughs will always win over the pretty fake ones.
2. Physical closeness is key
Physical closeness is key – and I mean that in the most literal sense. All us adults, we have a greater or smaller, but ever present sense of personal space. We don;t like people getting in that space, even if they are our loved ones. But in photos, all of that space is exaggerated and what may have looked like a totally normal few inch gap between two adults in real life, looks like a meaningful empty space in the photo. So bring them together, touching each other, closer than they would normally be.
If photographing the baby with more than one person, try to position the baby between the adults, rather than to the side, preferably with as little open space between them as possible and with that space being visually closed off ( their heads close together)
Get those heads close:
If you have influence on the composition, try to get people’s heads close together for a portrait. Especially when people hold newborns or young babies, they tend to hold them on their chest, or in the crook of their arms, which places the baby’s head a lot lower then theirs. But as viewers of photos, we are conditioned to look from one face to another in a picture – we know those are the important bits – and if they’re far apart, our eyes ping from one to another across the frame like a ball in a ping-ball machine( remember those?). It’s fine when there is something going on, some sort of interaction in the picture, but if everyone is just looking at the camera, it’s just underwhelming.
Power of the hand
it’s amazing how little our brain sometimes needs to interpret intimacy – just a touch of the hand, captured on camera will speak louder of the relationship between two people than anything else
Eyes will take you places
Have you ever noticed how when you look at a photo of someone looking at something, your eyes subconsciously follow the line of their sight towards whatever it is they’re looking at? It’s as if we see an actual line drawn on the picture. Use it to your advantage.
Capturing children together
This is a bug-bear of mine, so I apologise for the rant in advance:
Don’t tell them to kiss
Please, please, please – don’t be tempted to ‘create’ closeness – don’t tell your children to give each other a kiss, or hold hands or similar. You want to capture the relationship, not ‘fake’ it.
And I know what you’re thinking – you do know that they are close enough to display the affection in that way, they just wouldn’t think of it. Or maybe they did, spontaneously on another occasion, but you just didn’t catch it. That may very well be true, but even if the affection is real, the way it’s expressed may not be ‘theirs’. Or they may not feel comfortable with it in a few years when they look back on those. Children express love in a hundred different ways and as parents we speak that language – it could be reluctantly sharing their beloved transformer or cuddling up for a shared TV watching. Capture this!
Don’t fake – instigate!
It doesn’t mean you can’t create opportunities for them expressing affection and closeness. If you suggest everybody pile onto Mum and Dad’s bed, there will be cuddles and there will be closeness.
If you challenge them to gang-up together against you or their other parent in some game, you’ll be able to capture them working together better than if you told them to ‘do something with one another’.
If you want to capture older siblings interacting with a young baby, you could suggest they try and catch the baby’s attention by making funny noises, pulling faces, or mimic their facial expressions.
Look for the quiet moments too. Children tend to gravitate to one another even if they’re not doing the same thing, they tend to be in each other’s space. Don’t ask them to look at you, don’t interrupt. Just capture.
And whatever you do, do not say cheese!! Oh, and don’t expect for all of them to be looking in the same direction at the same time 😉
Today, your challenge is to focus on your family, the connections and interactions. Capture your partner with your child(ren). If you’ve got some extended family around you today – try getting them involved. If you have more than one child – get them playing and interacting together and capture how they are with each other.
This is your penultimate challenge – make it a strong one!
No cheating – new photos only 🙂