Photographer’s child syndrome is real at the best of times, but these days with most of us stuck at home, it’s even more tricky to get photos of our kids!
For that reason we love a documentary style approach to capturing our kids in photos. It not only takes the pressure off for those of us whose kids refuse to stop and pose, but it’s also a solution to the problem of what to shoot.
Why? Because documentary photography is all about capturing what’s happening around you, and it’s a beautiful way to tell your family story of the everyday.
So this week’s highlight reel is a collection of wonderful documentary style kids photos taken by our Grads, which cover a whole lotta stories you can tell about your own family!
We don’t think to capture our family’s daily rituals to include in our family albums because they’re seemingly a non-event. Instead we’re always on the lookout for more momentous occasions, such as a beautiful big smile in good light, or our baby’s first birthday, Christmas Day, first day of school, etc. And whilst those events are a must to be captured, they don’t share any information about our everyday lives, when nothing much is happening.
So look at your family’s daily rituals with new eyes, include the environment for context, snap away and tell your story!
Black and white photography is very forgiving on grainy images, so if you’re light challenged and have to push your ISO to the point your images are grainier than you’d like, convert to B&W!
Turn the ordinary into the extraordinary simply by looking for amazing light and using it.
This first image is a small patch of beautiful morning light filtering through a window, just waiting for someone to move into it.
Look for hard light patterns on walls to add interest and level up everyday moments. Expose for the brightest part of the image so you don’t blow out the highlights, and let the rest of the tones fall in line for a beautiful, low to mid key image.
This image is shot late in the day with the sun low in the sky and just about to dip below the trees. Use a narrow aperture of around f/13 to f/18 and bear in mind the narrower your aperture, the sharper and more defined the sunrays will be, so make that decision based on personal choice. The flares add a magical, dreamy feel and are created when the sun hits the lens directly.
Related: How to Capture a Starburst
Life isn’t always sunshine and unicorns! Capture all the emotions, especially those created by the lack of cookies (because: funny!).
Grab your camera when the kids start playing, and play with your own angles and perspectives to get the best views. This top down perspective gives the perfect view of the action.
Life doesn’t always happen in amazing light, so boost your ISO and learn to embrace the grain. In the olden days, film photography always had an element of grain, and some of the world’s most lauded images are very grainy. So our digital obsession with grain free images makes no sense. So a bit of grain is ok… really, it’s ok.
Related: Embracing High ISO
A beautiful backlit shot… and Pam has balanced her exposure perfectly and created a low key shot, to avoid blowing out the the bright back light and still retain plenty of detail in her subject.
Related: How to Capture a Silhouette Photo
Art play is a perfect activity to capture because they’re not running away! It also offers lots of details you can focus in on, including serious expressions of concentration.
Our everyday moments don’t all happen indoors. When your kids get outside to play, just follow and snap what’s happening. Use a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion and try using continuous focus drive mode on your camera so that when your subject moves, your camera will adjust to keep them in focus. Most DSLR’s have this function, and if you’re not sure how to find it on yours, look under drive modes in your user guide, then head to this tutorial to learn how to use it.
Related: Get Sharp Photos of Kids in Motion
Don’t try and isolate your subject by framing tight. Instead, showcase their place space and at the same time give your image plenty of room for the suggestion of action to happen.
Get in close and capture those details that change so fast… before you know it, you’ll forget how tiny they were.
Use a wide aperture to isolate the detail you’re trying to highlight.
Get creative with your compositions and frame your subject by shooting through windows, doorways, or grabbing their reflection in a mirror.
Not many kids will say no to the offer of baking a cake especially if they can do most of it themselves while you quietly move around taking photos of the action. If you’re light challenged in the kitchen, open up all the window coverings, use the widest aperture available on your lens, and embrace your ISO.
Don’t forget to try lots of different angles and frames, and focus in on details.
Including the environment is a key element of storytelling photography because it adds context, and for that reason we think 35mm is a perfect focal length for documentary photography. It’s not a hard and fast rule mind you, but this focal length enables us to include the environment without needing to step back too much from our subject, and the distortion that wide angle lenses are known for isn’t overly obvious. If you’re using a crop sensor camera, around 20-24mm will get you the same look as a 35mm lens on a full frame camera.
We hope these images from our talented Grads and our tips inspire you to get the camera out and capture your everyday! Enjoy!
I’m so excited to announce our next Creative Workshop in the series – Documenting Family Life with Heidi Talic. Over 4 weeks our workshop mentor Heidi Talic will share her process for creating beautiful documentary and lifestyle imagery so you can start documenting your family’s everyday life at home. We’ll be opening seats for sale on the 26th May (US evening) / 27th May (Aus morning)… register your interest here to get an email when that happens!