Photographing children always charges me up with positive energy. I’ve been doing it for years now, and not only do I believe they can be great teachers, but also that I’ve become a better photographer by learning from them. In no particular order, here are seven ways photographing children has improved my photography.
Shooting from eye level isn’t always the best op:on we have. It gets rather boring and soulless and it’s probably the choice many others have done before you. Writers often tell the best stories by choosing the best point of view available, and children teach us a lot about perspective. Kids jump and crawl and walk in four legs or stand upside down. They get closer or look at things from all these weird positions, sometimes you wonder how they do it. Getting the best images sometimes requires us to look from all sides and angles until we find the best one.
In time, knowing when to change perspective becomes as natural as using your camera. You won’t need to contort your body into hilarious or complicated positions every time; a right turn of hand and a wide lens will do. Other times you’ll duck or lie on your belly or climb on a chair, and that will be fun too.
One of the best ways of learning for human beings is through curiosity. Children have plenty of that, so much that at some point adults get frustrated with it. But being curious is one of the best qualities and skills a photographer can have. Among others, curiosity manifests through exploration and discovery and through asking questions and figuring things out.
2.1 Learning through exploration and discovery
Children love to explore and discover new things. To them the entire world is amazing and interesting and they use all their senses to get to know it better. Usually we become curious about things that excite us and study says we can even cultivate our curiosity. So let yourself feel like a kid again. Go out and explore, discover your city with fresh eyes, pay attention to people who live around you, listen to sounds, pay attention to smells.
2.2 Learning through asking questions
Children are a never ending source of questions. Predominantly, they ask a lot of whys, but they also asks things grown-ups never even considered. Follow their example and start asking yourself questions like these:
- Why do I want to learn photography?
- Why do I like photographing?
- What is it about this image that I like?
- How did the person make this photograph?
- How can I make better photographs?
- What is the first thing I need to focus on to make this type of image?
A good image should excite us emotionally, spiritually or aesthetically. Emotion makes our photos alive and a great way to observe and capture it is through kids. Children have raw, authentic feelings and they express them no matter what. As you pay attention to them you will learn to recognize and anticipate emotion when photographing grown-ups as well.
4. Create Meaning
Kids take the materials they have and create their own things. Even if all they have is a string and a stick they will make something out of it. One of the reasons photography is so much fun for me is because we can be creative and create new meanings through our photos. We decide what to include and what not to include in the frame and create new meanings from reality.
Kids love stories. We all grew up with them, but do we ever stop and think how much they connect us? How powerful they are?
Often when children play or create things with their hands they make up tales about it. What I think makes a memorable photograph is an image that “tells a story” or starts one in the mind of the viewer. An image that makes you interact with it, that makes you ask what happened next or what’s behind the scenes.
From my observations, when children lose their interest in something they switch to something different. I think that’s a very good way for photographers to get past a creative rut or expand their boundaries, too.
If you feel frustrated with your own work experiment. When you get bored or stuck in your photo endeavors, try new things.
You like shooting landscapes? Try portraits for a while. See what you learn, what you like and don’t like. You shoot only on color? Try black and white. Give your mind more material to work with and in time it will make the right connections.
7. Be present in the moment
Have you ever seen how kids get engrossed in an activity? They are there 100 percent. They are far less self aware than adults are and don’t care about how they look or what others think of them. All they care about is their game or activity. They live deeper, fuller authentic experiences.
When photographing, have your mind and thoughts in the moment. Connect to your subject or environment and be open to it.
About the Author
Ioana Bîrdu is a freelance writer and photographer based in London. You can find her stories on www.ioanabirdu.com.
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