With four year old twins, an insatiable appetite for outdoor adventure, and a camera in my pocket most of the time, I’ve discovered a few key aspects of photographing kids to avoid burning them out on either outdoor adventure or having a photographer for a father - as well as getting better photos.
One: Keep it with you! This is the hardest one of all. If you don’t have a camera, you’ll never get a good photo. I get asked all the time, “Which camera should I buy?” and the answer I always give is, “The one you’ll carry with you.”
These days point and shoot cameras are so good that I often leave my D-SLR at home when I’m just playing with the family. Instead I stick a Canon S95 in my pocket. The little camera is insanely good, and even has a ring on the lens that feels like an old-school aperture ring that appeals to my pro photographer tendencies, but can be customized for different purposes - or ignored in the auto setting if you don’t want to deal with it. Even the newest iPhone sports an 8mp camera. My stock agency, Aurora Photos, recently started accepting camera phone photos. Sure, D-SLRs take better photos, but point and shoot photos are better than no photos at all.
Two: Get down and turn on your flash. Kids have big heads and are really short. If you stand up to shoot, they end up looking like popsicles. I take many shots of my kids without my even looking at the camera. Instead holding the camera low while playing with them and shoot blind. Sure, I get lots of poorly framed photos, but the ones that work are unposed, the kids are playing hard rather than making ridiculous faces at the camera, and they often don’t realize I’m even taking their photo. The flash will add light to the shadowy areas and make the difference between an ok photo and a great photo.
Three: Get outside. Every chance you get. This is the most important one of all. Get out for both little local adventures as well as family-friendly adventure travel. Not only will your kids suffer less of the nature deficit disorder that Richard Louv writes about, but you’ll have more chances to get photos with nice light, spectacular settings and happy kids. My kids have graced the cover of the Patagonia catalog, but the vast majority of my kid photos have something wrong with them: boogers on the cheek, fashion chosen by a grumpy four year old, bed-head hairdos. But it doesn’t matter. These photos are for me and my family, not a photo editor or the fashion police.
Four: Back them up. Store your photos on duplicate hard drives, with an online photo service, or both. If you’re leaving your family photos on your computer, or even on a single hard drive, you’re inviting disaster. Hard drives are so cheap these days that there is no excuse for having only a single copy of your images. I store a hard drive outside of my house so even if my house burns down I will still have my photos.
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