Does your spouse give you the “evil eye” every time you try to sneak from the house with your camera for a bit of photography on your own? Have you’re kids forgotten your name because you spend more time with your camera and editing photos on your computer than with them? These are all sure signs that photography is more of a priority than quality family time...and those signs are bright red with warning. You can improve your skills and spend more time with your family when you combine photography and family activities.
You may already be photographing the birthday parties, holidays and vacations; they could be some of the major reasons you bought a digital camera. This PhotographyTalk.com article, however, refers to the evenings and weekends when your family wants your attention even though nothing specific is planned. More importantly, these are also opportunities to try new techniques and types of photography that include your family members, without them becoming just more “snapshot” sessions.
1. Pack your camera and the car with the family and head to the neighborhood park, local municipal park, nearby state park or entertainment venue. Announce earlier during the week that next weekend will be a family camping trip…if everyone finishes his or her homework and chores! You’re immediately a hero! This will provide you with many opportunities to capture those casual photos of the family that grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins want to see. The photographic benefit for you is now you have a number of ready-made subjects available to expand your picture-taking repertoire and the quality of your photos.
2. Your first opportunity is to use the activity as a way to learn how to tell a story with pictures. Pretend you’re a photojournalist with an assignment from a family magazine. Be ready to capture the excitement on your kids’ faces when you first announce the trip (and your spouse’s approval). Then, take photos of your kids packing and loading the car. You can continue to shoot pictures throughout the day or weekend that add to the chronology of your family story, instead of a bunch of random images that don’t seem to be related. Have each kid keep a little journal of the trip, and then use what they write to create a family story photo album.
3. Of course, you’ll want to shoot casual photos of your family members during the day or weekend trip; but also take the opportunity to “use” them as portrait subjects. You can practice posing them and positioning your camera creatively to record semi-formal or planned portraits. Photograph everyone individually and in groups. Kids, of course, often won’t sit still for a long portrait session…and you’re supposed to be having fun together. Do a little scouting and planning to find interesting environments for family portraits, and then shoot the actual pictures during brief, 15-minute sessions. You don’t want family members to think you just planned the activity to use them as photography props.
That being said, you can use them as props in wider landscape photos. They aren’t necessarily recognizable in the picture, but you position and direct them to interact with the environment/nature in a specific manner. Adding the human figure to landscape photos often enhances the overall quality of the shot. A child could be reaching into the low branches of a tree or smelling a wildflower. Another could be the only person sitting on a long row of benches on a boardwalk.
4. You can assure everyone is having fun by allowing your children to run, jump and scamper across the fields and through the woods, as you practice how to stop action with exposure techniques and the auto-focus system in your camera. Read one or more PhotographyTalk.com articles or other content about how to cause blur purposely and creatively when photographing moving objects/subjects.
5. Take advantage of being outdoors all day or an entire weekend by shooting photos of your family during all the time periods of the day. Dawn, dusk and twilight typically provide more creative shooting opportunities than the bright light of midday. The soft, subtle light during these periods will allow you to capture a quality of portraits and landscapes that may ahve been lacking from your portfolio.
This is also opportunity to learn how to use reflectors outdoors to control the direction of the bright sunlight and off-camera flash techniques to fill dark areas with light. You’ll discover many kinds of photos that will probably be completely new to you.
6. Finally, quality family time is always an opportunity to teach your children. Spend a few minutes with each of your children and explain why you had him or him pose a certain way or how you used light creatively. Who knows, you may have a junior photographer that’s a natural just waiting to experience the same passion you do for photography. There are few better ways to connect with a child and develop a shared interest in a hobby you can do together. Plus, it’s guaranteed to transform the spouse’s evil eye into a loving look.
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Photo by PhotographyTalk Member Jackie G Hannah