What could be more satisfying emotionally than photos of our children? Photos freeze those special moments from birth through childhood and adolesence forever in time, those memories to cherish – not only for us as parents but for the children themselves when they become adults. But how can you take the best pictures of your children? Which camera would fit best, which camera setting is just right? How can you get the kids not to seem posed, but to be as natural as possible?
Fujifilm X-Photographers Insa Hagemann and Stefan Finger are photo-journalists. Their publications can be found in newspapers and magazines such as Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Stern or GEO. They have two children, a three-year-old son and a one-year-old daughter. This article provides their simple, effective, understandable tips.
DON’T SMILE FOR THE CAMERA!
When we photograph children within our journalistic projects, it is quite clear that they always force an artificial smile as they fidget and wait for us to take the picture. But something remarkable happens, when we put the camera down: the kids come to life, behaving just as natural as they are. When you see the children laughing, having fun, doing nonsensical things or even crying, is the moment to take the photo – most of the time unnoticed by the children. What we try to avoid very hard is having albums filled with posing kids showing artificial smiles. That´s why we never say “smile!” or “look at the camera” to them, because if we do so, we will get an unnatural look. This is not to say we don’t take a “staged” photo of our son and daughter now and then (perhaps two or three times a year), but to be successful we try as hard as we can to make them laugh. However, most of the time we just wait for the right moment. For example, there was a glorious sunset on the beach one late summer afternoon. We asked our son if he wanted to fly his kite then which led to a magnificent son-and-kite sunset photo, as beautiful as one could hope – one that still gives us (and him, some day too) so much pleasure.
CAMERA AND CAMERA SETTINGS
To facilitate capturing the perfect photographic situation, camera settings and preparations are very important. Most memorable situations with children arise suddenly, they are unplanned. If you then have to find your camera first, then insert a memory card and make the proper settings, you have lost precious time and the situation is certainly over. For this reason, we always have a Fujifilm X100V set and ready in our apartment. The presets in the camera are also optimized for photographing our children. The shutter is always set to electronic shutter (ES) so we can release it silently, unnoticeable by the kids. The aperture is pre-set to 2.0 to focus on the children, with the backgrounds out of focus. We set the ISO to Auto ISO because we know we can take photos with Fujifilm sensors up to an ISO of 6400 without a moment of hesitation. The time is also set to automatic (1/100 S) as the minimum shutter speed. Thus we can take pictures of slightly faster movements without blurring. If the default settings are not suitable, of course we readjust. As you now realize, our camera is now ready waiting to capture memorable photos. We have found that the Fujifilm X100 series is absolutely perfect for our everyday use. It fits quite easily into a jacket pocket, or even inside a diaper bag, and it has all the setting options we need as photographers for a great image quality!
BE ON THE SAME LEVEL AS THE CHILD
Of course, we often take photographs of children from above, because usually we are taller. But perspectives do count: photos have a considerably different impact when taken from the same height or from below the child’s height. Feel free to lie flat on the ground for an amazing picture. Keep in mind – it is always better to be close up than too far away. After all, we want to see our children and not have to guess where they are. But exceptions-to-the-rule are quite normal in photography. For example, if you wish to show chaos surrounding your little subject, there is little or no
point of focusing just on him or her. Or, if the child is engaging in some very funny action, a photo taken from above can be better as the floor (like sand or water) can act as a neutral or quiet background, thus offers little or no distraction from what is clearly humorous.
BUILD YOUR PHOTOS
Those beautiful, memorable moments come up quickly and they are swiftly over. So, just as “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”, we always take a “security” photo immediately before we try to add any technical flourish. That is before we deliberately put something out of focus or choose a different perspective, trying to improve the picture. Thus, a fleeting moment is guaranteed and at least we have captured something before that moment vanishes out of the frame and out of memory.
LET THE KIDS HELP IN YOUR PHOTO SHOOTS
Once in a while we do a staged photo shoot of our children. We integrate them as best as possible. They can plan with us, prepare with us. We never put pressure on them. Our three-year old can take pictures as well using his own camera or one of ours. The shoot is giving him fun then, too. Of course, the younger the child the more strenuous it can be for adults. There were times when our son gave us less time than famous actors for a shoot. It was sometimes frustrating, but it was his decision.